You must be thinking that sounds a bit random, but it’s all thanks to a little video that any of you who were forced to learn Irish will know called “Yung ming is ainm dom”. (For those of you who don’t know it, it’s a story about a Chinese guy who spent 6 months learning Irish, moved to Dublin, and when he arrived no one could understand a word he was saying and thought he was speaking Chinese). As a translator, I couldn’t quite believe that no one at all in the whole of Dublin understood Irish, which led to me crazily agreeing to test it out.
So, with four weeks until my next trip to Ireland, I set out on learning Irish. As someone who speaks 9 languages, I thought this would plenty of time to learn the basics and to be able to at least order a drink. But I was wrong. I have to be honest and say I have never come across a language that has given me such a hard time. If anyone now tells me they speak Irish – respect ☺
Four weeks later, and armed with probably some of the most useless sentences ever like tá portán agam agus tá luch agat (I have a crab and you have a mouse), it was time to put it to the test. I was sure that understanding a Czech speaking Irish is going to be no better than trying to understand a Chinese person.
As soon as I arrived I decided to give it a go. The thing I soon realised was, though, that there are so many different accents when it comes to Irish, that even though I was sure I sounded exactly like the person on the “Learn Irish” CD, I wasn’t getting very far because everyone I spoke to told me to pronounce stuff in a different way. It did, however, show me that people in Dublin did actually know Irish and they were all really helpful.
Feeling a bit more confident, I ordered a beer in a pub…but I never got my beer ☹ The barman reacted exactly like the barman in the video, asking where I was from and then telling me he doesn’t speak Czech. Once I pointed out that I was in fact speaking Irish, he then told me that no one in the town speaks Irish at all, so there’s no point in trying. Luckily I knew this wasn’t true, he was obviously not a linguist.
After watching some of the Irish TV channels, it was obvious that that film was over exaggerating a bit. I can safely say that if you do ever get the urge to speak Irish, the majority of people will be absolutely lovely about it and give you lots of tips. Irish is a beautiful language and if you fancy a challenge, definitely give it a go, there will be plenty people you can talk to ☺
*An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas” – can I go to the toilet
Author: Sarah Pokorná
(writing from Ireland)