Sruth na Maoile

It’s quite funny to find myself returning to Sruth na Maoile (Sea of Moyle), that stretch of water between Ireland and Scotland, which in my imagination is the gentle, fluid border between Irish and Scottish Gaelic. I return to this liminal space in my mind from the other side this time, from Scotland, and Scottish Gaelic. I am looking back towards the shores of my native land and Gaeilge — my native, but alas not my mother, tongue.

I originally set up a blog and social media accounts called “Sruth na Maoile” back in 2010 so that I could share my experience with others as I learned Scottish Gaelic as an Irish speaker. Though that stretch of water between Ireland and Scotland is only about 12 miles from shore to shore, Irish and Scottish Gaelic had become quite isolated from one another, with Irish and Scots occasionally crossing the linguistic border to find a strangely familiar and yet intriguingly exotic doppelganger. (Of course, there has always been movement of people between the two countries, for work or trade, especially between the northern counties of Ireland and the west of Scotland.) The two communities seem to have become estranged from one another, probably as a result of centuries of political interference (I’ll say no more!), but through the likes of social media, exchange programmes and cultural projects, communication between the two communities is more flowing and there is more of an awareness of each others’ languages and shared culture.

People are always asking me, “Is there much of a difference between the two?” I usually answer “There is and there isn’t…” Pronunciation is noticeably different; it can be hard for Irish speakers, for example, to pronounce Scottish Gaelic words without the blas or accent of their own Gaelic. Syntax is pretty much the same except for certain constructions; i.e. “Is múinteoir é” (Irish) vs “‘S e tidsear/teagasgair a th’ ann” (Scottish), “He is a teacher”. Some words are the same, but the majority of familiar words are “false friends”. Take for example, craobh. Craobh in Irish means “branch”, wheras craobh in Scottish means “tree”. (The pronunciation of the [ao] is very different too! In Irish it’s more of a [ee] sound, whereas in Scottish it’s more of a [oo], but more on that another time…) Then some words are wildly different, for example freisin/fosta in Irish vs cuideachd in Scottish, meaning “too, also”.

But there is a swishing in my brain when I go from one language to the other, the flowing currents of Sruth na Maoile wash words from one language up onto the shore of the other. This happened more so while I was learning Scottish, as I journeyed from Ireland’s shores to Scotland and got soaked by waves from both sides!

I have been living in Scotland for nearly 5 years now, and I speak Scottish pretty much everyday. My friends are pretty much all Gaelic speakers, and my day-job is with a Gaelic organisation. Though there is a big Irish community in Glasgow (some friends of mine call Glasgow the capital of Donegal!), and though there are Irish language events organised by Conradh na Gaeilge here (incidently, the first craobh to be founded outside of Ireland!), I find it hard to use my Irish on a regular basis. Twitter is in particular a fantastic online Gaeltacht, so I try to use my Irish online and with friends of mine. To be honest, I have begun speak Irish to myself, and to write more frequently in Irish. The current of Irish is hitting the shores of Alba in my mind more and more…

So here I am, from the other side, about to re-embark on a linguistic journey through Sruth na Maoile — so I can remind myself of my Irish, I will post blogs with phrases and geeky observations from each language. The next installments will be numbered as wee digests. I hope you will enjoy them! (If you’re a language geek like me, I’m sure you will!)

 

 

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Neamhspleáchas na hAlban

saltireTá dearcadh Éireannach nó Gaelach agam ar Albain; ní fheicim uirthi mar chuid den Ríocht Aontaithe. Mar Ghael, ní aithním an Ríocht Aontaithe. Go maith conspóideach, ach sin m’fhírinn. Nuair a tháinig mé anseo, bhí mé ag fanacht le gaolta, agus bhí orthu míniú domh nach tír ann féin atá in Albain, ach gur é mar chuid den Ríocht Aontaithe atá ann. Ní ghlacaim leis sin go fóill! Ní thuigeann mo mheon sin.

Ó h-aois óg, chuir mé suim in Albain agus i gcultúr na hAlban, cionn is go raibh sé mar doppelganger don chultar s’againne. Ach bhí sé exotic ag an am chéarna. D’aithnigh mé Alban mar tír ann féin, agus go raibh féiniúlacht ar leith ag na hAlbannaigh. Rinneadh suirbhé le gairid ar mhuintir na hAlban, ag fiafraí an sainaithníonn siad iad féin mar Albannaigh nó mar Bhriotanaigh, nó mar Albannaigh agus Briotanaigh, agus dúirt an chuid is mó dóibh go measann siad gur Albannaigh amháin iad. Is ábhar dóchais é sin, ach ní chiallaíonn sin go mbeadh siad ar son neamhspleáchas na hAlban. Cad chuige sin? Más é gur pobal ar leith atá iontu, cad chuige nach bhfuil siad den bharúil go mba chóir go mbeidh cumhacht agus smacht acu féin ar a gcúrsaí féin?

