Gaoidhealg

I’ve used the Middle Irish name for the language for a reason. Is it called “Gaeilge” or “Gaidhlig” or “Gaelg” or “Gaoileann”? Let’s settle for this instead.

Well, last weekend, I went to Canberra (and yes, it’s taken me a week to blog about it).

In fact, I should say, Aig deireadh an t-seachdain seo falbh, chaidh mi gu Chanberra.

Or, perhaps, Ag an deireadh seachtaine seo caite, chuaigh mé go dtí Canberra.

I went to Canberra for the Scoil Teanga, or Irish Language School. And I sang at a reception held by the Irish Ambassador to Australia. With no preparation whatsoever. But no-one believed that.

Seo ceist: Cén fáth a bhfuil tú ag an Scoil Teanga?

Deagh chèist. Uill… níl mi ag labhairt móran Gaeilge Albainn i Adelaide agus bha doigh liom nach bhfuill Gaeilge Éireann chomh difriúil.

Speaking Irish is… How to find an analogy?

Speaking Irish as a Gaelic-speaker is like visiting Christchurch as someone from Adelaide. It’s all very familiar, and you can mostly find your way around, but it’s just enough different to get you lost, even though when you look at a map you recognise everything.

And most of it’s missing.

Seriously, where are all the letters in Irish?

Here are some things I learnt:

ALBAINN ÉIREANN
“ao” = /ə:/ “ao” = /e:/
“aoi” = /aɪ/ “aoi” = /wi:/
“à” = /ɑ:/ “á” – /ɔ:/
emphasis = air a’ chiad syllable emphasis = far a bheil an fada
N às deidh T, M, C = /r/ N às deidh T, M, C = /n/
“sibh” do mòran daoine AGUS do gach duine nas sine “sibh” NI ACH do mòran daoine
“tha” “tá”
“chan eil” “níl”
riaghaltan “BUMP”, m.e.:

“dùthaich nam bò”

úrú, m.e.:

“duthaich na mbó”

“chd” = /xk/ “cht” = /xt/
“bha” agus “mha” = /v/ aig tòiseach ‘us dèireadh, /w/ ‘s a mheadhan “bha” agus “mha” = /w/ gach uair
“oidhche” = /ɤɪxɛ/ “oíche” = /i:hɛ/
“bruidhinn” “labhairt”
“ionnsachadh” “foghlam”
“tha mi a’ smaoineachadh” “is doigh liom”
“is toigh leam” “is maith liom”
“tha mi a’ fuireach ann…” “tá mi i mo chónaí i…”
“chì” “feicfidh”
“ithidh” “iscfidh”

Honestly, having completely understood the first three things on that list beforehand would have fixed about a day of confusion and not understanding anything. Never underestimate just how much three little sound shifts can impede meaning.

Here are some grammar things to prove they’re really the same language, though:

prepositional-pronouns

irregular-past

irregular-present

irregular-future

irregular-command

irregular-conditional

bi

dean

Irish is a confusing mixture of “sounds the same but looks different” and “sounds different but looks the same”. In spelling, a lot of words seem to be missing half or more of their letters, but in other places it seems to have retained letters that Gaelic hasn’t (for example, dhéanfainn for Irish “I would do”, but dhèanainn for Gaelic “I would do”, although they’re pronounced exactly the same; or chomh for “so” instead of cho in Gaelic).

Raghnaid’s hot tip for the Irish language: Find someone from Donegal. If people aren’t understanding you, tell it to someone from Donegal and get them to translate it. If you can’t understand other people, find someone from Donegal and get them to repeat it.

Overall, I think if you’re thinking about learning a Goidelic language and can’t decide which one, go with the Scottish version. It’s not just because I’m biased, too. Here are my reasons:

  1. Gaelic grammar is simpler. That is to say, there are fewer tenses than in Irish. Plus the verbs don’t conjugate, which they do in Irish.
  2. Irish orthography has lost a lot of connections. For example, take the preposition “in”. In Gaelic, it’s ann, and “in the” is anns an, often shortened to ‘s an. In Irish, it’s í, and “in the” is san. As a learner of Gaelic, you can see the connection. As a learner of Irish, it’s just a strangely irregular grammar feature you’ve got to memorise.
  3. Irish has three dialects. Yes, Gaelic has dialects, too, but there’s nowhere near as much variation as there is between the Irish dialects. It did my head in, even as someone who already knew the grammar and could understand the Donegal dialect, to try to keep track of three different ways of pronouncing and phrasing things. It’d be really difficult if it were my first venture into Celtic languages.

