I Didn’t Choose Irish, Irish Chose Me

I didn’t choose Irish, Irish chose me article

Did you ever find yourself attracted to something without knowing why? For example, some people start painting as a hobby in their 40s and soon discover they are actually good at it. Isn’t it amazing to discover something you’re really good at it, even if you thought it wasn’t possible?

The same thing can happen to people when they come in contact with languages they don’t speak. Everything starts slow, with a little something that sparks their interest in that language and soon after, they realise that the words are “stuck” in their mind. From that, it’s just one small step to embarking on a great journey of learning a different language.

Believe it or not, that does happen, and we have the story to prove it. Imagine not knowing a single word of Irish, discovering by accident and learning that you’re actually of Irish descent in just a short period.

For some it may come as a shock, others may not do anything about it but, true carriers of the Irish Gaelic language’s spirit won’t sit with their arms crossed and let this opportunity fly by them.

David Lind, Bitesize Irish Gaelic member, has graciously told us his story in the form of the following interview. He didn’t even know Irish Gaelic existed, but with the help of a song, he soon discovered that Irish words were “getting stuck” in his mind, and even more important, he learned that he was 55% Irish and not 100% German as he believed to be.

We’re going to let you in on a little secret, as David found out, you don’t choose the Irish language, it chooses you. Here is David Lind’s interview for Bitesize Irish Gaelic.

Bitesize: Where abouts in the world do you live?

David: I live in Cheyenne, the capital and largest city (62,000) of the State of Wyoming, some 7200 km west of Bitesize headquarters in Limerick. To be quick with interesting facts:

  • Wyoming is best known worldwide as the location of Yellowstone National Park
  • Wyoming has a total land area three times the size of Ireland.
  • Wyoming is the least populated state in the USA with about 500,000 residents, less than half the population of Dublin.

Bitesize: What got you wanting to speak Irish?

David: In 2015, I accidentally ran into an Irish-language music video on YouTube called “Lion King as Gaeilge”. Before that, I’m embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t have identified Irish as a separate unique language in either the present or the past. Between that video and other similar productions, I ended up being absolutely smitten by the sounds of Irish. However, Irish has been a completely different experience from my other languages because the words have “stuck” in my mind.

My wife has even suggested that I didn’t choose Irish, Irish chose me.

So, I finally decided that Irish is going to be my retirement project for no other reason that it really appeals to me. With retirement quickly approaching, the next step is to turn those lovely sounds on YouTube into sentences spoken on demand using Bitesize Irish, their native speakers, and materials.

Bitesize: Do you have Irish ancestry? Tell us about it.

David Lind Bitesize Irish Gaelic
David Lind

David: If being smitten with a language you didn’t know existed isn’t strange enough, imagine “changing” your ancestry at age 60! You may ask, how does a person change their ancestry?

First, your family orders a DNA test as a birthday gift. Next, the DNA test comes back with completely unexpected results; i.e. you’re 55% Irish, not 100% German as expected. Third, you completely re-investigate your family history and discover that you have 4 Irish great-grandmothers that you didn’t know about. They all married German immigrants in the USA and their maiden surnames, places of origin and identities were erased by the patriarchy of those times.

So, I can now truly say that I have Irish ancestors. Fair play, Ancestry.com!

Bitesize: How do you use Bitesize Irish Gaelic?

David: I prefer to make wide (multiple lessons at a time) and shallow (not much time on any lesson) passes through the materials, speaking the words out loud. I test myself frequently by speaking a list of phrases and words I can remember, recording a simple count of those words and phrases. I evaluate my progress based upon those counts; i.e. they should increase consistently over time. I also skipped forward to learn Irish numbers as soon as possible, so I could count and record my self-evaluations in Irish.

Otherwise, I fully subscribe to Bitey’s approach; a little bit at a time, just in wider and thinner slices, combined with word and phrase counts that allow me to evaluate my progress over time.

Bitesize: What advice would you have for a total beginner of Irish Gaelic?

David: First, I recommend getting the additional pronunciation materials. They will help you visualize and pronounce words from memory, which is something that I have to do based on my learning style. That means that I often remember images of words easier than the actual sound of the words. If that is how your mind works, don’t handicap yourself by not having a good handle on pronunciation rules. Next, you may benefit by breaking the bites into even smaller “bits”.

In other words, find a way to measure your initial progress in pieces smaller than an entire Bitesize lesson. Create a count of the bits you have learned and track that count over time. The goal is to see the bit count steadily increasing.

Remembering one or two bits (i.e. words or phrases) from lesson 1, in the beginning is much more motivating than not being able to remember the entire lesson. You’ll be amazed at the number of things you have learned as a total beginner if you track bits that way.

We can’t help you discover if you have Irish heritage but we can enable you to embark on an amazing journey of learning Irish Gaelic. Keep the Irish language alive and sign up for a Bitesize Irish Gaelic membership. If you want to start slow, that’s also fine – you can always sign up for our free trial!

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