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- This topic has 17 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 8 years, 9 months ago by Aislingeach.
May 29, 2014 at 7:28 am #36739
So, I’m going to start learning Irish soon and I had a question. I’m planning on eventually going through Learning Irish to learn the dialect presented in the book, but I find the book too difficult to start with. I actually don’t like the way the grammar is presented. In the vocabulary lists, it gives us the plurals of nouns but doesn’t give a lesson on how to form the plurals. I like grammar, so this annoys me. Still, it is a great book and I would eventually like to use it to learn dialect, but I think I’ll go crazy if I don’t get some grammatical background first.
That said, what books should I use in the beginning if Learning Irish and the dialects of Galway are my goals?May 29, 2014 at 9:59 am #45315CúnlaParticipant
One of the likely reasons why Ó Siadhail doesn’t tell you how to make plurals and instead just gives them to you is because there are a whole lot of ways to make plurals in Irish, and listing all of them and their exceptions would be far worse 😛May 29, 2014 at 10:19 am #45316
That literally irks me though. Am I expected to remember them without knowing the rule behind it? That kills me. 😛May 29, 2014 at 2:40 pm #45317Wee_Falorie_ManParticipant
Also, there are lots of variations with plurals. I’ve personally heard a fluent native speaker say léinte (the plural of the word léine, which means “shirt”); then, a few minutes later the same speaker would say léinteacha as the plural for léine. Plurals are not set in stone.May 29, 2014 at 3:54 pm #45318DuncanParticipant
As a relative beginner myself, I found that Basic Irish (and Intermediate Irish when ready for it) by Nancy Stenson, available on Amazon.com, etc., was just what the doctor ordered to begin to acquire the language. It does, however, use mostly the Official Standard (“Caighdeán”), which is really a combination of the dialects of the three provinces of Ulster, Connacht (including County Galway), and Munster. These are the provinces where Gaelic is still spoken frequently in public, and is used to standardize written Irish for schools, public office, etc. Notice that I said written Irish; it does not define a standard for speaking–and with your preferred region you’ll be happy to know that these Stenson books favor the pronunciation used in Connemore, County Galway.
This is probably the best way to begin learning grammar, even if you expect to shift to Galway eventually. It does a much better job of taking a beginner from point A to point B, and you’ll eventually see that the grammar of Caighdeán is similar (but in a much more “learnable” way) to that in Learning Irish, which I agree can be confusing to a beginner. For example, if you find the approach to plurals frustrating, you’ll find that the topic is presented clearly in black and white by Stenson, early in the Basic book.
As you learn new words, you may want to refer to Learning Irish for pronunciation in the Galway region, as it does do a fine job of presenting that aspect. Also, you will be able to find significant dialect variations covered throughout the Stenson books, especially in the Intermediate book, which devotes four entire chapters to grammatical variation among dialects.
I found Rosetta Stone’s Irish Gaelic course valuable in learning phrases and gaining speaking proficiency (available online with a mentor with the program). If you compare the pronunciation on Rosetta Stone with that in Learning Irish, you’ll find that the approaches are similar, but there are certain differences, especially in pronouncing the “ao” and “io” combinations. There’s also an excellent Foclóir Póca (Pocket Dictionary) by An Gúm, also available from Amazon.com. Its pronunciation system is designed according to a kind of standard that incorporates usages found in the three main dialects.
Don’t take everything I say as the gospel; as I mentioned above, I’m also a relative beginner, and I’m sure that there will be others with other (and perhaps more correct!) opinions. Having gone through Rosetta Stone by now and worked on the language for a little over a year, I just thought I’d share what I feel has been a profitable approach for me. And by all means, participate in this Forum! You’ll find a lot of excellent, helpful members here.May 29, 2014 at 4:37 pm #45320
Am I expected to remember them without knowing the rule behind it?
Fortunately or unfortunately, this is a reality of language acquisition. It’s nice to understand things, but in the end language is probably more memorization than it is “understanding”. In fact, understanding can often be a barrier to fluency. You can get hung up on trying to understand everything instead of just using it. You don’t necessarily understand all the grammar rules that govern your mother language! When you go to say a word, the internal process cannot be “ok, how do I make this kind of plural with this kind of word… etc.” it must be immediate because you simply remember the plural form of that exact word, independent of rules for other words. For larger aspects of grammar, understanding will be more crucial, but for words themselves, I’m afraid memorization is the best solution. You’re going to have to remember them sooner or later. When you say “leaves” (as plural to leaf) in English you didn’t stop think “ok, this is an irregular plural and the “f” becomes “v” because of the voiced “s” at the end, etc.” – you just knew what it was because you remember it.