On the other hand, here are a few plusses for the Irish dialects:

  1. Irish is much more flexible when it comes to sounds. Goidelic languages have a lot of sounds which are really difficult for English-speakers. Gaelic-speakers will correct you if you don’t manage to make them, but Irish has a larger percentage of learners, I think, so they’re a lot more accepting of not being able to differentiate, for example, between the final sounds of poc, feic, and each.
  2. I’ll concede that Irish spelling, with all its missing letters, probably does make more sense to someone new to the language.
  3. I think there might be fewer prepositions, but I’m not 100% sure on that one.

That first point tripped me up a few times, too. I found it much easier to understand the native speakers than the fluent learners (even the one Gaelscoil-educated woman) and I came to the conclusion by the end that it was probably the sounds. I thought on the first day that Irish simply had fewer sounds than Gaelic, but then I listened to a native speaker from the Conamara speaking and realised that all the sounds are still there.

Overall, it’s both more and less different than I was expecting. It was different in ways I didn’t expect, and the same in some ways I thought were different. Culturally – or, rather, I should clarify that I mean musically – it’s a little different. I sang Is Gàidheal Mi at the concert, and someone said to me afterwards, “That sounded so exotic!” It’s a sort of key that’s fairly familiar to people who know Gaelic music (although a bit more unusual than, for example, Òran na Maighdinn Mhara or Taladh ar Shlanuighear) but apparently something that isn’t there in Irish musical tradition.

There are very few words which are completely different between Ireland and Scotland. Most of the time, if it seems like a different word, it’s probably there, but just less-used or with a different meaning. For example, in Gaelic, “learning” is ag ionnsachadh. In Irish, that means “attacking” (one person said it was awfully poetic that in Gaelic, you “attacked” knowledge), while the Irish word for “learning”, foghlam, is used primarily for “education” in Scotland. Another example is teanga, the Irish word for “language”. Gaelic prefers canan,  but teanga exists, for example in the verb ag eadartheangachadh, or “translating” (literally “between-language-ing”). In Gaelic, “walking” is a’ coiseachd, a word which isn’t used in Irish but is understood, as it is literally “foot-ing”. In Ireland, it’s siul, which exists in Scotland as siubhail, but means something more like “stroll”.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve experienced some level of racism from Irish people, so I was a bit worried about that, but aside from one incident on the first night (who decided a political/historical lecture by a local university professor was a good idea? NEVER talk about politics and/or English people around someone from Ireland) I got on quite well with everyone and they accepted me well enough. A number of people were very interested in Gaelic –

I’ve never met a Scottish Gaelic speaker before! I’ve always wondered about the language.” (A few people said words to that effect, but seriously? There are about 75 000 of us in the world, 1500 in Australia, and I’ve seen TG4 documentaries on YouTube so why haven’t you seen something in Gaelic?)

And then, “It’s like looking into the history of Irish!” (Yup, that’s what happens when you put all the letters back in. That was said to me by someone looking at a song book I had with me. But that said, we did read a poem in class in “Ye Olde Irishe”, and that was much easier for me as it had most of the letters I expected… although no Hs, since it was from back when they were a dot on top of the letter).

I really don’t think it’s justified to call Irish and Gaelic separate languages, particularly after having met a few Donegal Irish speakers. It’s an accent and a few figures of speech, that’s all. Oh, and a couple of spelling reforms. As far as I’m concerned, if I can be an Australian and understand someone from Ireland speaking English, Irish-speakers should be able to understand me speaking Gaelic. That’s the level of difference there is.

Oh, and if anyone can fill in any of the gaps on those tables, it would be much appreciated.

Advertisements

5-EBI Now Streaming

5-EBI is now streaming online in up to 65 languages.

5-EBI (which stands for “Ethnic Broadcasters Incorporated”) is Adelaide’s multi-ethnic and multi-lingual radio station and has been broadcasting from 103.1FM since 1979, having been broadcasting five programmes a week since 1975.

