To English (and other language) speakers Gaelic can sometimes feel really difficult. Here are some of the reasons why.
There are some very basic things that can throw beginners for a loop, most notably the verbs: They don't conjugate, they don't even seem to want to have anything to do with the subject of the sentence and there they are at the very beginning of the sentence! However most people adjust to this in a short amount of time. The fact that they tell you what kind of sentence it is going to be becomes a really great thing.
But then comes a sentence like '' Tha geansaidh gorm air mo mhac.'' and somebody is wanting you to tell them what that would be in English (or Spanish or French) and even though you could draw a picture, your brain gets all tangled up going from one language to another.
Here is why: They subject and the object are switching places.
Tha (verb) geansaidh gorm (subjec) air (preposition) mo mhac ( object) vs
My son (subject) has (verb) a blue sweater(jumper) (object) on(preposition)
As you can see the sweater is the subject in Gaelic but the object in English. Whereas my son is the subject in English but the object in Gaelic.
This also happens every time you talk about people having stuff in Gaelic.
Tha taigh agam = tha (verb) taigh (subject) agam (object)
I have a house = I (subject) have (verb) a house ( object)
So not only are the parts of the sentence in a different order, just due to language differences, but the nouns are being used differently as different parts of speech.
One way around this is to 'see' the whole sentence as an image. You imagine your son in a blue sweater and that image is the meaning for both sentences. In this way you learn the whole sentence as a unit. This works really well for visual thinkers but doesn't work for everyone.
Another way is to keep in mind a kind of weird intermediary of what the Gaelic would be literally in English. So, Is a sweater blue on my son. This is can be especially helpful when you are going from your primary language to Gaelic. It isn't something that you want to be doing mid conversation though as that extra step does slow things down.
A good thing to do is just get lots of practice with these types of sentences because the more your brain sees the patterns that Gaelic is using to convey that information the less strange it seems and more easily it will take you smoothly between the two ways of saying it.
Keep practicing, keep asking questions and have as much fun as possible!
Leave a Reply.
Caroline has been involved with Gaelic for more than 18 years. She has degrees in Celtic Studies and Gaelic Medium Teaching.