Hi. I was wondering if anyone here owns a fáinne. Has it ever caught the attention of another Gaeilgeoir and led to an exchange of words in Gaeilge, or have you ever heard of it happening to someone else? I ask because I don't think Iv'e ever seen anyone actually wearing one. Is it more symbolic, then? Also, what level do you think a person should be for each one , cúpla focal, airgead and ór?
I see them often enough to not be surprised by them in my area, but I wouldn't call them common. And, as Knocksedan pointed out, most of the people I know who wear them tend to wear suits/nice button-down shirts with lapels at least occasionally - university professors and the like. I don't know if I'd go so far as to call them mostly symbolic, although they certainly are symbolic... but the people I know who wear them, wear them with the expectation/hope that anyone who spots their fáinne will indeed speak to them in Irish, at least a bit - it is still seen as an invitation to speak Irish, at least in my area.
Where I live, they tend to especially pop up around the holidays when our local ex-pat community comes out in force and formal or semi-formal wear is expected - I see them especially around Christmas, Samhain, Easter, St. Patrick's, and to a lesser extent, Thanksgiving (there's a big Thanksgiving do in my area for all the ex-pats who don't have local family to spend Thanksgiving with - it's a good excuse to eat well for the day!).
As for what level one's Irish should be, I'll defer to someone who speaks the language far better than I do. I was gifted my cúpla focal fáinne by a native speaker friend on the condition that I always wear it to ex-pat functions, in order to force me to practice. It works in that regard! I wouldn't personally feel comfortable "upgrading" to airgead until the act of pinning on a fáinne of any color didn't fill me with a flood of nerves and self-doubt. In other words, it'll be a while!
Thanks. I was thinking about getting the silver one, but if someone tried to communicate with me, I think I would crumble under the pressure.
Me as well. The biggest advantage I've found to the cúpla focal fáinne is that even fluent speakers who aren't local/don't know me tend to be willing to speak more slowly, and they'll often spot when I could do with something being reworded, and tend to provide that without prompting in order to keep the conversation going. One of my longer term goals is to not need either of those things, but for now, wearing a visual indicator of "Please speak Irish with me, but pack your patience!" is handy.
Personally, until you can have a full on conversation about almost anything, I say avoid the ór. I would consider the airgead for a general person who can have a conversation but might not have the expansive vocabulary or nuances of grammar (such as relative clauses, all the different functions of the verbal noun, etc). cúpla focal is what I'd suggest when finishing Duolingo, unless you have also done some reading and speaking outside the course.
I feel if you were wearing one higher, with only Duolingo, and someone tried to talk to you. Well, you'd likely be out of your depth. Reminds me of a story I heard about someone who did Duolingo going to the Gaeltacht and overestimating their ability. Which is sad, since it likely lowered their confidence in using the language.
Also, to me, for some reason, I feel the fáinne should be gifted by a person with one, or a native speaker. It's something you earn. But that's just me (and if I move to Ireland, I'll probably buy one).
The fact that the fáinne is what used to be called a "lapel pin" might help answer that question. While there are still many people who wear a suit every day, it's probably a lot less common than it was a generation ago, so many people don't have an easy way to wear a fáinne on a regular basis. I know that I couldn't easily wear a fáinne in my daily routine.