Tag: Gaeilge

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The Irish Language: A Cereal Troublemaker Hits the Gaeltacht

Language, Localization Culture

The semantics of selfies in Irish

I was reminded of the whole Dara Ó Briain (@daraobriain“Sé-Mé” #selfie uproar (a classic case of urban Irish — or Gaeilge, and not “Gaelic” — usage versus the “official” Irish (where “selfie” is “féinín”) when I visited my son in the Gaeltacht (or primarily Irish-speaking area) in Ireland recently.

Dara Ó Briain discovers "Sé-Mé". And the sky fell.

Dara Ó Briain discovers “Sé-Mé“. And the sky fell.

Flaky terminology

I joined my son (aged 13) for breakfast and asked him if he knew the Irish for “cereal.” Officially, the term would be “gránach bricfeasta” or similar, but he simply said, “calóga” (which basically means “flakes”).

Kellog's Special K in France

Kellog’s Special K on sale in France (Carrefour, Paris). Image by Ultan O’Broin.

But I thought he’d said “Cellógga,” my Dublin urban Irish ear already tuned into expecting to hear brand names and slang as terminology. That’s the Irish language for you today in Ireland: more people than ever (claim to) speak it, but we just can’t understand each other.

That's the Irish language for you today in Ireland: more people than ever (claim to) speak it, but we just can't understand each other. Click To Tweet This issue of an evolving Irish language demographic was covered by Brian Ó Broin (no relation) a few years back in a previous issue of MultiLingual and he has also written about emerging Schism fears for Gaeilgeoirí (or Irish language speakers) elsewhere.

Whereas I could natter along in my pidgin Dublin Irish about “blockchain” or “chatbots” to other Dubliners, when weather announcements are made on Ireland’s official Irish broadcasting network in Irish, I haven’t a clue what they’re talking about.

Language wars not worth fighting

I am sure other languages (French, for example) face these kind of issues. But does it really matter as long as people can communicate, and use the context to figure out the differences?

And I don’t think the official Irish versus everyday street version delineation is as clear-cut as many would like to think.

It was remarkable that many people in the Gaeltacht that I met switched between the urban “pidgin” Gaeilge, official Gaeilge, and even interspersed the conversation with English terms, depending on their innate human sense of what the listener would get.

As for that Kelloggs Special K, ironically there is no letter “K” in the Gaeilge alphabet.

If you’ve found yourself in similar situations or come across terminology conflicts in the digital age, then let us know in the comments!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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The Only Irish Language Act in Town

Language in the News

Ireland’s Got Language Talent

The Irish Language (Gaeilge) is making news again. This time with US performer RuPaul (@rupaul) tweeting about the Irish in Gaeilge.

Ireland’s gone gaga over it.

RuPaul tweets in Irish. A mighty and deadly Irish language act in a good way!

RuPaul tweets in Irish. A mighty and deadly Irish language act in a good way! Here’s the English translation of the tweet.

The Sashayáil My Father Never Wore

If you’ve been reading Thomas Gilmartin’s great piece on MultiLingual Insights about the deadly seriousness of the status of the Irish language in Northern Irish politics, or been amazed by the kind of mighty passions that can arise over the Irish for “selfie” (“sé-mé” versus “féinphic“), then you might consider that RuPaul is exactly the kind of language act we need to see more of on the island of Ireland.

Maightí and deadlaí indeed!

 

 

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Catch the Pidgin at the BBC: Digital Flight of Fancy?

Language, Localization Culture, Personalization and Design

Delighted to see that the BBC has started a Pidgin Digital service for West African audiences.

BBC introduces Pidgin for Digital Audiences in West Africa (Image source: BBC)

BBC introduces Pidgin for Digital Audiences in West Africa (Image source: BBC)

I’ve long been fascinated by the notion of pidgin (or a pidgin language). For some of course, it’s a betrayal of “pure” language learning and standards. Fundamentally, however, pidgin is a popular and simple way for people to communicate with each other when they don’t share a common language. What’s wrong with that? Pidgin is a lingua franca in its own right. The use case is nothing that Google isn’t trying to do with the Google Pixel Earbuds!Pidgin is a lingua franca in its own right. Click To Tweet

What’s Pidgin?

So what is pidgin, exactly? Well, the BBC describe it, in this context, as “a mix of English and local languages enabling people who do not share a common language to communicate”.

We might think of it as a kind of hybrid oral “gisting”. It’s certainly fascinating to listen to! Languages and how people communicate evolve all the time. Check out the difference between a Pidgin and Creole language for example.