Monday
1130-0600: music only: “World Trax”
0600-0630: English: Deutsche Welle “World in Progress”
0630-0730: Deutsch: “Hamburger Hafenkonzert”
0730-0800: English: Cook Island programme
0800-0900: Malti: Maltese programme
0900-1100: English: “A Foreign Affair” with David Sabine
1100-1200: English: “Today with You” with Ewart Shaw
1200-1300: English: “The Three Amigos”
1300-1400: English: “Football Plus” with Peter and Dieter
1400-1600: Deutsch: German programme “Deutschland Aktuell”
1600-1630: English: “Arts on Air” with Ewart Shaw
1630-1700: English: Ukrainian programme “Pioneer”
1700-1800: Polski: Polish programme
1800-1900: Malti: Maltese programme
1900-1930: English: Russian youth programme “Let’s get together”
1930-2030: music only: “EBI Music”
2030-2130: Kurdi: Kurdish programme
2130-2200: music only: “EBI Music”
2200-2300: Deutsch: “Hamburger Hafenkonzert”
2300-0000: English “Rhythm Nations” with Don Ellis

Tuesday
0000-0600:
music only: “World Trax”
0600-0700: Ellhnika: Greek programme “Minima Agapis”
0700-0800: Italiano: Italian programme
0800-0900: Khmer: Cambodian programme
0900-1100: English: “A Foreign Affair” with David Sabine
1100-1200: English: “Today with You” with Ewart Shaw
1200-1230: English: Deutsche Welle “The Journal”
1230-1330: English, Gaidhlig: Scottish programme
1330-1430: English, Gaeilge: Irish programme
1430-1500: Portugues: Portuguese programme
1500-1600: Ellhnika: Greek programme “Hmerologion Zohs”
1600-1700: Deutsch: German programme
1700-1730: Russkiy: Russian programme
1730-1800: English: Deutsche Welle “Pulse”
1800-1900: English: “Planet Sound”
1900-2000: Dansk: Danish programme
2000-2100: Khmer: Cambodian programme
2100-2300: Vosa Vakaviti, English: Fijian programme
2300-0000: English: “FM Nightcap” with Malcolm MacKellar

Wednesday
0000-0600:
music only: “World Trax”
0600-0700: Masri Arabic: Egyptian programme
0700-0900: music only: “EBI Music”
0900-1100: English: “A Foreign Affair” with David Sabine
1100-1200: English: “Today with You” with Ewart Shaw
1200-1230: English: Deutsche Welle “The Journal”
1230-1300: Myanma Bhasa: Burmese programme
1300-1400: Tieng Viet: Vietnamese programme
1400-1500: Deutsch: German programme
1500-1600: Ukrayinska: Ukrainian programme
1600-1700: English: Greek programme “History & Culture”
1700-1800: Bahasa: Indonesian programme “RISA”
1800-1900: Russkiy: Russian programme
1900-1930: Slovenscina: Slovenian programme
1930-2030: music only: “EBI Music”
2030-2130: Deutsch: Austrian programme “Musikalisches Kaleidoscop”
2130-2230: Bengali: Bangladesh programme
2230-0000: English: “Folk Till Midnight” with Eric Ford

Thursday
0000-0600:
music only: “World Trax”
0600-0700: English: “Good Morning Folk”
0700-0800: Italiano: Italian programme
0800-0900: Ellhnika: Greek programme “Xenimma Esiodoxias”
0900-1100: English: “A Foreign Affair” with David Sabine
1100-1200: English: “Today with You” with Ewart Shaw
1200-1230: English: Deutsche Welle “The Journal”
1230-1330: Tagalog: Filipino programme “Hal0-Halo Espesyal”
1330-1400: Italiano: Italian programme
1400-1500: Ellhnika: Greek programme
1500-1600: Deutsch: German programme “Buntes Allerlei”
1600-1700: Polszczyzna: Polish programme
1700-1900: Hrvatski: Croatian programme
1900-2000: Latviesu: Latvian programme “Latvju Balss”
2000-0000: Nederlands, English: Dutch programme “Dutch Family Programme”

