24 January 2007

I take part in a number of web forums where Gaelic is used, and to differing degrees all are visited by non-speakers seeking free translations from English to Gaelic.

I do not provide these translations -- very few do if you can't demonstrate that you are actually doing something to learn. Here's why:

One of the the greatest difficulties for any Gaelic speaker today is identifying other speakers. At the moment, there are very few ways to do this without asking outright. When I see Gaelic written on someone's chest, boat or house-plate, I want to be confident that I can go up to that person and speak in Gaelic; providing translations for non-speakers means that there are more people walking around "branded" in Gaelic that don't speak it. The more this happens, the less confidence Gaels will have in being able to address other people in Gaelic. This lack of confidence could be disastrous for the future of the language in public life.

This is why I never give translations to non-speakers here or on any other forum, and why the Gaelic T-shirts I sell in my spare time come without English translations.

22 January 2007

A long time ago, in a far-off country, a young man by the name of Luke pulled on his best trousers and a freshly ironed shirt. He was due to meet Rosemary, an English girl who had recently moved to his town, for a date.

He couldn't believe his luck. She was gorgeous, and he could help feeling that she was out of his league.

Now Luke couldn't speak a word of English, but Rosemary was fluent in his language. This only helped to increase Luke's sense of inadequacy, so Luke set off early for his date and stopped at the Beefeater's Arms, the local English pub, on the way.

He walked in, and immediately called for quiet, and asked if someone could teach him an English compliment that he could pay a beautiful lady.

An old sailor took a mouthful of beer and put down his glass. He wiped the foam from his beard and offered his reply. Luke couldn't quite get this, and was a little perplexed at how quickly the old sea-dog became irritated at this, but after a few minutes and several repetitions, Luke felt he had it nailed, so he sauntered happily to the restaurant where he was due to meet Rosemary.

He was still a bit early, so he sat at the bar and bought a pint. Soon enough, though, he saw Rosemary's unmistakable flaxen hair passing the window. As she passed through the door, Luke took another mouthful of ale to steady his nerves. As she prepared to sit down beside him, Luke fixed his eyes on hers and said, in a perfect Liverpudlian accent, "F--- off, I'm trying to enjoy a quiet pint."
So, before you blunder into a web forum or mailing list asking for a free translation, think of poor Luke and the one that got away....