Éasca Péasca: Eiscíochtaí
(Easy Peasy: Exceptions)
By Marie Young
Fáilte ó mBaile Phitt.
Greetings from Pittsburgh. I am happy to join you and the community here with the introduction of this easy, peasy monthly column. We will greet you each month highlighting students of mine who are currently studying Irish language here at the University of Pittsburgh.
Hailing from Dublin’s fair city, I have been teaching 4 credit classes at the University of Pittsburgh since 2006. I currently instruct six levels of Irish (Gaeilge) language, along with offering a Spring Irish Culture Class through the Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) department.
In 2016, I chaperoned the maiden voyage of the study abroad Cultural program through the University of Pittsburgh, which has been offered every year since. My students join my class for the most part with an ancestral background from Ireland. Others join because they enjoy the music and poetry of Ireland. Some join if they will learn how to speak with an Irish accent!! (and quickly realize it is a little more involved)!!
The Irish language is in no way connected to English and is not written as read. It comes from the Celtic branch of Indo-European languages. Learning this language takes patience and practice.
There are many exceptions to EVERY rule – EISCÍOCHTAÍ is the first word I mention Day 1 – exceptions. Adult learners are very curious to the workings of Gaeilge – why do we say it this way etc. Over the years I have learned so much from the students’ perceptions, comments, and insights into a language I took for granted growing up.
As an instructor, nothing pleases me more than after a month of learning, seeing the lightbulb go on for most students, and it starts to gel together. Through games, stories, writing and reading, I bring the students through what I like to call Survival Gaeilge – that Irish that will get them a pint in a local pub, will get them meeting the Irish stranger, soon to be friend, along the bóthar, will help them navigate those Irish road sign trí Ghaeilge.
I credit my grandfather, John Mullen, with fostering my love of Gaeilge – “Ní as an ghaoth a tháinig sé”! (It is not from the wind it came). Living in Tuam, Co. Galway, he spent many days sitting in the parlor wading through the O Domhnaill dictionary, rewriting idioms and phrases right up to his 98th year of life. Ar Dheis De go raibh a anam (His soul was at the right hand of God).
I spent my summers and many weekends listening to Danda, his scéalta, his phrases, his piseoganna (superstitions), and though at times my eyes rolled, my understanding waning, craving to go outside and play on their farm I hold dear, those memories now fill my heart.
Danda instilled a beauty of a language within me, a connection to my heritage, my family, and friends that I hold strong and proud today. He also taught me how putting ice-cream on carrots can make them quite edible (sin scéal eile- another story!!)! Little did we know that I would honor him daily and his grá for Gaeilge from inside the walls of the Cathedral of Learning here in Pittsburgh 110 years later!!
Is Fearr Gaeilge Bhriste ná Béarla cliste – It is better to have broken Irish than clever English.
Tír gan Teanga , Tír gan anam – A country without a language is a country without a soul.
* Marie Young is a native of Dublin, moving to Pittsburgh in 2001. She is the Irish language instructor for The LCTL Department at the University of Pittsburgh. She is married to a fellow Irish man John and has 3 children, Jack (22), Ronan (14), and Tiernan (8).