My Irish learning experience: The months after completing the tree

It’s been a while since I finished my tree.

Since then I tried to get forward in two ways. The first was to get through the german Irish learning book (“Irisch für Anfänger”) that I had before I discovered Duolingo. It has some downsides but also a couple of good ones.

I do not thing that this is a good book for teaching yourself Irish. The simple fact that it dumps no less than six prepositions on the learner with all its variations shows that this book is a bit too much on the side of old Latin schoolbooks. Also IMO the grammar descriptions are a bit too, well, intellectual to the point where many learners probably won’t even know what they are talking about.

On the plus side it has a clear structure, explains cultural and semantic aspects very well and supplies every chapter with a vocabulary list. Although the book also has audio, the vocabulary is always annotated with simplified IPA pronounciation. This is IMO by far the best solution when it comes to learning books as opposed to online courses. Although I have not yet finished it, it seems to cover most of what Duolingo does. (I do not think it covers the Imperfect tense).

All in all I think it is a decent book if you make a course, not doing it all by yourself. But good luck finding a course in Germany!

Apart from that, I tried teaching myself by reading bilingual books. Since I don’t have any, I converted two “Open Door” books into bilingual ones. (you can see how I did it here: BTW, I have ordered all Open Door books that have irish versions since they seem to slowly get out of print. A pity.

I have started with “The Smoking Room” but have stopped by now. It is easy, but still a bit too difficult for me. IMO “Mad Weekend” is the perfect book to go on from the point where I am now.

That being said, I am now in a bit of a slump. For a couple of weeks I have not added new words to my vocabulary. This is where I am thankful of Duolingo. Since I intend to keep my streak and my tree golden, I still do two or three lessons a day. So I never got in danger of completely losing touch with the language.

I do not really know what my current reason for the lack of interest is, but I suspect that on the one hand it is much more difficult to add new words to my vocabulary now. I used to have word lists with translation. Now I have to take note of new words in texts I read and then look them all up. This is time consuming and just not fun.

And then there is the problem I always new I would be getting into: I am alone. And I have almost no immersion in that language.

As for the little immersion I get: Getting Asterix and the Open Door books really helped in getting into the text flow. I realized just how much when I took out my irish Hobbit volume which is still far too difficult for me. But I can already break apart the sentences easily and know what a chapter is all about in about three or four sentences. Occasionally I listen to “Raidió na Gaeltachta” but it’s getting boring after a while and I still understand next to nothing.

Oh, and “Outlander” of course. (Gaelic, not Irish, but close enough)

But yes, the vocabulary is still my main problem.

It always is.

I have now learned 1420 words, including some fixed phrases and irregular variations. My personal problem is that I have a big problem learning phrases. Much more so than individual words. Another Irish learning book I own does not even give a vocabulary. It seems to expect you to learn the sentences and phrases. Possibly in order to give you quicker immersion into more “useful” conversational situations, like asking for an address or such things. Which I always thought is absolutely the wrong way, unless you have a teacher to as questions for or you absolutely have to get into quick immersion in the target language because you live in an area that does not speak English.

Anyway, once I encounter a fixed phrase, I also memorize the words it is made up from. This made things much easier. Because or in spite of especially in Irish it seems that both do not necessarily mean the anything similar. My current favourite is “léir” (“lucid, clear”) and “go léir” (“very one of”). But then again: I always thought that more funny and nonsensal a sentence or memory hook is, the better it can be memorized.

Also concerning vocabulary: Being a programmer and database expert of course I tried to get over my difficulties by creating software solutions. By now, once I enter a new word my program will rip the (connacht) pronounciation and all grammatical variations and upload them to my Anki collection. I made several stacks to train guessing gender, genitive, plurals and different cases. During the weeks where I actually did repetitions on that topics I found out that with some experience, it is not all that difficult to guess the gender and genitive in over 80% of the cases. When it comes to plurals, it is a bit harder, but not much. I am not yet sure about conjugations, however. Single syllable words are easy: Always first conjugation. But there are quite a lot of multi-syllable words that do not belong to the second conjugation. While I did Duolingo, I thought they were only very few, but they are actually quite numerous and I haven’t figured out a system there.

Despite the problems I have now, I have not changed my initial assessment: Irish is IMO a language of medium difficulty.

I can understand why many people think otherwise, but I believe this is only because of the lack of immersion.

September 25, 2017

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Yesterday I finished reading "Deireadh Seachtaine Craiceáilte" with a small group of other people. We did it without using the English version, and there was some "meta-translation" involved, where certain things that might be obvious to Irish readers had to be pointed out to non-Irish readers (like sitting upstairs at the front of the bus, or the fact that Everton and Liverpool are two different football teams from the same city).

We only had one copy of the book, so we passed it from person to person and read it a page at a time (the group are interested in practicing pronunciation as well as comprehension) and we read about 20-25 pages at a time, over 4 or 5 weeks.

We ordered copies of "Cailleacha Underbury" and "Na Tógáilithe" to read next. We might make slightly faster progress if people "read ahead" before we meet on Sundays to read together, so that the translations are a bit quicker.

We were also talking about phrases yesterday, and how "is dóigh", "ar ndóigh", "ar dóigh", and just "dóigh" on it's own all mean different things. It also took us a few minutes to figure out what "Ach cuirimid roinnt barr freisin" meant, because "cur" has a number of different uses (and it was nice to be able to read the translation of that sentence in your video to confirm that we got it right!)

With regards to Raidió na Gaeltachta, you really just have to persist, and get used to breaking what you hear down into individual words, even if you don't understand the words. You might want to just grab a short segment and slowly transcribe it word by word, to get that practice. It obviously helps if it's a topic that you already understand - if I get a chance, I'll try to make note of when they are covering the German elections on Cormac ag a Cúig as you might be able to make more sense of that segment, for example (unfortunately, RnaG isn't putting much effort into podcasts at the moment).

September 25, 2017

Interesting that you mention that sentence, because I have no idea what he was trying to tell with "But we grow a few crops as well". I thought that there was also some meta-information needed that I don't have.

September 25, 2017
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No, it just means that "we don't spend all day in bed, we have do some work around the place to grow our own food as well".

September 25, 2017
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The most reliable system to distinguish whether a regular verb is first conjugation or second conjugation is to memorize its third-person future form: if it ends with -faidh or -fidh, then it’s first conjugation, and if it ends with -óidh or -eoidh, then it’s second conjugation. (Similarly, memorizing a noun’s genitive singular form is the most reliable system to determine which declension it belongs to. I’d guess that for adjectives, both the masculine genitive singular form and the feminine genitive singular form would need to be memorized to determine an adjective’s declension.)

September 26, 2017
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I really can relate to your problem. I am German and I have looked for several places where I could get the opportunity to learn Irish. When I found out duolingo offers an Irish course I was over the moon. I started learning a year ago and stopped when I reached the numbers. I got so frustrated because I did not know how to get more information and explanations as I did not have any experiences how to use a computer :-/ Now I am really glad there are so many helpful guys and I appreciate all answers I get, even if my questions sound strange to them ;-) But I often wish there would be more possibilities to use and practice this language. There are no people that I know of, who are as enthusiastic as I am and I have no idea where to find ones

October 1, 2017
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