Wait....I mean Dia Dhuit!**
Yesterday a friend of mine posted a really funny “Mexican soap opera” on Facebook. It was called Que Hora Est, and purported that it was designed for "all the people who took three weeks of Spanish in the fourth grade". Even I, who have never studied Spanish, was able to follow along pretty well until, of course, the real Spanish speaking actor shows up and puts everyone else to shame. The characters had been limping along with scintillating dialogue like:
“Que hora es?” (male actor swaggers into room)
“Ocho.” (coos sexy female actress in peignoir)
“Donde esta la bibiloteca?” (male actor demands, as he pushes her down on the sofa)
“Bueno!” (she exclaims breathlessly)
“Feliz Navidad.” (he whispers romantically)
(third character bursts into room): “Dos Coca-cola, por favor!”
but of course they are bewildered and filled with chagrin when the Mexican actor, speaking a thousand Spanish words a minute, bursts their carefully constructed little language bubble.
I can relate. Oh boy, can I ever. In one of those ‘what the heck was I thinking??’ moments, I signed up for a course in Gaelic (Irish). Please tell me you also occasionally tackle something impulsively that have all your friends saying “you did WHAT?!” to which you blithely reply “hey, it’ll be fun!” or “hey, I’ve always wanted to do.... (study, learn, cook, sew, etc) this!”, at which point your friends stop talking and just kindly shake their heads. Studying Gaelic just seemed so exciting, so different, so ‘hip’ (and believe me, it’s getting more difficult to find something hip that’s not also slightly dangerous at my age). Oh, and did I mention that in addition to HIP Gaelic is HARD? As in really, really hard? I, like those poor Mexican soap opera stars, am bewildered, kerflummexed and filled with chagrin. Gaelic isn’t for sissies or wimps!
I’m the girl who would gladly be a professional student if only I could make a living at it. I’m the one who dreamed of the first day of school all summer long (new binders! fresh notebooks! sharp pencils!), and couldn’t wait to stake out my front row seat in class (hmmm….looking back at what I just wrote makes me think I might have been a tad annoying to my classmates).
But let me be perfectly clear on this point, no matter how enthusiastically I approach this subject, Gaelic is completely kicking my rear end. Here’s a typical class conversation:
Really patient Teacher: How are you?
Annoying student who must have lived in Ireland all her life and is just not admitting it: I am well!
Confused and lost Martha: I don’t understand.
Teacher: What is your name?
Annoying student: My name is Dineen!
Me: I don’t understand. (Oh wait!—said in forbidden English) My name is Martha!
Except of course, that you can actually READ the conversation above. Let’s try it again, but now I’ll give you how Irish is pronounced:
Teacher: Koneahs ataw too? (said very very fast)
Annoying student: Taw may go ma! (said equally fast)
Me: Knee......higum. (everything I say has long pauses in between words)
Teacher: Cod iss eyenum ditch? (these words all run together they are said so fast)
Student: Dineen iss eyenum dumb!
Martha: Knee........higum. (Oh wait! said in forbidden English) Martha... iss.. eyenum.. dumb!
Confusing, yes? But it doesn’t end there…oh no! Here’s the worst part of it---how it is pronounced is absolutely, positively nothing like it is written. Here is how you would read this conversation:
Teacher: Conas atá tú?
REALLY Annoying Student: Tá mé go maith!
Me: Ní thuigim.
Teacher: Cad is ainm duit?
Student: Dineen is ainm dom!
Me: Ní thuigim. (oh wait!) Martha is ainm dom. (I remember this response only because dom rhymes with dumb and the phrase therefore seems somehow appropriate)
I had modest goals. I wanted to be able to read the inscriptions on the walls in the Irish pub here in town. I wanted to understand some of the romantic Gaelic dialogue in one of my favorite book series, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I can read the opening lines in Latin of Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic Wars. I can translate a smattering of Greek. And I am fairly fluent in German, so honestly, I didn't expect to feel like a first grader again, struggling with my Irish Dick and Jane primer! I think the Irish have figured out I'm mostly English, and they are definitely winning this battle.
The primer's title is Ca' bhfuil mo Dhinnear, which roughly translates as "What's for Dinner?" The first page reads: "It is night. The adults are asleep. The children are asleep. But the cats are not asleep. They are hungry." I am not going to tell you how long it took me to translate that paragraph, but by the time I was done I pretty much looked like the taller cat.
So I'm off to translate page two, leaving you with a lovely Gaelic blessing that you can translate (or not) for yourself!
Slán agus beannacht leat
|Okay, okay, I'll help you out. |
The Grace of God Be With You!
**Dia dhuit (at the top of my blog) literally translates to God be with you, and is the traditional Irish greeting when you run into someone.