“I don’t want to talk like a hick, but I want to speak Irish” – “Ní maith liom aithris a dhéanamh ar chaint na dtútachán, ach teastaíonn uaim Gaeilge a labhairt”

The term “cultural appropriation” has a relevant meaning, even in the context of learning Irish. A couple of months ago I found out about this. In a Facebook linguistic group, I made the acquaintance of a person who had had a bad experience with the Irish language movement, as those he know there stuck to what they perceived as their own “dialect” – i.e. a strongly English-influenced non-native jargon – and dismissed the native varieties saying that they didn’t want to “speak like a hick”.

Téarma ciallmhar é “leithghabháil chultúrtha”, fiú i gcoimhthéacs na Gaeilgeoireachta, mar a fuair mé amach cúpla mí ó shin. I ngrúpa teangeolaíochta ar Facebook casadh duine orm a raibh drochthaithí aige ar ghluaiseacht na Gaeilge. Iad siúd sa ghluaiseacht a raibh aithne aige orthu chloígh siad lena “gcanúint” féin – is é sin leathchaint neamhdhúchasach a ndeachaigh an Béarla i bhfeidhm uirthi ar gach dóigh – agus ní raibh meas an mhadra acu ar na leaganacha dúchasacha, nó is éard a dúirt siad ná nár theastaigh uathu “aithris a dhéanamh ar chaint na dtútachán”.

I must say that yer man was quite right to leave the language movement. The very definition for “cultural appropriation” is that you take somebody’s language, use your own faulty version of it and dismiss the language of the native speakers as “hick talk”. For me personally, “to speak like a hick” has always meant the greatest thing to aspire to if you are studying Irish. More precisely, I have always seen the native speakers’ own literature – from Séamus Ó Grianna to Máirtín Ó Cadhain – and their folklore as THE model for good Irish style.

Caithfidh mé a rá ná go raibh an ceart ar fad ag mo dhuine nuair a d’fhág sé slán ag an ngluaiseacht. Is é an “leithghabháil chultúrtha” den chineál is measa a rithfeadh liom ná teanga daoine eile a shealbhú le do leagan bacach di a labhairt agus tú ag caitheamh anuas ar urlabhairt na gcainteoirí dúchais toisc nach bhfuil inti ach “caint na dtútachán”. Mé féin, is é an rud a theastaigh uaim riamh ná mionaithris a dhéanamh ar “chaint na dtútachán”, agus is í an chéimíocht is airde is féidir a bhronnadh orm ná a rá go bhfuil mé in ann Gaeilge na dtútachán a labhairt. Is é sin, ba í litríocht na gcainteoirí dúchais – ó Shéamus Ó Grianna go Máirtín Ó Cadhain – chomh maith le béaloideas na gcainteoirí dúchais an múnla ab fhearr don dea-stíl sa Ghaeilge.

Rest assured that I write like a hick, even when I am writing about astronomy. The “hick” Irish is perfectly good for that, you only need some names for concepts to learn. Let us speak Irish like a hick, write Irish like a hick, be proud to do so, and be humbly thankful to the hick for keeping the language alive for us to learn!

Bígí cinnte go bhfuil mé ag iarraidh aithris a dhéanamh ar Ghaeilge na dtútachán, fiú nuair a bhíos mé ag scríobh faoin réalteolaíocht. Tá Gaeilge na dtútachán sách maith chuige sin – ní theastaíonn uait ach ainmneacha na gcoincheapanna a fhoghlaim. Bímis ag labhairt Gaeilge na dtútachán agus ag scríobh Gaeilge na dtútachán. Bíodh bród orainn as teanga na dtútachán, umhlaímis don tútachán agus bímis buíoch beannachtach gur choinnigh an tútachán an teanga beo, ionas gur fhéad muid í a fhoghlaim uaidh!

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How to translate “for” into Irish

To start with, remember that the equivalents of verbs which take for in English govern their own prepositions in Irish, and that you are supposed to learn the preposition with the verb. So, for instance, he is waiting for Seán is in Irish tá sé ag fanacht le Seán. This does not mean that le is particularly common as an equivalent for for, though.

But let’s get on with it. Here:

DO is typically used in the sense “to the benefit of”. Tá mé ag obair dó “I am working for him.”

AS is typically used in the sense “in return for”. D’íoc mé dhá euro as “I paid two euro for it”.

But note AR in the related but somewhat different sense in “I bought it for two euro”: Cheannaigh mé ar dhá euro é.

AR SON is usually used in the sense “for the sake of a noble cause”: Fuair Seán Ó Rudaí bás i bpáirc an áir ar son na hÉireann. “Seán Ó Rudaí died on the battlefield for Ireland.” It is a combined preposition that takes the genitive case, and when used with personal pronouns, you insert a possessive pronoun between ar and sonar mo shon, ar do shon, ar a shon, ar a son, ar ár son, ar bhur son, ar a son. Note that in spoken dialects, the son part is often permanently lenited after ar, i.e. ar shon na hÉireann.

Note, though, that in Ulster Irish, ar son does usually have the sense “in return for, in payment for”. There, you’d say D’íoc mé dhá euro ar a shonI guess that in Ulster, you’d use I bhFÁCH LE or AR MHAITHE LE when speaking about siding with causes or doing something in favour of somebody or something. In these expression, le is the normal preposition le and behaves in the normal way, as regards prepositional pronouns, mutations and stuff. (For your information: the prepositional forms of le are liom, leat, leis, léi – léithi in Ulster -, linn, libh, leo – or leofa in Ulster. Le becomes leis before the definite articles: leis an, leis na. And with the article it affects the noun in the usual ways.)

