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April 5, 2004
An Teanga Beo -- The Living Tongue

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I spent Saturday in an Irish-language workshop, and it occurred to me that some of you (okay, all four of you) may be scratching your heads and wondering what the heck I was talking about. I don't believe many people know that Irish Gaelic, known as Gaeilge (GWAYL-gyuh), is in fact a living language spoken fluently by at least 100,000 people in Ireland alone, with a million more who have a lesser command of it. Gaeilge has a rich history, both spoken and literary, stretching far past English; it has existed for at least 2,500 years, and is the oldest surviving language of Western Europe.

To give you an example, here's the Nicene Creed in Irish, as printed in a missalette I purchased at the workshop:

Creidim in aon Dia amhin, an tAthair uilechumhachtach, a rinne neamh agus talamh agus an uile n sofheicthe agus dofheicthe. Agus in aon Tiarna amhin, osa Crost, Aonmhac D, an t a rugadh n Athair sula raibh aon saol ann. Dia Dhia, solas sholas, for-Dhia fhor-Dhia; an t a gineadh agus nach ndearnadh, agus at d'aonsubstaint leis an Athair; is trd a rinneadh an uile n. Ar r son-na an cine daonna, agus ar son r slnaithe, thuirling s neamh. Ionchollaodh le chumhacht an Spioraid Naoimh i mbroinn na Maighdine Muire agus ghlac s ndr daonna. Casadh ar an gcrois freisin ar r son; d'fhulaing s pis faoi Phontius Polit agus adhlacadh . D'aisirigh an treas l de reir na scrioptr; chuaigh suas ar neamh; t ina shu ar dheis an Athar. Tiocfaidh s an athuair faoi ghlir le breithinas a thabhairt ar bheo agus ar mhairbh, agus n bheidh deireadh lena rocht. Creidim sa Spiorad Naomh, Tiarna agus bronntir na beatha, an t a ghluaiseann n Athair agus n Mac. Tugtar d adhradh agus glir mar aon leis an Athair agus leis an Mac: ba a labhair tr na fithe. Creidim san aon Eaglais naofa, chaitliceach, aspalda. Admham an t-aon bhaisteadh amhin chun maithinas na bpeaca. Agus tim ag sil le haisir na marbh agus le beatha an tsaoil at le teacht. Amen.

Well, it ain't "Top of the Morning," is it? It's a beautiful language, but difficult to learn, let alone master. I've been studying Gaeilge for three years; the workshop was my third anniversary. I'm not quite conversational, and in fact have backslid somewhat since I started blogging, but I can usually get the sense of what I'm reading, even if I can't translate conversational Irish quickly enough to be effective.

The workshop last Saturday was presented by Gaeltacht Minnesota, which has given free weekly Irish-language lessons for over twenty years. I'm now the orientation instructor, so if you live in the area and want to join up, I'll be the first instructor you get ... and then you'll go to someone who actually knows what they're doing. Our web site has a number of links to other resources as well. If you have any interest in the language but don't live in the area, you can check with Dalta to find Irish-language support in your area.

If that doesn't work out for you, you can buy your own materials at Irish Books and Media, a great mail-order service that handles the largest inventory of Irish language materials in the country. I recommend the book and tape set called Learning Irish by Michel Siadhail (Connemara dialect), or Teach Yourself Irish. It's not impossible to learn writting Irish on your own, although learning to speak it is another issue entirely.

In the meantime, beannacht agus slinte dhaoibh -- blessings and health to you all!

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 5, 2004 12:31 PM

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