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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Furan :: Ionad Ghàidhlig an Óbain

2013-09-06 11.52.36Chaidh mi a’ céilidh air Donnchadh MacNèill anns an Óban Dihaoine sa chaidh airson tuillidh fiosrachaidh fhaodainn air an ionad ùr Ghàidhlig air fosgladh anns an Óban. Cha deach an t-ionad “a chur air bhog” fhathast, ach ‘s cinnteach gum bith sin a’ tachairt sna seachdainean a tha romhainn. Bhon gu bheil mi air Gàidhlig Latharna a thogail agus gu bheil mi a’ dèanadh rannsachaidh air dualchainnt ‘s beul-aithris na sgìre, shaoil mi gum bitheadh e freagarrach an sgeul a fheòrachadh!

‘S e “Furan” a th’ aca air an ionad, a tha a’ ciallachadh “fàilte agus aoigheachd bhlàth”. Thàinig an t-ainm air inntinn Dhonnchaidh dar a bha e a’ leughadh leabhair Ghàidhlig anns a thachair e air an fhacal. Bha e den bheachd gum bitheadh e glé fhreagarrach, leis a’ chiall agus bhon tha furasta an t-ainm fhuaimneachadh do dhaoine gun Ghàidhlig. Gu dearbh, bithidh tu a’ faodainn “fàilte agus furan” aig an ionad gun teagamh sam bith!

Thàinig an smaoin gu bàrr bho chionn dhà bhliadhna a-nis, agus mu dheireadh thall tha a’ ghnothach air toirt gu buil. Fhuair am pròiseact tabhartas de £160,000 bho Riaghaltas na h-Alba; dh’ fhaoidte gum b’ urrainn dhut a ràdhainn gun e fìor bheag an t-suim airgid a tha sin anns an fharsaingeachd, ach dar a sheallas tu air na th’ air tighinn às an airgead sin, bithidh tu ‘g aontachadh rium gun e deagh-thasgadh a th’ ann ‘s gum bith e a’ cur cuid mhór ris a’ choimhearsnachd…

Tha an t-ionad stéidhchte anns na Tallaichean Chorrain, far a bhitheas iomadh tachartasan a’ dol ann. Tha oifis an ionaid suas nan staighrean, agus tha dithist seòmar ann — an oifis far a bheil goireasan ann airson 6 laptops, agus leabharlann beag, agus ‘s e seòmar co-labhairt a th’ anns an seòmar eile, far a bheil “clàr-ghlic”, bùird ‘s cathraichean, agus sealladh brìagha den Óban!

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2013-09-06 12.17.43                          2013-09-06 12.17.59

Chan e ionad airson an Óbain a-mhàin a tha seo, mar a dh’ innis Donnchadh chòir dhomh; ‘s e ionad airson Arra-Ghàidheil air fad a th’ ann, agus bithidh e a’ cur cuideam air sin le abairtean, gnàthasan-cainnt ‘s seann-fhaclan bhon sgìre air fad air ballaichean an ionaid, agus tha e airson ‘s gum bith co-cheangal aig na sgìrean eadar-dhealaichte ann an Arra-Gàidheal ris an ionad anns an Óban. ‘S e “hub” a th’ anns an Óban airson na Gàidhealtachd ‘s nan Eileanan air fad, ‘s mar sin ‘s àite nàdarra a th’ ann airson ionad leis an fheallsanachd sin.

Bithidh Donnchadh ‘g obair gu dlùth ri buidhnean mar Bòrd na Gàidhlig agus Clì Ghàidhlig, agus buidhnean ionadail eile, airson clasaichean agus tachartasan a chur air dòigh anns an ionad agus ann an coimhearsnachd an Óbain. Cuirear clasaichean Ghàidhlig, cearcaill chòmhraidh, agus co-fharpaisean cheist (aig a bhitheas ceòl cuideachd) air dòigh, agus céilidhean dùthchasacha uair sa mhìos cuideachd. ‘S e goireas fìor-mhath a th’ anns na Tallaichean, bhon tha àrd-ùrlar aca shìos staighre, seòmar anns a bheil bùird ‘s cathraichean airson faireachdainn “café” a chruthachadh, agus tha bàr beag ann cuideachd. Tha Donnchadh den bheachd gum bitheadh na seòmraichean seo freagarrach airson cearcaill chòmhraidh agus cuirmean-ciùil. Cuirear sreath d’ òraidean a leithid de na h-òraidean aig an Comunn Gàidhlig Ghlaschu air dòigh anns an seòmar co-labhairt air cuspairean eadar-dhealaichte.