Caithfidh mé a rá, tá an chuid is mó de na daoine sa chiorcal de chairde agus de dhaoine ar m’aithne anseo ar son neamhspleáchas na hAlban. Is cainteoirí Gàidhlige iad uilig nach mór, agus is dócha go bhfuil ciall ann sin. Nuair a d’fhiafraigh mé de dhaoine taobh amuigh mo chiorcal féin faoin ábhar, bhí cuma ar an scéal gur cuma leofa nó go raibh siad i gcoinne neamhspleáchais. Níl muinín acu astú féin mar phobal, is cosúil. Tá Alban “ró-bheag”. Níl an leor d’airgead acu. Tá muintir na hAlban ró-scártha óna chéile; na Gaeil, na Central Belts, muintir Inse Orc, srl. An dtig leofa teacht le chéile agus aontú ar chúrsaí? Sin cuid de na samplaí a chloisim. Samplaí maith d’ iarchoilíneachas, i mo bharúil-sa! Fosta, is minic a bhíonns daoine ag amharc ar chúrsaí in Éirinn is ag rá, “Amharc orthusan, bhuaigh siadsan neamhspleáchas agus amharc ar an drochchás ina bhfuil siad!” Och.

Sílim go gcaithfidh go mbeadh muinín ag pobal ar bith astú féin ionas go mbeadh neamhspleáchas ceart acu. Caidé atá ann i neamhspleáchas cibé ar bith? Smaointigh air. Nuair a fhágann tú teach do tuistí, bíonn amhras ort agus bíonn deacrachtaí agat i dtús báire. Ach cad chuige a fhágann tú an teach? Cionn is gur duine ar leith atá ionat, tá féiniúlacht agat féin. Creideann tú ionat féin. Tá tuairmí agus smaointí agat ar an bhóthar atá romhat. Tá FÍS agat. Caithfidh go mbeidh an rud céarna a bheith ag pobal atá i mbun neamhspleáchas a bhaint amach. Neamhspleáchas. Neamhspleáchas meoin. An bhfuil neamhspleáchas meoin ag muintir na hÉireann? Amhrasach. Thriall a leithid de Phàdraig Mac Piarais, Seamas Ó Conghaile, Dubhghlas de hÍde agus W.B. Yeats le meoin mhuintir na hÉireann a mhuscladh trí litríocht agus cultúr, chun misneacht a spreagadh. Ar éirigh leofa? In Éirinn, tá tionchar iarchoilíneach le feiceáil go fóill. Tá muid fós ag coinneáil greime ar shreanga naprúin na Sasanaigh (agus anois an Aontais Eorpa) ar bhealaí éagsúla. Rinneadh botúin, agus ní réitíonn an Éirinn sa lá atá inniu ann leis an fhís a bhí ag na ceannródaí a luaigh mé ar son na tíre. Ach sin ábhar eile…

Is pobal ar leith atá i muintir na hAlban. Tá an tír saibhir go leor, is iomaí gustal atá ag an tír. Tá stair, cultúr agus traidisiúin láidir ag na hAlbannaigh. Feictear domhsa go bhfuil cliú agus cáil ar Albain ó thaobh nuálaíochta. Tá seans ag muintir na hAlban anois féidearthachtaí a bhaint amach sa todhchaí in ainm a dtíre féin. Ní chreidim go bhfuil daoine amhrasach fós fá shaoirse ag tíortha nó pobail sa lá atá inniu ann, nuair a bhítear ag rá gur sochaí forchéimnitheach agus daonlathach atá againn! Is mithid do mhuintir na hAlban misneach agus bród a bheith acu agus dúshlán a thabhairt don status quo, cionn is go bhfuil sé rí-shoiléir nach n-oibríonn sé mar atá. Mothaím go bhfuil ré corraitheach linn in Albain, bheadh muid as ár gciall dá ligfimis dó dul thart gan páirt a ghlacadh! Tá an t-am istigh nach mór, caithfear feachtas agus díospóireacht ceart a thoiseacht gan mhoill, nó caillfear an seans fá choinne feabhas a chur ar an tír mar atá!