Archive for the ‘IR: Raggle-Taggle Gypsy, O’ Category

Carraig Airt

United colours of Carraig Airt. (source: donegalcottageholidays.com)

I began my journey through Donegal’s Gaeltacht in Carraig Airt (Carrigart), a scenic coastal village with a population just under 1,000 people. It’s noted as having won several awards for being one of the tidiest and most attractive villages in Ireland, and is a popular destination for beach goers and sea anglers.

Atlantic Drive

The stunning Rosguill Peninsula. (source: donegalcottageholidays.com)

Now, after 142 pages of listening and reading (equating to 14.2 km), I’ve already passed through the village of Na Dúnaibh (the Downings), set on the west side of the wonderful Rosguill Peninsula, and home to more beautiful sandy beaches, once walked along by big screen stars like John Wayne and Errol Flynn in bygone days.


TV: 06:38
Study: 02:36
Review: 01:13
Talk: 00:40
TOTAL: 11:07

I’m really enjoying wathcing TG4 (all without subtitles of course) and have completed 26 lessons of Buntús Cainte. As you’d expect, I’m floundering over most of the Irish I hear on tv but am at least able to pick out odd words and phrases now, whereas before it was just mysterious background noise.


From Carraig Airt to Na Dúnaibh. (background source: Google Maps).


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Walking in Killarney

What do you mean: “the pub’s just over the hill”?!

After a prolonged absence from any real language learning, it’s finally time to clamber back on my brightly painted wagon, take a firm hold of the reins, and start down the road on an ambitious new project: to learn as much Irish as I can before my move to Hawai’i.

I’ll be focusing on getting my listening and reading skills up to scratch, although there’ll be time for some speaking as well, and as I won’t have enough space in my suitcase to bring my little hoarde of Irish resources along with me, I aim to get as much out of them as I can during the weeks remaining.

In addition to all the quality listening and reading materials I’ve spent my hard-earned coppers on, I can barely wait to start watching the Irish language TV channel TG4 to immerse myself daily in real spoken Irish. The programmes are simply excellent, and I can well envisage them quickly becoming a quenching spring of motivation!

Irish is not like any other language I’ve studied before either. Sentences begin their life as verbs, sounds are magical and otherwordly, and spelling rarely matches pronunciation unless it’s under the light of a blue moon. There’s no doubt I have quite a daunting task ahead of me, but the sheer beauty of Irish poetry and music is enough to reassure me I’m on the right path.

View from hotel in Killarney.

The view from my room whilst staying in Killarney. *nostalgic sigh*

I’ll be starting out with a mere smattering of words and a few stock phrases in my lesser-spotted red kerchief knapsack, having only ever spent about a dozen hours on Irish altogether in the past. This includes a couple of introductory classes several years ago (from which unfortunately I had to drop out), a few days spent on 8 out of the 195 lessons in the Buntús Cainte series in the beginning of May this year, and a little bit of Irish TV with English subtitles for fun. In simple terms, I can do little more than say “hello” or “goodbye” in Irish to save my life at the moment. And this is a great place to start in order to assess my methodology and any progress…at, or at least pretty close to, the beginning.

My ideal goal would be to reach B2 level (approx. upper intermediate) in listening and reading over the next month or so. However, given the knowledge that most lrish themselves don’t necessarily reach this level after a small liftetime of lessons in school, I’d be more than happy just to score a comfortable A2 on the CEFR scale.

The plan is to build up vocabulary through listening and reading, enhance listening skills by actively watching Irish TV without subtitles, and integrate some exercises to improve pronunciation and spontaneous speaking.

I’ll also be indulging in some virtual travel again to accompany my reading, in the hopes of providing a general framework for the project, similar to my “Trans-Siberian Express” project in 2011 (which is still ongoing and I hope to pick up again later this year). I like to call this the “paper trail” approach.

Given the relative size of Ireland’s coastline, I’ll equate 10 pages of listening and reading with 1 km of the route on my map [edit]. This will not only enable me to visually keep track of progress from the start, where closing the distance to each goal can function as a great little motivator, but I also get to learn more about the geography, history and culture of Ireland’s Gaeltacht (Irish speaking regions) along the way. The first region I’d like to virtually explore is County Donegal (Contae Dhún na nGall), so here’s my planned route for the initial 277 km and 2,770 pages of the first leg of my journey:

Donegal Gaeltacht

My proposed virtual route in County Donegal, taking me through the Gaeltacht towns and villages of Carrigart, Downies, Falcarragh, Gortahork, Magheraroarty, Tory Island, Gola Island, Derrybeg, Gweedore, Crolly, Rinnafarset, Loughanure, Annagry, Kincasslagh, Cruit Island, Burtonport, Arranmore, Dungloe, Doochary, Fintown, Lettermacaward, Glencolumbkille, Teelin, and Kilcar. (background source: Google Maps).

And just in case you’re wondering in the back of your mind…why “Raggle Taggle Gypsy-O”? I’ve always loved this traditional folk song ever since I first heard it sung in Ireland by Christy Moore as part of the Irish folk music band Planxty. As it turns out, after all these long years, this much-loved Irish song is actually of Scottish origin from the 17th century. Nevertheless, I thought it’d still make a catching title for this language log and fit in well with the overall mischievious spirit of adventure. After all, “What do I care for titles, o? I’m away with the raggle-taggle gypsies, o!”.

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