Obviously, it does help to some extent to know rules and one can make predictive judgments about what a plural is they’ve never seen before. But in learning Irish (or any other language) there is inevitably a certain amount of “just going with it”.May 29, 2014 at 5:20 pm #45321
Thing is, this isn’t the first language I’ve learned. I speak Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese fluently. While I certainly understand that spontaneity comes from learning the patterns in context and applying them, to me, having an overview of the basic grammatical structure before I train that base with input. Otherwise I find that I simply get annoyed because I’m not sure if I can check my production of the language to make sure it’s correct and avoid learning bad habits. I enjoy grammar when learning a language and I like knowing the ‘why’ even while I mostly drill the language by reading consecutively with audiobooks. I guess I’ll have to slightly change up that method that I’ve had so much success with because of the smaller amount of materials and auto-didactic methods available for Irish. 😛May 29, 2014 at 5:21 pm #45322DuncanParticipant
Very good points by Héilics Órbhuí: memorize the individual words (and phrases) and save the rules for the more complex structures. And after you have memorized several words with their plurals and noted certain patterns, the plurals of a lot of new words will appear quite predictable. For just a couple of examples, if you find a new noun ending with -ín or -aí you’ll find it nearly automatic to end the plural with -íní or -aithe. (This, in a way, is how you already know to go automatically from “leaf” to “leaves.”) This is just to say that you won’t have to stop to think very often when you want to speak the plural. But always verify with the vocabulary in case you run into an exception, or if you have a word that doesn’t belong to a specific pattern. Above all, enjoy the language itself–in my opinion it’s far more logical than English. The logic is actually closer to that of the languages you already have mentioned knowing. 🙂May 29, 2014 at 5:25 pm #45323
Thanks for the wealth of advice, all of you! I’ll definitely take into account the grammar books that you recommended, Duncan, and I might swallow my pride and dive in cluelessly with Learning Irish.
Now if I can only find Irish speakers in Lille, France when I move there in a few months. I bet the odds are pretty low. None come up on meetup.com. 🙁May 29, 2014 at 7:34 pm #45324
I can empathize with wanting to know “why”. However, keep in mind every single language you already speak has almost entirely logical plural formation, whereas Irish does not. So even though you have quite a bit of language experience under your belt, it may not necessarily apply 100% to Irish. The other problem compounding plurals in Irish is that it is one of the most regionally varying features of the language. Unless you plan on speaking a specific dialect exclusively, you’ll have to spend a while simply acquiring a taste for all the different ways a plural can potentially be formed, as Duncan and Wee said, so that when you hear one you won’t be surprised by it and you’ll be able to assimilate it into your general sense or feeling or Irish plurals.May 30, 2014 at 1:28 am #45325SeáinínParticipant
And to Ó Siadhail’s credit, there is an Appendix in the back titled “General Guide to Plural of Nouns and Formation of Verbal Noun”. It’s fairly comprehensive and complex. (One of those: “Be careful what you ask for.”)May 30, 2014 at 4:59 pm #45326LabhrásParticipant
There are probably more plurals of crann (tree) in Irish than trees in the Gaeltacht … 😉
(I think it was Ó Dónaill who said so .)May 31, 2014 at 3:07 pm #45327AislingeachParticipant
I’m rather surprised that no one has mentioned declensions. Once I got over my initial dread of the topic, I found that if I knew what declension a noun was I had a much better chance of knowing how to form the plural and genitive forms.
Also, Stephen, this is a site I found helpful as a grammar resource:May 31, 2014 at 4:01 pm #45328
Existing declensions patterns (m1, f2, etc) don’t tell you much about the plural, unfortunately. There has been talk of revising this and some texts (10,000 Irish Nouns, for example) use a rather more complicated system of declensions that does tell you both what the genitive and the plural will look like. But the currently used system doesn’t provide for this. Some of the categories do let you perhaps guess better than 50%, but that’s still not much like certainty. There are plenty of strong plural first and second declension nouns, for example, categories which appear largely predictable.
I do highly recommend the nualeargais site though – the grammar explanations and comprehensiveness of the rules makes it one of the best sites out there for Irish learners. It’s funny though – you can tell it was translated from German because you will encounter the odd word that is still in German 😛 This doesn’t make the site any less usable though.June 1, 2014 at 2:26 pm #45329eadaoinParticipant
Ré-Cúrsa Gramadaí (all as Gaeilge) has a list of common nouns (about 1000-1200) giving Nominative and Genitive Singular and Nominative Plural.
They’re set out in the 5 declensions (as they were in the 1950s.)
When my parents were learning Irish in 1920s and 1930s, they learnt these three parts off by heart …
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