Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Learning Irish Gaelic

--Don't be discouraged from the long length of this post, it goes by quick. If you get bored easy, check out some cool stuff at the bottom :) --

So you want to learn Irish Gaelic huh? I'm not going to lie to you. It's tough. And I took Latin and thought that was easy. I'm not here to discourage you from it. In fact, I want you to learn Irish Gaelic, probably more than even you want to learn it yourself. I simply want to you to know what's in store, so that when you do get around to learning it, you won't get discouraged on your own.

First rule to learning Irish Gaelic, DON'T GET DISCOURAGED, of course. We'll get into that later. The problem is that it will take some work. Any language will. It's just Irish has some more unique challenges to it that others don't. For one, it's tough to find other people who speak it. On top of that, finding good lessons or good content, while much easier, is tough to do on your own. I'm going to help you with this part. Just keep in mind, the road will not rise to meet you. Be prepared to meet it halfway.

Rosetta Stone
Let's get started. How do I learn the basics? Here's what I did. I pestered Rosetta Stone about offering Irish Gaelic. My wish came true April 2008. They came out with THREE levels. The significance of that is they usually only have level one for most languages. The downside to this? All three levels (when purchased together) will run you up about $500. When purchased separately, obviously more than that. It's up to you if you want to buy all three at the same time. I did. But just to give you some perspective, I've used my spare time to use Rosetta Stone, and since I'm about a few days away from the 1 year mark, I'm still not done with level 1. In fact, I'm only 3/4 of the way through. I'd say on average I'd maybe spend a half hour a week. It's hard to estimate since I'd go a full week spending maybe 5 hours at most for the week, then spend two weeks not even touching it. I almost feel like at this pace buying them separately might be the better deal. I'm not a math genius, but I'm sure it's still better to buy all three at the same time... if you're that committed to learning like I am.

Transparent Language vs Rosetta Stone
Is it too expensive? Is just level one still too expensive? Then consider Transparent Language. Visit them at http://www.transparent.com/languagepages/irish/irish.htm. While far cheaper, I'm not sure the difference in the amount of words you learn between Transparent Language and Rosetta Stone.

Just looking at pure features though, Transparent Language beats Rosetta Stone HANDS DOWN. Check out the website. In the BYKI Irish Gaelic, you get tons of extras, like mp3's to use on your music player of choice to listen in the car (which the new version of Rosetta Stone Irish Gaelic has, however the old version like I have, does not have it. You can pay $50 per level for the mp3's if you have the old version, or you can be shit out of luck. I chose shit out of luck), cool ways to track your learning, like a running total of the words you've learned, not to mention all of the cool free stuff. For FREE, you can sign up to get the Irish Gaelic Word of the Day (http://www.transparent.com/wotd/today/irish.htm?date=03-31-2009) which is a widget that you can embed in your blog or web site or social networking page (see bottom). They've even got games and puzzles.

Also of difference is the styles. TL teaches you the ol' fashioned flashcard way. Which I'm not knocking, I think it works. It helps that they have sound clips for each word. Sometimes each word has a picture, and I think there's even an option to add your own choice of picture to a flash card. You can even make lists of your own words. Maybe some words just aren't sticking, so you can assemble them in their own list (which I think is fantastic, I used the old flashcard method when learning Latin in high school, and it helped to just cycle through the words I had trouble with).

Rosetta Stone teaches you using pictures. So it would show you a picture of a dog and say "madra". So now, you associate dog with "madra". There's no base language to work off of. So in this example, the English word "dog" is nowhere to be found. I can see the plus side in this. However, I think there's a downside to this. There is the very real chance that you learn the wrong meaning, since the meaning of the word is what YOU give it. And this has happened to me. While using RS, I had formed the (incorrect) relation of "tUasal" to being a person's first name... specifically I thought it was a masculine first name. Then a few lessons later, a woman was refered to as "tUasal". I then realized that I made the wrong connection and that "tUasal" really means Mr. or Ms. And for all I know I could still be wrong.

