Lots of Irish school kids, for example, speak Irish Gaelic with lots correct grammar missing. But you know what? Isn’t that better than speaking no Irish language at all? This applies to you, too. If you’re on your learning journey, be careful not to set your bar for perfection too high.
I was listening to a Raidió na Gaeltachta documentary about “why won’t people in the Gaeltacht speak Irish to me” (there doesn’t seem to be a recording on that page).
The documentary was by an Irish man who went to the Gaeltacht to learn Irish, but found that the locals would speak English to him.
One of the conclusions of that documentary was that, let’s call them, “Gaeltacht outsiders”, didn’t use correct word mutations. They said that it sounded unnatural and that a learner could never get it completely right.
What are these “mutations”?
If you dip your toes into the Irish language, you’ll soon come across the ideas of lenition and eclipsis (first covered by our Bitesize Lesson: Initial Mutations).
They are parts of speech that are used to convey meaning, and make speech flow more naturally.
For example, in our Bitesize Lesson: Asking where?, there’s a recording of: “ar an mbus” which means “on the bus”. That little sneeky “m” in “mbus” is a mutation of the word “bus”.
And here’s my point: if you’re dedicated to your language learning journey, and make a trip of to Ireland, so what if you say “ar an bus” slightly crudely rather than the correct “ar an mbus”?
I’m one of you
Let’s be clear – I’m a Gaeltacht outsider myself. I speak the Irish language every single day, yet my lenitions leave a lot to be desired for “correct” Irish. Call my Irish language whatever you want. It just happens that it’s not conforming to 200-years-ago Gaeltacht Irish.
So what is important?
If we’re speaking about grammar, I would say that word order is hard and far more important than subtle (and not-so-subtle) word mutations. If you’re a Bitesize Irish Gaelic member, take our Bitesize Lesson: Word order in sentences.
If you haven’t tried our program with thousands of records, take our free trial now to learn your first phrase of Irish Gaelic, or jump straight in and sign up as a member which includes access to our private Facebook group.