Friday
0000-0600
: music only: “World Trax”
0600-0700: English: “Hear the World”
0700-0800: Italiano: Italian programme
0800-0900: Ellhnika, English: Greek Orthodox Community programme
0900-1100: English: “A Foreign Affair” with David Sabine
1100-1200: English: “Today with You” with Ewart Shaw
1200-1230: English: Deutsche Welle “The Journal”
1230-1300: English: “Science Fiction Review” with Malcolm MacKellar
1300-1330: music only: “EBI Music”
1330-1400: Italiano: Italian programme
1400-1430: English: Cook Islands programme
1430-1530: English: Greek programme “I Listen and Learn”
1530-1600: English: Tongan youth programme
1600-1700: Lea Fakatonga, English: Tongan programme
1700-1800: Nederlands: Dutch programme “De week die was, de week die komt”
1800-2000: Srpski, English: Serbian youth programme
2000-2100: Makedonskh: Macedonian programme
2100-2130: Tagalog: Filipino programme “Harana”
2130-2230: Af-Soomaali: Somali programme
2230-2330: English: Deutsche Welle “Inside Europe”
2330-0000: music only: “EBI Music”

Saturday
0000-0600:
music only: “World Trax”
0600-0700: Srpski: Serbian programme
0700-0800: English: Indian programme
0800-0900: Polszczyzna: Polish programme
0900-1000: Lietuviu Kalba: Lithuanian programme
1000-1100: Portugues: Portuguese programme
1100-1200: Espanol: Spanish programme
1200-1330: Castellano: Latin American programme
1330-1400: various: Eritrean programme
1400-1500: Masri Arabic: Egyptian programme
1500-1600: Srpski: Serbian programme
1600-1700: Ellhnika: Cypriot programme
1700-1800: English: Celtic programme
1800-1900: Schwyzertuutsch: Swiss programme “Schweizer Ecke”
1900-1930: Deutsch: Australian programme “Singendes Klingendes Oesterreich”
1930-2000: Deutsch: German programme
2000-2100: music only: “EBI Music”
2100-0100: English: “International Rendezvous”

Sunday
0100-0600
: music only: “World Trax”
0600-0700: English: “In His Name” with Cristina Descalzi
0700-0730: Gagana Samoa: Samoan programme
0730-0830: Malti: Maltese programme
0830-0900: Tagalog: Filipino programme “Radyo Pilipino”
0900-1000: Slovensky jazyk: Slovak programme
1000-1030: German: German programme “Bundesliga Results”
1030-1130: German: Austrian programme “Gruess Gott – Guten Morgan”
1130-1200: Makedonski: Macedonian programme
1200-1300: Hrvatski: Croatian programme
1300-1400: Magyar: Hungarian programme
1400-1430: Slovenscina: Slovenian programme
1430-1530: Ukrayinska: Ukrainian programme
1530-1600: English: Indian programme
1600-1700: Bulgarsky: Bulgarian programme
1700-1800: Ellhnika: Greek programme
1800-1900: various: Sudanese programme
1900-1930: Makedonski: Macedonian programme
1930-2030: Vosa Vakaviti, English: Fijian programme
2030-2130: Russkiy: Russian programme
2130-1015: Guanhua/Mandarin: Chinese programme
2015-2100: Gwongjau-Wah/Cantonese: Chinese programme
2100-2130: music only: “EBI Chinese Trax”

All times given are Central Australian Time (GMT+9.30 or GMT+10.30).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thought of the Day #9

A little less than 1600 years ago, a little Welsh PK was captured to be a slave by Irish pirates. He went on to found a missionary movement that would reach not just all of Ireland, but also Scotland and the Nordic countries.

Thursday

I can’t help but think he’d be appalled if he saw what people did in his name today.

Google Translate and Gaelic

Google Translate has expanded again! It now supports 103 languages, including, as of today, Amharic, Corsican, Hawaiian, Frisian, Kurdish, Kyrgyz, Luxembourgish, Pashto, Samoan, Shona, Sindhi, Xhosa… and Gaelic!

That was a long time coming. Google Translate usually adds families in language families, because once they’ve got the software for one grammar it’s easier to transfer to similar languages. We’ve had Irish since 2009.

I’m a little concerned, as Loving Language was, with how they choose the languages. I’m not sure whether to be insulted that Gaelic’s now as much a regional “dialect” (no offence anyone, but you were until recently) as Corsican, Frisian, or Luxembourgish, or pleased that we’re as “exotic” (to Europeans) as Kyrgyz, Pashto, or Xhosa.

I’m not sure how I feel about this, to be honest. On one hand, you know, finally, but on the other, it’s fun to joke about how we might say anything on FaceBook and people can’t pretend to understand like they can with other languages. That’s gone now. The Scottish Gaelic FaceBook group is now no longer completely private.