Mar chuid den phròiseact, chaidh tabhartas de £120,000 a-staigh airson ionad ioma-mheadhanach a mhaoineachadh ann an Ard Sgoil an Óbain, airson sgoilearan a tha ‘g ionnsachadh na Gàidhlig ann. Tuillidh air sin ged-tà, cuirear bùthan-obrach fiolm agus ioma-mheadhnan air dòigh airson inbhich ann cuideachd. Bithidh ceangal làidir eadar na sgoilearan agus daoine òga na coimhearsnachd ri fileantaich a tha fuireachd anns an Óban, gu sònraichte fileantaich anns na taighean-curam. Bhon tha dualchainntean eadar-dhealaichte a th’ anns an Óban, le daoine de bhuineas nan Eileanan a’ fuireachd ann, ‘s e cothrom fìor-mhath a tha seo aig daoine òga Gàidhlig ghlan ionnsachadh bho na fileantaich, agus bithidh fìor-mhath airson dàimhean eadar-ghinealaiche a chruthachadh.

Tha fiughar agam ri mo chuid fhéi’ a chur ris a’ phròiseact seo, agus tha mi a’ creidsinn gun e comharra a tha seo gu bheil cridhe na Gàidhlig a’ buaileadh gu làidir ann an Arra-Ghàidheal fhathast!

Toiseach na Rèabhlaide Ghàidhlig ann an Taigh an Uillt

****I last worked on this blog on April 9, 2012. I had saved this blog post as a draft, and meant to return to it. Of course, I have since been taken away by the current of life, and have had many experiences that I hope to write about. Now that I’ve found harbour for a while, I’ll get back to writing and this website. This post describes my first experience of working on Scottish Gaelic when I came to live in Scotland in February 2012. Looking back on it makes me feel like I’ve travelled miles and miles, and years too. Enjoy the prelude to what continues to be a whirlwind of an adventure!****

Iain MacPhàrlain agus mise, Taigh an Uillt, Feb 2012
Iain MacPhàrlain agus mise, Taigh an Uillt, Feb 2012

Here I am in Scotland, realising and living the (Gaelic) dream. I do have to pinch myself to prove that it’s not a dream — there’s been a two year build-up to this adventure. As you can see from my previous posts, Gàidhlig has been a preoccupation of mine since beginning to study the language, literature and culture during my Masters in 2010. I’ve gone on wee Gàidhlig expeditions over the two years, and it seems that I’m finally here to stay to learn and to promote, specifically, Argyllshire Gaelic (Gàidhlig Earra-Ghàidheil).

The moment when the happy reality of having started this quest hit me was when Àdhamh Ó Broin and myself drove through the majestic Argyll landscape, with Griogair Labhruidh playing on the CD player, as we discussed our plans for the weekend. We were on our way to Taigh an Uillt to meet up with native Gaelic speaker John MacFarlane, who we have affectionally nicknamed “Am Brigadier” (or “Am Brig” for short). John is the last native speaker of Gàidhlig in his area; as a linguist himself, he understands fully the hard facts that not only is Gàidhlig as a minoritised language under a great threat,  his dialect in particular is on the verge of extinction. Only a week or two previous to our expedition, John had been talking on BBC Radio about the unfortunate reality facing mainland Gaelic dialects, in lieu of the release of linguistic research findings at the University of Edinburgh reporting that the dialects on the Hebridean islands of Lewis and Uist are expected to be the only two dialects of Gàidhlig to survive in the not-so-distant future. Àdhamh had been in contact with me once he had discovered my keen interest in learning an Argyll dialect, and had discussed the possibility of me embarking on a project to work with John to learn, adopt and preserve his dialect; it was the confirmation of this possible collaboration that was the object of our visit.

I won’t reveal too much at this early stage, but we have set the ball rolling and there is no doubt that we will set to work as soon as possible.

— April 9, 2012