Monday, March 27, 2017

Ní Thuigim Béarla

Literally, that means "I don't understand English". Sometimes it is said by Irish speakers to signal their reluctance to speak in English.

I remember a guy who transferred to my (Irish language) school in fourth year, when we would have been aged about sixteen, saying these words to a nun and a teacher, when he was newly arrived and we were both sitting studying in the hall. (The hall had tables in it, for lunch and studying.)

This guy was (and is) a handsome, intelligent, charming guy-- and knew it. (He's a doctor now.) I remember the teacher and nun both laughing rather girlishly when he rolled out this line-- very cute for a guy who had just come from an English speaking school, and might be expected to struggle with Irish.

I've just been watching a video where the speaker says that, on a recent trip to Stockholm, he noticed just how much English was everywhere-- and he even heard one Swede wondering aloud why Swedes should bother learning and speaking Swedish anymore.

That just makes me feel desolate. English was always (by far) my best subject in school, and all my achievements in life have been through the use of the English language. All the literature I love is in English.

But it's also the language of globalization, and hearing something like that just makes me feel like saying: "Ni thuigim Béarla" all the time. (A reaction that passes, but still.)


  1. one of the (several)things that have turned me off the Eurovision is hearing so many entrants using English when they have such musical languages of their own

  2. I've been reading a 1959 book about the foundation of the presentation Sisters and it unexpectedly included a couple of poems in Irish. I'll copy you a few lines in both languages:
    "Is mise a mhúineas na sagairt chúmachtach
    'S na bráithre múinte do théideann do'n Fhrainc
    Lucht dlighthe mhúsgailt i dtighibh cúirte
    'S na dochtúiri do dheanann leigheas."
    "I am the teacher of the influential priesthood
    And of the students who travel to France
    And of the legal experts in the courts of law
    And of the physicians who practise the heading art."
    Hope I got it right. It was referring to the esteem that teachers were held in when catholic schools were officially emancipated. But the reality was less romantic as the school buildings were dilapidated huts or stables and the enrollment "10 or 20 half-naked brats"

    1. Thanks for that. I can't really read poetry in Irish yet, as it often uses non-standard formations. I only understand the simplest (and usually free verse). I don't know if I'll ever be able to appreciate poetry in Irish.

  3. I tried to mention this yesterday, but my phone was acting up a bit....
    As a devotee of St Bernadette you must find it of interest that she always claimed the Blessed Virgin spoke to her in her native dialect, just as she was struggling with mainstream French, just as the French government was discouraging patois -a little globalisation of the day - I wonder does the dialect exist now?, perhaps, ironically, only on captions on the odd Lourdes souvenir? The main lesson of Lourdes was, of course, spiritual but apparently Our Lady was happy to give a nod to patois. As an aside: I discovered in a book recently that in the early 1600s the Lourdes area was part of Béarn, ruled ,under the French crown, by a petty protestant ruler-a lady-Jeanne d'Albret. Because of Richelieu's France-first policy she was, in her own words, able to try to stamp out Catholicism by "massacre and confiscation" and boasted that "no child born during [her] reign would so much as know in manhood what the Mass was". Amazing if juxtaposed with the most famous woman to come from the area 200 years later who was an instrument of so much renewal for Catholicism

    1. I do find it very interesting that she spoke Occitan!

  4. I never knew that there was an official name, of course L'Occitane company comes from Southern France also. I have a friend from Mauritius; he speaks the ' pure' French and their own mixture, they refer to it as 'Creole', which in Latin America used to be a derogatory term for people not 100% European. I thought that was a little bit strange.
    I'm curious to know now whether the inscription at the main statute at the apparition site at Lourdes is actual French or the Saint's tongue, I'm not familiar with either but something about the words don't seem like mainstream French,
    Sorry,... I've got a cold and should be in bed and I know that you have no time for all this....

    1. No worries I always appreciate comments! I hope you feel better soon!