Although, I did run a few phrases through it, and the results weren’t promising. I tried between Gaelic and Irish first, figuring it should come out pretty close.

tha gaidhlig agam

“tha Gàidhlig agam” should translate as “tá Gaeilge agam” or, at the very least, “tá Gaeilge na hAlban agam”

ciamar a tha sibh

I can almost let this one slide, because the translation is meant to be “conas atá sibh?”; “ciamar a tha thu?” should render this result. The meaning is mostly the same, they’ve got that right, but apparently we’re addressing everyone as a singular, informal being now.

's ann gle sgith a tha mi

I honestly have no idea.

Anyway, then I tried with English.

's ann gle sgith a tha mi eng

This is close. You understand the meaning, right? It’s “I’m very tired”. I chose this phrase because the grammar is very unusual. To emphasise something in Gaelic, rather than saying it louder or slower or whatever, you move what you emphasise to the beginning of the sentence at add “‘s ann…” (“it is in”). So “tha mi sgith” becomes “‘s ann gle sgith a tha mi” – literally “it is in very tired that I am”. So, basically, I’m not surprised Google Translate got that wrong.

tha gaidhlig agam eng

Not even close. It’s “I speak Gaelic”. Again with above, it’s being a bit too word-for-word, realising it’s wrong, and then changing the words so they don’t quite make sense. It’s literally “Gaelic is at me”.

Interestingly, the Irish translation used “mo” (“my”) for “agam” (“at me”) as well. In fairness, the “tha… agam” construction is used for possession of objects, as well, but it seems like the Irish is being run through an English translation first.

ciamar a tha sibh eng

Finally! Success!

Still no Australian languages, though.

Latha Fhèile Phàdraig

Or however they prefer to spell it, probably with most of the letters missing.

And yes, I know that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t technically until Thursday, but the parade was today, winding through Adelaide towards the Irish Club, where there was alternating music and dancing for several hours. The second dance school to perform had a fascinating mix of “traditional” Irish Dance with some contemporary bits, and I thought that was pretty cool. I’m a sucker for hard-shoe. I think it’s the rhythms. At Spring Fiddle, there’s usually a step-dance workshop (the Scottish and Canadian version of Irish hard-shoe) and it’s great fun, even if I can’t quite get it. Apparently in Canada, step-dance competitions are the judges seated underneath the floor so they can hear the rhythms better.

It was mostly green. I think I saw about three orange shirts / dresses. I will wear orange next year, I’m determined. “It’s all right if you have orange leanings,” I was told, “But they might make you walk.” The trick is, the Celtic Slow Music Band wears green as its colour, and mostly that’s fine by me (except at Mount Barker Gathering, where I’m turning up in my tartan clashing with a saltire no matter what). The problem is… green on St Patrick’s day? I’m not Catholic.

Anyway, the parade went well, and I didn’t even get burnt. Lots of construction crews turning out to watch (anything to avoid actually constructing something, of course), and we got lots of stares as we wound our way through Chinatown. Seriously, it’s Mad March and people should be used to strange things happening on the streets of Adelaide by now. They probably thought we were part of WomAd or the Fringe.

I don’t usually go to Monday Slow Music Night, mostly because it’s a Monday and it’s inconvenient, but I go a weekend event a couple of times a year. I got in with the Celtic Slow Music group because they started about half an hour before Irish Class finished, back when went to Irish Class for about a month.

Here’s a tip for you: the Irish are racist. Either you’re Irish, or you’re some sort of sub-human not worth mentioning. You can talk until you’re blue (or green) in the face about how you speak Gaelic, and ‘s e Gàidhealaich a th’ anns na Gàidhealaich, we’re all the same, really, I’m here because our languages are similar, it might be nice to talk to each other, widen the pool for conversational opportunities, but if you’re not Irish, they don’t want to know you. God forbid you have even the smallest skerrick of Irish blood in you (as I do), because then you’re a traitor for not acknowledging it. The worst part is, there are people at the Club – and were in the Class when I was – who had just as much Irish blood as I do (umpteen-great-grandparent on one side) but they identified as Irish, so they were in, and I was out.

Yeah, so I don’t go to the Irish club much. I just couldn’t deal with that every week, so I gave up on the whole Irish language idea and just sort of kept in loose touch with the Celtic Slow Music people.

