Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Irish language

Earlier today I was reading a post on Charlotte’s Web, Adults Speak with Forked Tongue. It was discussing the lies told by adults to children which was interesting in itself, but it was when I got to the part about the headmistress’ end of year report that the memories came flooding back.

The one that first came to mind was my Irish teacher, teacher of the Irish language, that is. Because of all our travels I only intermittently attended school in Ireland, but Irish was a compulsory subject. That was tricky because it wasn’t something I could keep going anywhere else. and as a result I didn’t exactly shine.

I hated it. I was terrified of most of the teachers at that school and the Irish teacher was the most terrifying. I pleaded to be put down into the lower group for my Irish lessons but no one would support me. I was in that class for approximately six months, during which time the teacher never worked out who I was. She would mark our homework and tests and ask us to read out our marks so that she could write them into her register. My name was never called. I would tell her I’d been missed, she wouldn’t find me on the list, and so it went on. After this happened, oh at least twice, I stopped volunteering myself. Who wanted to read out appalling marks for the rest of the class to snigger over?

At the end of term she was sitting at the front filling in report sheets for everyone, when suddenly “Who is A?” I could see no way round it, I put up my hand, quaking. She stared at me as though she had never seen me before, looked at her register, flipped the pages, muttered, asked me to read a page out of our book, and wrote a non-committal report. Something along the lines of “Tries hard”.

Amazingly I can still remember some Irish: a most useful poem

Tá cat sa hata
Tá cat ar an stól
Tá cat ar an mata
Tá cat beag ag ól

Which means: the cat is in the hat, the cat is on the stool, the cat is on the mat, the small cat is drinking milk. Apparently if you read this and similar attention catching rhymes over and over again, you will learn to speak, read and write Irish.

One hopes teaching methods have improved over the years.

Years and years later I was again in Ireland, this time taking my Leaving Certificate, which for some reason I had to take in one year. Again Irish was compulsory. I failed of course, the only exam I’ve ever failed, and after all that I can remember only two more words: an droimneach bacaoch (the blind seagull) and I’m not even too sure of the spelling of bacaoch.

Obviously a bad student.

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