How doo yoo think in Gah-lick?

19 Jan

Peace reigned this afternoon as both children fell asleep in the car on the way to their grandparents.  Whilst the children sleeping is always a magical moment, it’s not one I feel I can take real advantage of when I’m in the car.  I’m limited to the CDs that are in reach and to be honest, I’m sick of listening to Alvin & The Chipmunks, Cars: The Movie, and Christmas CDs (yes, we have not been able to put the Christmas CDs away, though I’m not too bothered because they always fall asleep during Away in a Manger.  If I’m honest, for that reason alone it’s a bit of a favourite of mine).

Stuck driving through a lovely Scottish blizzard, I started running through all the different Gaelic phrases I’ve already managed to pick up.  I held mini conversations in my head in which my Gaelic was perfect and where I was even able to hold my own with my son’s new Gaelic teachers (obviously a dream then.)  Although I should probably have been giving more thought to my driving given the increasingly treacherous conditions, I was instead thinking of my son’s new Gaelic words – boo-yuh and doo.  (Gaelic speakers – don’t panic, I know that’s not how they’re spelt.)

Boo-yuh and doo.  It was at that moment I realised that through teaching myself the little Gaelic that I know, I have no idea how to spell/read/recognise pretty much any of it.  In my head, as I practise the words yellow and black, I don’t think of buidhe and dubh, I think of boo-yuh and doo.  I tried a few of my other phrases out – “kimmer a ha oo, catch a vell doh stocanin…?”* and realised the same thing was happening.

But why!?

I’m not new to language learning.  I studied French right through to first year at University, and I picked up Italian when I was there, too.  Yet, in all my years of studying language I’ve never noticed this phenomenon.  As I pondered this further (hey, it was that or listen to the Chipmunks squealing, “Bad Romance”), I think I had a Eureka moment.

When I’ve learned a language before I’ve always been sat at a desk, reading the language whilst an experienced speaker of the language taught me to read what I was seeing.  I haven’t needed phonetic pronunciation guides.  However, with Gaelic, if I’m reading it in a book or online I seek out the text with the pronunciation beside it, ignore the Gaelic and jump straight to the sounds.  When I’m in the car, I just make it up myself.  This is great for learning to hold a conversation, but I don’t think it’s going to stand up to scrutiny when my son starts to bring his reading books home.

So how do I get around this?  How do I go from my fake Gaelic to the real thing?  How do I get to the point where I can look at the Gaelic and sound it out myself?  Answers on a postcard (or as a comment if you prefer) please!

Until someone comes up with a good alternative, I think I’m going to have to go with doing my best to force myself to look at the Gaelic first, try to pronounce it and then check it again.  It could be almost like being back at school doing lasacawac (Look and Say and Cover and Write and Check)!

Good luck to any other Gaelic learners out there, and remember, if you work out how to think it properly then let me know.


* How are you, where are your socks…? (proper Gaelic to follow when I track it down).


2 Responses to “How doo yoo think in Gah-lick?”

  1. David Eyre January 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    ‘S caomh leam am blog Lisa. Math a rinn thu!
    I’d really recommend the book Blàs na Gàidhlig. It shows how the spelling system works, so that when you see the Gaelic word, you’re more confident in your pronunciation of it. Micheal Bauer who wrote the book – @akerbeltz on Twitter – does tutoring too and he really helped me.
    In general though, I think you’re doing the right thing. As Tom Leonard said: “In the beginning was the sound.” Getting a grip of vocabulary and using it in natural situations is a great start – getting your head around the spelling system is important – but it can follow on later.

    • gaelicmediummum January 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

      Thanks, David! I’ve seen that book before and I’ll go have a look again but I think it’s a little out of my budget this month (I’ve just received my tax bill!)

      It would appear that I need to find the best way to translate, too. I had to google your first 2 sentences but there must be a simpler way. I start my “proper” Gaelic course at the end of Feb/beginning of March so I should probably organise a dictionary or find an online one before then.

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