Probably the only accurate descriptor in that title is ‘music’. In this case, ‘Celtic’ means ‘Irish’, and ‘slow’ means… Really quite fast, most of the time. It’s all in good fun, and it’s great craic, as they would say, for a jig or a reel, but I don’t want to hear Raglan Road played in happy jig time when it’s a slow, sad air. Or – even worse – Red Red Rose, on the rare occasion they venture out into other areas of Celtic. These ventures are usually Scottish, admittedly – I don’t know that there are any Welsh, Cornish, or Breton tunes in the repertoire, although there are a few Australian ones – but are still played in happy Irish jig style.

This sounds like I’m complaining, and I’m not. Today was great fun. I’d hoped to catch up with some of the people from the Irish class and chat for a bit, but I only saw one, and she hasn’t gone in about three years and could barely respond to “Dia dhuibh! Cónas atá sibh?” – which, admittedly, is about the extent of my Irish. Besides which, it was a bit noisy for conversation.

There was one set we played twice that I didn’t know, but I’m getting much better at harmonising each time I play, so I felt I did really well with that today. My main problem is with tunes that are in different sets with different groups. For example, the Slow Music people play Blackthorn Stick with Rakes of Kildare, but it’s with Tinpenny Money with the Hills Bush Dance people, and Rakes of Kildare comes after Mucking of Geordie’s Byre – which is slightly different in the second part at each place, but not enough that I can’t get away with playing the Hills version, which I learnt first, at both places.

DSCN2550

It’s like “Where’s Wally?” but it’s “Spot the Protestant”. There are three in this photo. Well, three who were actually brave enough to wear orange.

 

Once we got back to the hall, we had a welcome speech from the president of the Irish Club. I was impressed with how much Irish was actually used – it would have to be 50/50, with everything said in Irish first and then English – but the sound system wasn’t great so I doubt people at the back understood much of either. The woman in question doesn’t really have any Irish, so it really became a question of how many times you can say ‘ceud mìle fàilte’ in a day.

Then we sang the national anthems, to the accompaniment of a guitar. This was a problem for me, because I only know the first line of the Irish national anthem, so it became something like:

“Sinne fianna fáil atá faoi gheall ag Éirinn… buí hurram-da… chan eil fios agam… hurram-durram-da… sin e ar sinnsir feasta… chan eil fios agam fhathast mu dheidhinn na faclair… anns an t-òrain Eireannach an-seo … Le hurram Ghaeil! … bás no saoil… hurram-durran-da… lámhach na piléar… seo leibh, canaidh òrain na bhfiann!”

And then, somehow, it became Advance Australia Fair without even a pause for breath or key change – I’m still trying to work out how that was managed – and I know all the words to that one, at least.

In other news, although still on the topic of national anthems, my Hebrew teacher keeps threatening us with learning haTikvah if we don’t pay attention, so… I’ve taught myself it.

Then I had a textbook to pick up, while I was in the city, and I stopped for a bit to eat at the café there.

DSCN2551

Why is food so artsy now? A cake this small does not need a place that large. And surely that’s a waste of caramel sauce…

It’s warm today, so I took my fiddle in with me.

Yeah. Dressed in green and carrying a fiddle in the middle of March. I couldn’t rid myself of the feeling that everyone knew where I’d been.

Nor the feeling that it Patrick could only see today (and Thursday), he would be appalled.

Language Update

Would you believe me if I said that in thirty hours, I’d spoken six languages?

Mind you, “spoken” is a bit of an overstatement when it comes to the last. Okay, so, four of the previous five (Gaelic, Hebrew, Welsh, German) have the CH sound, all pronounced without any questions or comments, and so does the sixth (Greek), and yet apparently it’s too difficult to pronounce. But that’s an old gripe. In my opinion, Australian or not, if you’re teaching a language with the CH sound, you can jolly well pronounce the CH sound! It’s not that hard! (And if it is, feel free to choke).

Anyway… Rather than rant about stupid Australian language teachers with dodgy accents (two of the languages), I’ll try and calm myself by detailing my abilities in each language.