The Irish Pidgin Fancier

As an Irish person and speaker of “urban” Irish (or Gaeilge – not “Gaelic”), pidgin resonates strongly with me. There’s also clear evidence of a pidgin emerging with the Irish language. This development was pointed out by Brian Ó Broin (no relation) in this article from the Irish Times, “Schism fears for Gaeilgeoirí“, a few years ago. Brian has also written about the changing demographics of the Irish language for MultiLingual.

Pigeon Man on Dublin's Liffey Boardwalk (Image source: Ultan O'Broin)

Pigeon Man on Dublin’s River Liffey boardwalk (Image source: Ultan O’Broin)

Perhaps, the pidgin approach offers a way for the Irish language to thrive in rural Gaeltacht as well as urban areas and a way for all Irish language lovers to all communicate more (until we agree on emoji). Certainly, as pointed out by Irish President Michael D. Higgins recently, the compulsory approach to teaching the Irish language in Ireland has failed.

A more human-centric way of encouraging people to communicate using Irish is needed. Of course, Duolingo can help address our Irish language learning requirements too! Again, it’s voluntary. (Oh, “Catch the Pigeon“?)A more human-centric way of encouraging people to communicate using Irish is needed. Click To Tweet

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Unicode Jewels: Ogham Alphabet Made Personal

Language, Personalization and Design

I’ve just had a super new ring made for me by Irish designer Breda Haugh. It’s in sterling silver with a single pink sapphire stone set around Ogham symbols.

Silver Sapphire Ogham ring by Breda Haugh

Silver pink sapphire Ogham ring by Breda Haugh. Breda specializes in design based on historical and cultural themes.

Wikipedia tells us that Ogham is “an Early Medieval alphabet used to write the early Irish language (in the so-called “orthodox” inscriptions, 1st to 6th centuries AD), and later the Old Irish language (so-called scholastic ogham, 6th to 9th centuries)”, and that “according to the High Medieval Bríatharogam, names of various trees can be ascribed to individual letters.”

Here are the Ogham inscriptions on my ring explained in terms of the trees and their personal significance (I was born in September and my son’s name is Fionn by the way):

Ogham meanings on my ring explained

Ogham inscriptions on my ring explained.

And guess what? Thanks to Unicode you can digitally create your own story in Ogham too. Here is the Ogham Unicode block (via Wikipedia):

Ogham Unicode block (via Wikipedia)

Ogham Unicode block (via Wikipedia)

Evertype even offers a Unicode Ogham script font for you to use: Everson Mono Ogham.

I love it when the old meets the new in a different, stylish way that resonates personally, culturally and historically with our roots.

And, if there’s a digital way to make that experience easier for you to create, then all the better!

More information on Ogham

To find out more about the historical origins of Ogham and the relationship with trees, check out these sources:

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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An Cód: Craicing the Code in Irish

Language, Language in the News

It’s often assumed that computing coding lessons are always taught in English because most (though not all) programming languages use English language syntax.

Not so.

Hour of Code is worldwide

Hour of Code is worldwide

Take this great example of learning to code in Irish (Gaeilge), part of the Hour of Code initiative in 2016, thanks to computer science professor Kevin Scannell (@kscanne), from Saint Louis University in Missouri in the United States of America.

The Irish Independent newspaper tells us that Hour of Code‘s focus is on “making coding fun through the use of popular games like Minecraft, as well as films such as Star Wars and Frozen“.

Learning to code as Gaeilge thanks to Hour of Code

Learning to code in Irish thanks to Hour of Code and Professor Kevin Scannell.

2016 was the “third year the (Hour of Code) event has been run in Ireland since it was taken up by digital learning movement, Excited“, co-founded by Irish member of parliament, Fine Gael’s TD Ciarán Cannon (@ciarancannon).

The Indo also says that “Prof Scannell kickstarted the initiative as he loves the language and believes children should be able to access coding lessons in their mother tongue.”

Who could argue with that?

Super initiatives. Kudos, or should I say “Comhghairdeas” to all concerned.

Oh, and about that “Irish” word “craic”.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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A Cute Irish Accent

Language

Irish accents, dontcha love ’em?

In this case I’m talking about Irish language (Gaeilge) orthography, specifically the Irish language equivalent of the acute accent, the fada or síneadh fada.

The fada in Irish.

The fada accent in the Irish language; used on vowels, in this case the letter “O”.

A letter in the Financial Times newspaper points out how the presence or absence of the a fada results in different words. Brendan Cahill corrects the newspaper  for its omission of the fadas on their spelling of “Áras an Uachtaráin”, the formal address of the President of Ireland.

