Monday, June 18, 2012

I need to learn Irish

A good friend of mine and I have had an inside joke for many years about how we have to learn Irish. This running gag started because we're both fun-loving gals who like to comment about our surroundings (some people might say we like to gossip) but want to avoid potential conflict by having our comments overheard and understood. We're both bilingual English/Spanish, so usually can switch into one or the other, or a combo of both, to get away with our narration. However, while I was visiting her some years ago, we found ourselves in a situation where we were surrounded by crazy and wanted to talk about it, but the crazy were all bilingual too.

Picture this: two friends who hadn't seen each other in awhile, and have just spent the afternoon walking around eating, shopping and laughing while catching up. It's the end of the day, and they find themselves watching the sunset at a boardwalk in Key West. All around them are people who appear to have just been released from or about to go into a mental institution. They want to comment about all the crazy, but are afraid of getting their asses kicked. After a lot of pointed looks, attempts at code Spanglish, and eye rolling, one turns to the other in frustration and says: "I wish we could speak Irish." The other takes a long pause, then replies, "Don't they speak English there?" They then embraced the crazy surrounding them by laughing hysterically for way too long over this "joke".

I was friend #2 in the above scenario. Of course, I know that they also speak Gaelic in Ireland. Having had the chance to visit the Emerald Isle, I'm also relatively comfortable saying that Irish/Gaelic would be a solid choice in terms of a "secret" language. You could openly narrate your surroundings pretty much anywhere outside of Ireland. The problem is this: I have no idea how I could possibly wrap my head around the language in order to learn it. I mean, how the heck is something spelled Dún Laoghaire pronounced Dunleery? I spent a lot of my time in Ireland butchering the names of places when asking for directions.

I'm lucky enough to have learned both Spanish and English at a very early age. Although Spanish was my first language, somewhere along the line, when my age was still in the single digits, English became my primary language. Thankfully I learned the two very early on, because I really don't seem to have any facility in picking up a third. I studied French for years, but when I finally made it Paris, all those lessons did were to help me feel extra frustrated when I spent what seemed like hours asking people "ou est le funiculaire" and not being understood until bumping into a Spaniard. Every time I tried to speak to a native in French, they would start talking to me in English. So despite my sincere attempts at putting all that schooling to good use, obviously my skills left much to be desired. The only thing I've seemed to be able to do as an adult is learn how to say please and thank you in various languages. So at least I'm polite.

I live in a pretty diverse neighborhood. English, Spanish, Farsi, Hindi, and several Slavic languages are all spoken here. You know what isn't spoken here? Irish. So I know I could totally comment on my kooky neighbor's latest misadventures with her dog, or complain about the crazy lady who is always yelling at people for no apparent reason, without being understood. And it would REALLY come in handy at work so I could talk about some of the people who drive me to drink. Oh, that would be glorious. But then my friends would have to learn Irish too.

Hmm....who wants to split the cost of the Rosetta Stone Irish set with me? It would be super helpful for my ego if you're not that great at learning languages too. :) We can start our own little club! And if we're all bad at it together, chances are solid that not even a native speaker will understand us as we comment on our surroundings.

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