Friday, April 10, 2009

Highlighting what's important...

Earlier, was in Galway bus station, queuing for a ticket, smacking my lips and preparing to say “Student single to Dublin”... Then I changed my mind. I am now in Limerick. (Which is a bit of a surprise even to me)

I like it! Good to be home. Home-Home, not Dublin-Home.. Home-Home’s where the heating works, and the fridge is always full, and there’s a big tv, and a house phone, and a dog.. It’s where my room is. I love my room. I still have my Lion King curtains up, simply because I LOVE the strange red hue they throw on my (densely teddy-bear-populated) bedroom every morning... then there’s those kickass posters to remind me of my “crap” (ie. awesooome) early music tastes..

I spent the week in the Connemara Gaeltacht to improve my spoken Irish and… know the funniest part?
I spoke less Irish this week than ANY other week since… I dunno… September of last year? Apart from perhaps Christmas time, and the week I spent in Virginia this summer.

It’s only recently occurred to me that most of the friends I’ve made since coming to Dublin have, or are involved with, An Ghaeilge. I work trí Ghaeilge. I live in Irish-language accommodation. Most of the texts, calls, and about 30% of all emails I receive, are as Gaeilge. As for a base/home/comfort-zone community type thing? Rather than my college campus, it's that old madhouse on Harcourt street!

The hell..? If you’d told me Irish would become this big a part of my life two years ago, I’d have laughed in your face.

I pulled a Des Bishop before Des Bishop pulled a Des Bishop. True, I had the advantageous 13 years of groundwork (not that it counts for much) and, true, my tv series wouldn’t have been half as entertaining (being a far, far less successful comedian)… but I still can’t get my head around how far I’ve come.

I was thinking back… trying to figure out how it all started… how I went from grumbling about how annoying Irish "The School Subject" was, to raving about how vibrant and fascinating Irish "The Language" was.

Y’know what started it all?

A free highlighter!

It was societies sign up week in my first year in DIT. September 2006. And all the college societies were desperately pleading their case to new members – vying for the firsties’ attention – waving bags of freebies. Great buzz.

Anyway, I spot the free highlighters immediately. I love highlighters – cannot study without them. Pink is the first go-over, then yellow over the pink, so I know that the orangey bits are all I really need. Then I rewrite orangey bits onto new page, highlight, take out the orangey bits, and repeat until all I have left is one page full of mismatched words that make no sense to anyone else, but are all I need to glance at going into an exam. Each one stands for a whole paragraph - or a whole chapter, sometimes!

Anyway, these were great ones. Dual-headed! Pink and Yellow! AAAAGH!

Over I went, and I was assaulted by the most chirpy, friendly, and impossible-to-understand person I have ever met. Dazzled by her incomprehensible Donegal Irish, I took everything she handed me and hurried away.

Ended up really liking the Irish Soc (Cumann Gaelach - in fact, I'm now its Chair..) When they text me saying there was a “Léamh scripte” (or something) on, I was like, oh how nice! They’re going to read a script to me! :)

I turned up. Roomfull of actors. Not a word of English being spoken. And I was handed a script. Uh oh.

Despite not even understanding the title of the play, and not being able to pronounce a single one of my lines correctly, I was offered a small part – I looked the part, apparently! (I was told this, smiled dimly, half-memorised what was said, had someone translate later, and was THEN delighted.)

Weeks, then months, of rehearsing, and going to the pub afterwards, straining to get the gist of the conversation… most of the jokes went over my head… most of what I said made no sense and made me look like an idiot. But.. I gradually got better.

I’m thinking of doing one of the TEG (Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge) exams to see exactly what my standard is at these days. I have no idea (it’s been so gradual and mostly hit and miss-style learning) but I’m told I’m quite good. And I speak it every day these days. As much (or perhaps more) than English.

I actually.. sincerely.. utterly.. undoubtedly... did NOT miss the fucking internet this week. They HAD a computer room. I was there once. That was plenty.
I felt like I’d woken up.

And now… I’m back online. And have just wasted an hournahalf on facebook/twitter/gmail/here.

Enough! I may just go for a walk.


  1. I was trying to not do any commenting, while I'm away this weekend... but I liked your post so much -- so here I AM!

    Pretty impressive, for just 2 years. It's heart-warming to know that it's possible for someone my age to learn a language quickly though.

    I was the president of the roleplaying society at university. Just thought I'd share that one.

  2. well glad to be the one to break you! :D

    learning a language is like learning anything - you have to be interested. and i was VERY interested; when yer in the pub, and everyone's laughing and joking, that's a HUGE motivation. You're just dying to find out what they're saying!

    [corrected a typo there (*not = now) I AM currently chair.. but seems you got that anyway!] roleplay soc sounds fun :)