Brendan Cahill is quite right, of course, about how the fada can change the meaning of a word otherwise spelled the same way in Irish. “Sean” for example means “old”, whereas “Seán” means the name “John”).

In this case however, I think that given the context, “Aras an Uachtarain” is unlikely to cause any real confusion for readers.

This is not always the case, however.

A missing fada from the Irish word “Mná” on a toilet door in Ireland once confused the late, great actor, polyglot, and polymath Peter Ustinov. He assumed it was a misspelling of “Man” in the plural.

“Mná” in Irish means “Women”.

How inconvenient.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Kudos and Comhghairdeas* to Duolingo’s Irish Language Volunteers

Language, Language in the News, Translation Technology

The Irish President (Uachtarán Na hEireann) Michael D. Higgins (Micheál D Ó hUigínn) (@PresidentIRL) has publicly recognized seven volunteers for their work in building up the Irish language (Gaeilge) version of the crowd-sourced, languagelearning social app Duolingo (@duolingo).

Duolingo on Twitter

Duolingo on Twitter

This is first time I’ve read about a head of state doing something like this in the language space, although volunteerism is something that’s often acknowledged publicly by officialdom.

Indeed, it is well-deserved recognition for these Duolingo volunteers given the results.

Duolingo Irish in the Top Ten

Over the past two years, over 2.3 million people had downloaded the language app and selected Irish as the language they wanted to learn. This means that Irish is in the top 10 most popular languages offered by Duolingo.

Over 2.3 million users have selected Irish as the language they want to learn on Duolingo

Over 2.3 million Duolingo users have selected Irish as the language they want to learn

About 75% of these Irish language users are outside of Ireland, and the majority of new learners are located in the United States.

President Higgins commended the volunteers’ efforts at the official residence of the President, Áras an Uachtaráin, saying that their contribution was “an act of both national and global citizenship”.

The President also took this opportunity to comment on the status of the Irish language generally and about Government plans for the language.

Well done to Duolingo and to its volunteers in Ireland, and indeed everywhere!

The Duolingo Lessons for Other Languages

The Journal.ie quotes Oisín Ó Doinn, one of the volunteers, who was clearly delighted so many are enjoying the benefits of the contributions made to the Irish language lessons on Duolingo:

“The fact that an average of 3,000 people a day have begun using the Duolingo Irish course shows the massive worldwide interest in our native language and makes all the hard work we put in worthwhile.”

Aodhán Ó Deá (@aodhanodea) of Conradh na Gaeilge (@CnaG) was also quoted by the Journal.ie about Irish language proficiency and the reasons behind it. Some of his remarks will resonate with many Irish people:

“The thing I hear again and again from people is ‘I’d love to learn the language’, and I wish I learned it in school’.

So, despite all the negativity we hear about the Irish language, particularly from within Ireland, Duolingo’s success with their Irish language version again proves that not only do people want to try and master conversational Irish but that when the digital user experience (UX) of language learning suits their world, and it is made easy and is fun, they will give it an honest shot and try to learn.

Duolingo Irish language lesson in action

Duolingo Irish language lesson in action

Again it is also clear how smart use of technology and an ever-improving UX can benefit the health of “minor” languages.

Duolingo language learning options. Duolingo also offers gamfication and social ventures to the experience of learning Irish.

Duolingo language learning options. Duolingo also offers gamfication and social features to the experience of learning Irish.

It will be interesting to see how the Duolingo impact plays out, if at all, in the responses to questions about Irish language usage in the next Irish census!

Other languages, please take note!

The Irish President's speech to Duolingo's Irish volunteers and about the Irish language generally is on SoundCloud

The Irish President’s speech about Duolingo’s Irish volunteers, and about the state of the Irish language generally is on SoundCloud.

You can listen to the Irish President’s Áras an Uachtaráin speech about Duolingo’s Irish volunteers and about the Irish language on SoundCloud.

  • Congratulations (in Irish).
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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Blue, Gorm, Elektrisches Blau: David Bowie in Irish and Transcreation

Localization Culture, Travel and Culture

Táimid ann sa mhóimint dhraíochtach seo
Sin é an stuif as a bhfitear brionglóidí  . . .  *

I’m mega-fan of the music of the late David Bowie. I love everything he did from Hunky Dory (1971) up to his Lodger (1979) album (you can keep the rest). His so-called Berlin Trilogy is amongst my favorite recordings; I always go to some of his old Berlin haunts whenever I find myself in the Hauptstadt.

Indeed, Berlin is the European city for David Bowie fans to visit, even more so than his native London.

