1. Liom, leat, leis, lei, linn…

    We in my Irish class are quickly becoming acquainted with the phrase ‘there are some things you just have to learn’.

    Unfortunately, for me, this idiom refers to the whole of the Irish language. (And the London tube map, which I am still massively unfamiliar with despite having lived here my whole life).

    While some parts of the language begin to form some kind of a pattern, other things you do ultimately just need to know, and the only way to do this seems to be LEARN, LEARN, LEARN IT. You will be startled to hear that I am not actually employed full time to write charming and witty blogs about learning Irish, and instead am currently ‘earning’ my crust as a trainee primary school teacher. I have engaged with hundreds (or maybe even tens) of incredibly smart academic texts all about the ways in which one might engage the brain to learn, and so should be perfectly placed to employ such strategies with my own grey cells until they are so chock full of irregular verbs that they’re coming out of my ears. (Luckily, there are only something like twelve irregular verbs in Irish, so my ears shouldn’t be all that clogged up.)

    (Unluckily, there are a myriad of other verbs which ‘aren’t irregular’ but just ‘don’t follow regular patterns’. Some people (querulous, argumentative, difficult people), I am sure, would argue that this definition would take those verbs from being ‘regular’ into what one might call ‘irregular’ territory. But not me, as I am a shy and retiring young lady.)

    Several different approaches passed before I conceded defeat and began singing through lists of verbs like a pauper Victorian school child. Fortuitously, almost every Irish verb can be ended by putting some sort of ‘ummm’ or ‘annnn’ sound at the end, and for the rest, I rely on hand gestures and helpful people who don’t mind that I constantly speak in the present tense and third person when talking about my past, future and conditional thoughts and deeds. One fears one begins to sound like one thinks one is some sort of bizarre aristocrat.

    This approach is also useful for learning the ways to say things like ‘at me/you/him/us’ and ‘on me/you/him/us’ and ‘with me/you/him/us’, which in Irish are a major part of the conversational set, and actually pretty much impossible to get by without. However, I have found downsides. Those of you who have been with me from the beginning will remember my boast that I know all my numbers up to ten. And that was and is still entirely, completely, one hundred per cent true.


    So long as you think it counts (excuse the pun) that I can basically say ‘onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineten’.

    Meaning that when someone asked me what time I got into work that morning, I replied ‘I got in at… (whispers) onetwothreefourfivesixseveneight (normal voice) eight o’clock!’

    Whispering numbers under your breath when faced with a question is not always the ultimate way to make friends.

    I begin to fear what kind of a reputation such bizarre behaviour will inspire in the Gaeltacht during the onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightninetenumohbugger days I’m staying there.

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