I think RS benefits more from this method than you or I will. Since there's no base language, they can sell this version to anyone in the world. Someone in Ethiopia could learn Irish Gaelic using the same RS disc that I have. The only thing they'd have to change would be the program's menu language. This would be like you start the application and it asks you to log in and pick a language level to work with. That's in English. But the key is they don't have to switch out all the English for Ethiopian. They just take the app and slap on the Ethiopian system menu. It's quite brilliant from a budget standpoint. It probably keeps their costs REAL low. However, if you noticed, the application itself is expensive to buy. I think it's safe to say that basically when you buy a RS language, you're really paying for all the advertising you see. Those Superbowl commercials aren't cheap you know.

I should point out that for those of you cult members... I mean iPhone owners, Transparent Language has an iPhone app. Rosetta Stone does not. And I should also point out that TL gave out the Irish Gaelic iPhone app for FREE on St Patricks day 2009. I think the app is normally $7 or $8. Hint: sign up for news and updates from TL, that's how I found out they were giving it away. Not to mention they do offer great deals through their emails. I picked up Brazilian Portuguese and Sweedish for $10 cheaper EACH. I'll be learning those less frequently though.

But, Transparent Language doesn't stop at that. They even have an Irish Gaelic blogger going. Read Róislín's helpful blog at http://www.transparent.com/irish/.

But that brings me to my next option...

Online learning
Rosetta Stone and Transparent Language have the benefit of sound. Irish Gaelic is 10 times easier to learn if you can hear it. I originally started my quest to learn using FREE online resources such as Erin's Web. It was helpful, but I didn't get very far. I'd get frustrated and put it down, then have to relearn. And I'm talking about I didn't make it past lesson 3. It's not the fault of the site, its just really tough to learn without hearing it. But don't get discouraged like I did. In fact, different counties in Ireland pronounce some words differently. So, you just have to learn and practice, you don't have to get it PERFECT. That was why I got discouraged, I tried to make it perfect.

I'm still going to use Erin's Web (when I have the time), because I think it offers something we haven't discussed yet, and that's grammar. Rosetta Stone doesn't tell you which words are feminine and which are masculine. Somehow, you're supposed to do that. I know one of them adds in the letter 'h' to words, I'm just not sure which one it is that does it, nor do I know which words belong to that gender. I think Transparent Language is the same. I don't have TL Irish Gaelic so I cannot say for sure.

I'm sure there are plenty of other resources out there as well. The trouble is finding good ones. Also of issue, is sometimes Scottish Gaelic comes up in Gaelic search results. So beware. Irish and Scottish Gaelic are two different animals, hence why I've been saying "Irish Gaelic" the whole time. Most of the time saying "Irish" or "Gaelic" will suffice. The Irish will say they speak "Gaelic". Either or is correct. I just like to be clear, unfortunately I shouldn't have to make the distinction.

Anyways, enjoy the following Veritas-approved Irish Gaelic cool stuff:

Firefox in Irish Gaelic: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/all-1.html?c=europe
Google in Irish Gaelic: http://www.google.com/intl/ga/

Irish Gaelic Radio from Ireland:
-Go to http://www.rnag.ie/radio/index.html
-Click on "RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta" on the right side to open a new window and hear the live stream

Irish Gaelic TV (including awesome cartoons!):
-Go to http://www.tg4.tv/
-Cúla 4 on the left is kid shows. Click on a show to view it (NOTE: SHOWS ONLY AVAILABLE IN INTERNET EXPLORER :( )
-Feel free to click on the other categories. There's sports, news, drama, etc.

And as promised...

1 comment:

Eoin said...

Nice write-up. I didn't realise that Rosetta Stone didn't even cover grammatical fundamentals, and they are needed to start writing correct sentences.

You might also mention an online Irish Gaelic dictionary, Irish Dictionary.org. It's a collaborative dictionary, that has a free PDF download. http://www.irishdictionary.org/