Plaque outside Hauptstraße 155, Berlin commemorating David Bowie. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Plaque outside Hauptstraße 155, Berlin commemorating David Bowie. (Image source: Ultan Ó Broin)

Yet, Bowie didn’t speak German and often seemed aloof from real words on the Berlin streets.

Much of the heavy language lifting of David Bowie’s time in Berlin was done for him by his long-time assistant Coco Schwab and I even recall an interview with the man himself a few years ago when we went on about living in Charlottenburg (he lived in Schöneberg). Then we have the goofed spelling of the song title Neuköln (it should be Neukölln) on the “Heroes” album, his pronunciation of KaDeWe on one of his last recordings Where Are We Now? (2013) is definitely not that of a Berliner, and the German language version (‘translated’ by Antonia Maaß) of his most iconic song “Heroes” (“Helden“) is regarded as “odd” (“Und die Scham fiel auf ihre Seite“?) by German Bowie fans, who generally much prefer the English language version.

That said, David Bowie’s ‘heroic’ contribution to Berlin was recognized on his passing.

German Foreign Office Tweet recognizing David Bowie's contribution to the end of Der Mauer (The Berlin Wall)

German Foreign Office Tweet recognizing David Bowie’s contribution to bringing down der Berliner Mauer (The Berlin Wall)

But, does David Bowie’s work even warrant any translation from English? And, if so, do we care how it is translated?

I recently attended a performance of David Bowie’s songs in Irish (Gaeilge) which was held in the Pavilion Theatre in my native Dún Laoghaire: Réaltnach: An Tionscadal DAVID BOWIE (Starman: The DAVID BOWIE Project). The performance was by Liam Ó Maonlaí  and the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra and friends.

Bowie Realtneach project. Source: IMRAN/Pavilion Theatre

The David Bowie Réaltneach project. Image source: IMRAM/Pavilion Theatre

On the BBC News, Liam Ó Maonlaí said, “(David) Bowie’s work is so perfect it doesn’t need translating, but as a Gaeilgeoir or Irish speaker . . . (I) couldn’t pass up on this opportunity.”

I had arrived back from Berlin that afternoon, and I wondered whether the Irish language project that evening would work or not.

It did.

David Bowie’s songs were crafted beautifully as Gaeilge by a skilled writer and linguist in his own right, Gabriel Rosenstock. You can read some of the Irish-language versions of the David Bowie’s songs by Gabriel Rosenstock on his blog here, including a version of Bowie’s last work Blackstar (Dúréalt).

I am not sure whether the term transcreation is completely correct to use to describe Gabriel Rosenstock’s work in this context (normally we think of it being about marketing and branding), but I think it’s reasonable to say Gabriel Rosenstock re-created something new yet immediately familiar using the skill and talent of a great translator and artist together.

True, at times I thought some stuff I heard sounded a little bit hokey, such as the version of Sound and Vision (Fuaim is Fís) from the Low album (1977):

Gorm, gorm, aibhléis-ghorm
Sin é dath mo sheomra
Im’ chónaí ann
Gorm, gorm

Blue, blue, electric blue
That’s the color of my room
Where I will live
Blue, blue

(David Bowie / Gabriel Rosenstock)

But then, there’s hokey . . . and there’s hokey . . . 

However, when it came to Liam Ó Maonlaí’s performance of the Irish-language version of Win from the “plastic soul” Young Americans  album (1975) I could see tears in the eyes of audience members. You can listen to Liam Ó Maonlaí singing it here on RTÉ radio (about 6 minutes into the recording of the programme).

This was a simply astounding song in its own right. The emotion in the song, the lyrical flow of the words, and the passion put into the delivery by Liam Ó Maonlaí all resonated deeply with the audience, myself included. I came away feeling that the Irish version delivered this way might actually be better than the original English version on the album.

The performance also reminded me of what a beautiful language Irish can be, and the tragedy of how it has become something so difficult to use in even ordinary, human ways for most people in Ireland.

In the hands of culturally adept multilingual artists (Liam Ó Maonlaí and Gabriel Rosenstock are well qualified in this regard), I’d argue that even the most iconic songs, and perhaps other works of art, can be performed or communicated in any language. This is of course, a matter of much more than simply translation, but then when it comes to communicating human emotion, it always is, isn’t it?

Ultan Ó Broin outside the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin Ireland (#selfie)

Ultan Ó Broin outside the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin Ireland (#selfie)

A finer example of artistic transcreation I defy you to find. It’s the stuff of which dreams are woven.

That said, you may know of other great music translations or transcreations. Let us know in the comments.

* Here are we, one magical moment, such is the stuff

From where dreams are woven . . .

 

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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