ENGLISH (English) – no change, as far as I can tell, to my ability to speak English. Self-rating: C2

DEUTSCH (German) – as I mentioned at New Years’, my German abilities have shot through the floor in the last two and a bit years. Don’t get me wrong, I can still handle a basic conversation, but now I have an obvious accent and a more hesitant vocabulary. As for the grammar – I don’t know that I’d really remember much at all. Self-rating: B1

FRANÇAIS (French) – well, I’m probably not up to the standard I was when I did the Year 12/ DELF B1 exam eighteen months ago, but I don’t feel like I’ve lost much. If there’s any of my languages (other than English) which presents itself in my life regularly, it would be French. I’m not sure why, since I live in one of the Germanest areas of Australia, but I think a lot more people have studied French. It seems to be a pretty popular language at the moment. Self-rating: A2-B1

ESPAÑOL (Spanish) – I can still understand it. I could probably form a sentence or write a paragraph, but to be honest, I haven’t really wanted to since I stopped learning it two and a bit years ago. I’m not even sure why I learnt this language in the first place. Probably something about it being a global language and the only other option at the school being Indonesian. I never got particularly good at Spanish, anyway. Self-rating: A1-A2

GÀIDHLIG (Gaelic) – the only language with which I feel I’m progressing well. I’m not quite making the same leaps and bounds as I perhaps did last year, but we’ve got on to some much trickier stuff and I have less time in the week to devote to it. Self-rating: B1

GAEILGE (Irish) – I only learnt this for about two months before I realised two things: (a) there’s no way I’m ever going to be able to pronounce this language, and (b) Irish people can be really racist to non-Irish. Which resulted in me leaving the classes and never looking back. Ah, well, the more I know of Gaelic, the more I understand of Irish. I’d probably be a solid A2 when it comes to reading and hearing this language.

עברית (Hebrew) – after struggling last year with oh-so-much rote grammar and definitely not memorising lists and lists of vocab words, I realised that basically the only thing I’d achieved was the ability to read the alphabet and a basic understanding of Hebrew tense roots. And that first was rendered almost useless whenever I was presented with anything in cursive. Two weeks in Israel gave me the sound of the language for the first time, as well as a handful of phrases, some useful vocabulary, and two songs. I’ve now enrolled in an evening class at WEA for Modern Hebrew, so I’m actually excited about learning the language now. Self-rating: A1

KOINH (Greek) – all the gripes about rote grammar and vocab list memorisation apply to this, with the notable exception that I haven’t been able to escape to somewhere that teaches it like an actual language. I mean a modern language. You know, with speaking. As it is, I dread the lessons, which are both painful and dull, and got syllabus shock for the first time when going through it in the class yesterday. There is going to be so much homework for this, especially considering we don’t really seem to do any actual learning in class. Or speaking of the language. It’s all syntax, and most of that is just common sense. Yes, we’re reading 1 John, but it’s all, “Let’s challenge ourselves and try to translate directly!” Yeah, right, the only good part about the class is the bit where I get to read Greek out loud. Listening to a couple of the others try, not so much, but that’s the only fun bit, is reading it. I’m so busy this term, I’m strongly considering dropping it, since it’s the only non-mandatory subject I have at uni. And the homework is insane. Self-rating: A0?

CYMRAEG (Welsh) – this was just for a bit of fun when I saw the week-long intensive listed on the WEA catalogue website. In hindsight, it’s probably not the best idea in the world to do a language intensive in the first week of lectures, since I’m so exhausted and actually beginning to dread going again tonight, but overall it’s been fun. Welsh is such a fun and cool language. It has such a cute sound and in terms of vocab and grammar, it’s fairly straightforward. We learnt about mutations yesterday, which was all sort of fun and I’ve been looking forwards to. Gaelic only has one sort of mutation (lenition/aspiration), while Welsh has three (softening, nasalisation, and aspiration). Only problems are (a) the teacher’s actually Australian, although living in Wales for the last 12 years, and speaks Welsh with the most Australian accent I can possibly imagine someone speaking Welsh. Her blàs isn’t there! I don’t know how someone can live in Wales for that long and not pick up the blàs. And (b) speaking Gaelic gives me a distinct advantage when it comes to grammar, while being about 40 years younger than my classmates gives me an advantage when it comes to vocab. Let’s just say that after three days, the gap is widening. Self-rating: A1

Well, it’s a bit of a depressing, gripey list, but there you have it. I even managed to curb my complains about Greek in general and the Welsh teacher and other students in particular.