Friday, October 29, 2010

Strange sounds on Dublin Bus

“...agus ...dúirt sé ...ach...agus ansin...”. I’m on the bus home on a Wednesday night. Tragically, when I first heard fragments of the slightly sharp cadences, I thought the two ladies were Scottish. Well, that’s what simply first came to mind.

No, it’s Irish. I think this is only the second time I’ve heard Gaeilge on Dublin Bus (having used it nearly every day for around 14 months now). And this second time, it’s the beautiful Donegal dialect.

“Hmmm, Garbhán, you say that as if you’re not from Donegal!” Aye, well, I am from Donegal, but since leaving I’ve adopted the ‘standard’ Irish – ya know, the one where the ‘fada’ is not ignored? It was only as a student at university when, defending Donegal Irish, I was meet with the slap-in-the-face realisation that Donegal Irish ignores fadas. ‘Tá’ in Donegal is, of course, spelled the same, but it’s pronounced ‘ta’ and not ‘taw’, as it should be. This becomes a big problem with words which are distinguished only by the addition of a fada, e.g. ‘ait’ and ‘áit’, meaning ‘odd, eccentric’ and ‘place, locality’ respectively. [I still call myself ‘Garvin’ and introduce myself as such most of the time, but I prefer ‘Garbhán’, pronounced ‘Gar-vaun’]

Moreover, during my ‘education’ in the Irish language, I had ‘teachers’ from all over the country, so not only did that lead to the subtle adoption of the nuances of the various dialects, but it sped up the wheels of confusion – and, with only one discernible competent Irish teacher to put on the brakes for a brief period, the wheels continued to roll.

If you, the reader, are not from Ireland, you may be presuming that I can ‘speak’ Irish. Aheh, no. Forced to learn something through an inadequate system and inadequate teachers led me to perennial frustration with the issue. [And if you are from Ireland, you probably not only appreciate the last comment, but you feel exactly the same way.] Consider studying Wittgenstein. On language. From the age of five. For twelve years.

You’d be less frustrated.

Nevertheless, I refuse to accept that Irish is too slippery for me ever to grasp. I’m not giving up. For instance, when I’m on the bus, I replace the normal background noises with background noises in Irish. No, I don’t have a high-tec headphones set that translates Dublinese into Irish Dublinese on-the-fly; I simply tune into Radio na Gaeltachta (it’s one simple step towards re-learning Irish).

Of course, this time on the bus the background noises were in Irish. Well, two of the sources, anyway.

“Oh great!”, I thought, “they’re getting off at my stop. So, they’ll hear me say my usual [I am serious – I say it to every bus driver upon getting off], Donegal-dialected ‘go raibh maith agat!’ to the bus driver!” Then, they'll realise that they're not the only 'natives' in jackabeen Dublin. 

Of course, another passenger gets between me and them –“I’ll just have to say it louder than normal”.

“Ok, here I go”.... [The driver’s phone rings] “go.. *ring*... *ring*... ra...*ring*... *ring*.. ibh. *ring*... *ring*... ma *ring* ...ith *ring*... *ring* *ring* *ring*... *ring*

Well at least I know that I said it.

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