AS UCHT is usually used for “in return for”: go raibh míle maith agat as ucht do chineáltais “thank you a thousand times for your kindness”. It does find some use even in the sense “for the sake of” and “in account for”, but personally I’d prefer to use it only in the sense of “in return for”, and then only speaking about abstract things (i.e. I thank you as ucht your kindness, but I pay you as this thing I am buying).

LE hAGHAIDH is used in the meaning of “intended for”: Chuir siad seomra in áirithe le m’aghaidh “They reserved a room for me”.

IN ARAICIS is typically Ulster Irish, and it is used when you go, say, to the airport or the railway station “for” somebody, i.e. to meet and fetch this person. Chuaigh siad go stáisiún na traenach in araicis Sheáin “they went to the railway station for Seán”. Takes genitive, or personal pronouns. I guess that in the standard language you use i m’araicis, i d’araicis, ina araicis, ina haraicis, inár n-araicis, in bhur n-araicis, ina n-araicis, but the first two ones are in m’araicis, in d’araicis if the orthography tries to imitate genuine dialectal pronunciation.

I gCOMHAIR or FAOI CHOMHAIR is basically synonymous with LE hAGHAIDH, i.e. intended for. Use genitive, or personal possessive pronouns when appropriate: i mo chomhair, i do chomhair, ina chomhair, ina comhair, inár gcomhair, in bhur gcomhair, ina gcomhair; faoi mo chomhair, faoi do chomhair, faoina chomhair, faoina comhair, faoinár gcomhair, faoi bhur gcomhair, faoina gcomhair.

AR FEADH (I tend to write it ar feádh, but I see that the standard orthography is ar feadh with no fada. Oops.). This one is mostly temporal: ar feadh lae, ar feadh bliana and so on – “for the duration of a day, a year”…

THAR CIONN. Well, the standard is again thar ceann, but in my opinion it is entrenched enough to use the old dative form here. This means “on behalf of”, i.e. as a representative for. Shínigh an Príomh-Fheidhmeannach an conradh thar cionn Bigmoney Teoranta. “The Chief Executive Officer signed the contract for (on behalf of) Bigmoney Ltd.” Takes genitive (thar cionn na cuideachta) and personal possessive pronouns (thar mo chionn, thar do chionn, thar a chionn, thar a cionn, thar ár gcionn, thar bhur gcionn, thar a gcionn).

FAOI DHÉIN when you go to the shop “for” something, or when you go and fetch somebody from the airport or the railway station. Chuaigh mé go dtí an siopa faoi choinne uachtar reoite = I went to the shop for some ice cream. Takes genitive, and personal possessive pronouns (faoi mo dhéin, faoi do dhéin, faoina dhéin, faoina déin, faoinár ndéin, faoi bhur ndéin, faoina ndéin).

FAOI CHOINNE is for a particular kind of use, for an occasion. Cheannaigh mé cóta te faoi choinne an gheimhridh = I bought a warm coat for winter. Takes genitive, and personal possessive pronouns (faoi mo choinne, faoi do choinne, faoina choinne, faoina coinne, faoinár gcoinne, faoi bhur gcoinne, faoina gcoinne).

DE GHRÁ is used typically with abstract nouns in the meaning “for the sake of…” (de ghrá na síochána = “for the sake of peace”, for instance). Takes genitive.

“Must”

Translating English “must” into Irish is tricky. Usually, you use forms of the verb caith!/caitheamh, which has many meanings, among them “throw” and “consume”. The forms usually used are the future, which then has a present meaning, and the conditional, which has a past meaning (i.e. “had to”).

Caithfidh mé an obair a chríochnú ‘I must finish the work’

Chaithfinn an obair a chríochnú ‘I had to finish the work’

If a present form is required for formal grammatical reasons, i.e. in a má clause, then use it:

Má chaithim an obair a chríochnú… ‘If I must finish the work…’

Sometimes you do see such constructions as caithim é a dhéanamh ‘I must do it’ (rather than caithfidh mé é a dhéanamh) with present form, or chaith mé é a dhéanamh (rather than chaithfinn é a dhéanamh, or b’éigean dom é a dhéanamh). This usage is in my opinion markedly Munster Irish, and I’d prefer not to use it, unless your aim is to imitate that particular dialect closely, in other features too. (Thus, chaitheas é a dhéanamh feels more natural than chaith mé é a dhéanamh.)

Note the impersonal use of caithfidh sé or just caithfidh in such constructions as caithfidh sé go bhfuil tú sásta, caithfidh go bhfuil tú sásta ‘you must be happy/satisfied’. This means that it can safely be assumed, in the present situation and because of known causes and circumstances, that you are happy. If you say caithfidh tú bheith sásta, that sounds as if there was a dictator telling you that you must show a happy face.

Obviously, there are other ways to translate “must”. The direct translation of the English “I have to do it”, tá agam é a dhéanamh, is used by native speakers, although tá orm é a dhéanamh might fit better in, noting that duties and responsibilities are in Irish usually “on” (ar) you.