Niall & Ben gave pointers on how to form your questions in Irish confidently and effectively. Niall described the new ‘Asking Questions In Irish’ course module on the Bitesize learning platform, and walked us through the free to download cheat-sheet that he put together to accompany the launch!
Janine asked if there Is a standard format to building questions using question words (especially in past tense)?
As Niall explains, the tricky thing is that there are two formats.
After certain question words we use a direct relative clause – this means the particle ‘a’ and séimhiú.
Following other question words we use an indirect relative clause – this means the particle ‘a’ and urú – or for regular past tense verbs, the particle ‘ar’ and séimhiú. Consequently, we need to learn which question words use which format.
Sue wanted to know when to use ‘a bhfuil’ and ‘atá’ when asking questions.
Niall answered by telling us that the form ‘atá’ is an example of the verb ‘bí’ in a direct relative clause. Usually the DRC takes séimhiú as well, but not for this verb, for some reason.
Any other verb, in any tense, which follows ‘conas’ would also be in a direct relative clause e.g. Conas a théann tú go dtí an obair? Conas a d’éirigh leat inné? Conas a dhéanfaidh sibh sin?
The form ‘a bhfuil’ is an example of the verb ‘bí’ in an indirect relative clause. This means we use urú, or the question form of the verb, if that is different (e.g. bhfuil v tá, raibh v bhí).
For regular past tense verbs we use ‘ar’ and séimhiú. After ‘cén chaoi’ we always use an indirect relative clause e.g. Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú? Cén chaoi a ndearna tú sin? Cén chaoi ar bhuail sibh le chéile? Cén chaoi a dtiocfaidh tú abhaile?
Jay asked how one gets one’s irish to sound melodic
Ben compared fluency and ease in language with the mastery of playing traditional music on the uileann pipes. First you must be on intimate terms with the rhythm of the language, its syntax and grammar. Then, whether through hard study or extended exposure and practice, you train your mind and muscles to put what you know and feel into fluent speech.
There isn’t any fast way to do this, but it is good to listen out for examples of alliteration such as ‘tinn, tuirseach’ and ‘sona sásta’ and use them to make your speech more pleasing to the ear!
Niall offered that it is important to listen as much as possible, and learn which words to stress in a sentence. Find speakers on radio and television whose Irish you admire and practice repeating what they say. Repeat the process and you may start to hear details that you did not notice at first.
This will help to train you throat and mouth to make sounds that you may have found difficult initially, such as the ‘ch’ sound.