Saturday, April 19, 2008

Níl a fhios agam

Sport is an emotional opiate. Watching it on television is, at least.

Occasionally, watching sport produces intense emotional highs -- memory-searing moments that stay with us all our lives. The moment that Wales won the Six Nations, and the whole of the Maltsers Arms seemed to be in midair in an explosion of celebration, the way I could feel the whole city screaming, that's a moment I won't forget. But those moments are rare.

Generally, to watch sport on television means a few happy hours of emotional detachment that you simply can't get from watching, say, a film. This is why men prefer watching sport. We can sit there comfortable in the knowledge that at no point will there be some cute and quirky female character who we will fall in love with, only to watch her die or make some ass-hat life decision. At no point will we have to wrestle with moral issues. At no point will we have to watch a fella kiss another fella and pretend it doesn't make us uncomfortable.

Watching 11 blokes run around with 11 other blokes, all of them occasionally pretending to be injured and struggling to kick a ball into an area the size of a small bus, requires nothing of a man. This is why I am already looking forward to watching Tuesday's Champions League match. I am worn out, yo.

What's wearing me out is the fact that exams are fast approaching and I am wholly unprepared. Each night I toss and turn with the fear that I am lying in bed doing nothing -- Nothing, damn me! Sleep?! What is that about?! Laziness! Sloth! I should be up and studying! -- as my own academic version the Battle of Karánsebes (a) lies in wait.

The first exam facing me, and the one I'm fearing most, is my spoken Irish exam on 7 May. I think I could only be more unprepared for this exam if I had never actually set foot in any of the lectures. Indeed, if that were the case my impending failure might be a little more honourable. As is, I've never missed a lecture but have somehow managed to not learn a thing.

So I am now in the mode of desperately trying to teach myself Irish. Famously, I pulled this trick with Welsh, but in that case I had a little more than three weeks to learn everything. Indeed, it wasn't until six years into The Welsh Experience that anyone tested me on it.

And the online resources for teaching oneself Welsh are surprisingly better than those available to Irish learners. So far, the two best Irish sites I've found are those offered by non-Irish entities: the BBC and Des Bishop. Neither offer a great deal, and the BBC's site (logically) teaches the Ulster dialect, which isn't what I'm being tested on.

For those of you playing along at home, the concept of dialect in a minority language is a bit different than anything in our experience. Part of the reason for that, of course, is that American English is, in itself, a dialect. And within the American English dialect rarely are the differences in pronunciation, grammar, etc. so varied that one person genuinely struggles to understand another. Yes, those of us who grew up in Texas or the South can immediately think of people we have met, or are related to, who are somewhat unintelligible. But in truth that person doesn't speak all that differently.

Indeed, the differences between all English speakers are not so great. More or less, the widest gap one can really come up with is that between the English spoken by Alexyss K. Tylor and the English spoken by Billy Connolly.

But the gap can be much greater in a minority language, to the extent that people from Cork, where my Irish teacher is from, will claim to not even comprehend an Ulster speaker.

So, I don't know Irish, the Irish I'm attempting to learn is the wrong kind, and my exam is two and a half weeks away. Liverpool v. Chelsea -- I can't wait.

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(a) Funniest. Military. Blunder. Ever. Well, as funny as 10,000 dead guys can be.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

C'mon Liverpool................

Eric said...

If you drank more bawls you wouldn't have to sleep.

Lucy said...

Learn the Munster one, it's waaaay easier. You can ring me and I can talk Irish to you! I have to be drunk first though. As with many things.

Chris Cope said...

Lucy -- Oh, how many times have I heard that penultimate sentence?

Trust me, you do not want me wasting good money on a phone call just so I can tell you: "Tá sé scamallach inniu."

Lucy said...

But imagine how thrilling it would be to hear me roar 'taim ar meisce!' down the line!