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Seachtain na Gaeilge: Speaking Irish in… Sofia, Bulgaria

Seachtain na Gaeilge: Irish keeps me connected to my identity while travelling

Jamie McDonald is from Carlow town. He is a musician, frequent traveller, and former pupil of an Irish language secondary schoolattended and now lives in Sofia in Bulgaria.

Irish keeps me connected to my identity while travelling

New languages are less mysterious to me, having grown up speaking English and Irish, two unrelated languages. Furthermore, I have found certain sounds and pronunciations which are common in foreign languages, but alien to English, are nor so difficult or challenging to my Gaeilgeoir palette. Many times I have been asked to pronounce words which usually are tongue twisting to foreigners and hilarious to natives, only to disappoint the locals when I come close enough first time (the almost vowel-less Slovakian word for ice-cream, zmrzlina, springs to mind).


After a few months living in Sofia, I found myself missing the chance to speak and read Irish, and took it on myself to give some beginners lessons in the local Irish bar, McCarthys. To my surprise, not only did some fine Irish immigrants show up, but also a surprisingly varied group of foreigners and Bulgarians. Among those eager to learn were an ex Green Beret who, despite his considerable stature, was a gent and a very sweet singer; a French multi-linguist whose questions were sometimes baffling but always soaked in enthusiasm; a wise-ass stock exchange trader who still stops me on the streets here to share a cúpla focail; and possibly most enjoyably, a former presenter of BBC morning television of my youth, whose stentorian, perfectly enunciated British tones rendered the language in a whole new light.

2 years ago