04 September 2008

Colloquial Irish

I had entirely forgotten that I'd ordered this book and CD combination -- I guess I pre-ordered it months ago when it showed up on my search for 'irish gaelic' on Amazon.com.

At any rate, it showed up this week and I took some time to page through things. (I love pre-order. I always forget what I have queued up and it's like getting presents every couple of weeks!)

First off, the students using Learning Irish (O'Siadhail) will be pleased: while they do make a passing nod to "standard Irish", they focus primarily on the Connacht dialect, and even more specifically the Cois Fharraige Irish when there are questions of grammar, spelling, or vocabulary. This meshes well with the workhorse textbook used by most students, and is especially nice because it provides two CDs worth of dialogs and phrases in that dialect to add to the resources of Learning Irish.

The structure of the lessons is very "Teach Yourself Irish"-like, if you're familiar with that book. A dialog is presented, which introduces new vocabulary and common phrases, and then the chapter focuses on a few grammar or usage-driven sections that are related to the dialog - greeting people, addressing a person, personal pronouns, asking questions for example. The audio files are plentiful, and keyed to the text examples on nearly every page.

Exercises follow each section - usually fill-in-the-blanks or answering questions, with many of them instructing you to write out all questions and answers fully, copying from the text where necessary, and even to copy down the dialog at the beginning of the section in order to really learn the forms. One of the things that caught me up while browsing was that the exercises seemed to use vocabulary that was not specifically called out in the dialogs or other lesson text. The end of the chapter has a vocabulary listing, but some of the words are definitely just thrown out there and never translated. Context helps, of course, but one of the things that is very important in a beginner's text (at least to me) is not to use terms or words or structures without introducing them first.

There are a number of listening exercises, too, where you are not expected to know the words but are to listen for a specific idiom or simple sentences. I haven't gone through these exercise yet, but it seems like a good idea: one of the hardest things for a home-bound learner to do is find a speaker to actually talk in real sentences or non-scripted phrases meant to be repeated ad nauseum. Many of us listen to online radio or watch Irish-language programs (even if we can't understand them entirely) just to get a feel for things.

I'm not going to go through these lessons yet, not formally, since I am trying to stay focused on using Rosetta Stone and the grammar lessons of Learning Irish. We'll see how my resolve holds up!

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