Before I start, I’ll just mention that, although I can’t stand how Manchán Magan does the series, I watch it every couple of months. It’s very interesting and good practice for listening to Gaelic!
I think I’ve mentioned “No Béarla” before. For those who don’t know, it’s a TG4 series starring Manchán Magan, a native Irish speaker, blundering around Ireland speaking just Irish as he tries to prove it’s a dead language.
Which is a bit of an oxymoron, really – how can it be dead if he’s speaking it?
And surprisingly, it’s a fairly modern series – 2007 – despite what Manchán’s haircut, clothing, and car, seems to indicate. But maybe that’s just Ireland.
Anyway, his whole attitude really bothers me. He goes at it with the mindset that no-one speaks Irish, and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary slapping him in the face, he finishes the series by stating that Irish is dead.
Maybe to someone used to living in a Gàidhealtachd (Gaeltacht, in Irish), the amount of Irish spoken in Dublin or Belfast seems non-existent, but speaking here as someone living in Australia, it’s anything but!
All over Ireland, and even in places like Dublin, Manchán is wandering around, speaking in Irish. Mostly he asks variations on, “A bheil Gaeilge agad?” or “A bheil Gaeilge moirbh?”, but sometimes he asks more complex things, like, “Can I have fizzy orange juice and chips, please?”. At least 99% of people respond. In English, yes, but they respond in a way which indicates they understand it, their responses appropriate to the question. How many of these people are passive speakers of Irish – people who understand it perfectly, but are hesitant to speak it for one reason or another? If they were pressed, and if there weren’t a camera, they’d probably eventually respond in Irish.
But no, Manchán decides very quickly and with finality, None of these people have any Irish whatsoever. “Níl focal Gaeilge.”
Even when he’s in Galway, happily hiring a bicycle in Irish and visiting the TG4 headquarters, he’s determined to prove that no-one in the city speaks Irish. How does he do this? By singing bawdy lyrics on the street like a busker. Since no old ladies come over to clobber him with their handbags, this, according to Manchán, is clear evidence that no-one speaks Irish.
The fact that no-one ever really listens to what buskers are singing obviously never occurs to him.
And he doesn’t earn any money from his busking, either.
A bheil Gaeilge moirbh? Chan eil! Tha esan (tha Manchán) a’ bruidhinn ann an Gaeilge. Tha mi a’ smaoineachadh nach bheil i moirbh – tha mi a’ smoineachadh gu bheil i bheò – airson tha mòran dhaoine a’ bruidhinn as Gaeilge na chlàr, agus tha h-uile duine a’ tuigsinn an uair a bha Manchán ag radh rudan daibh ann an Gaeilge. Caist ma-tha: a bheil Gaeilge moirbh? Chan eil gu dearbh! A bheil Manchán pessimist? Tha gu dearbh!
Anyway, I’ll finish by sticking in Series 1 of “No Béarla”.