Tha mi ag iarraidh uisge-beatha – Lesson 2

Blog: Kilted Scot
Categories: 5-minute read

Week 2 set off at a ferocious pace with another couple of people joining the class! One elderly gent (84 years old next week) joined us after having already completed several of the courses and even corrected the tutor at one point, who he seems to know well. Mental note: don’t try and correct the tutor.

This week started with a little bit of revision of week 1, with the emphasis on little! However, the majority of the class had been practicing and had completed the revision exercises for homework so we were deiseil (ready) to crack on. Crack on we did!

We began with a review of personal pronouns, their stressed forms and pronunciations and practiced many variations. Examples:

Standard Stressed English
tha mi tha mise I am
tha thu tha thusa you are
tha sinn tha sinne we are
tha iad tha iadsan they are

The stressed option is basically emphasising the subject, so in English it would be the difference between “they are” and “THEY are”, if that makes sense in such a small phrase? A better, fuller example would perhaps be:

Alec: Ciamar a tha thu? (How are you?)

Nicola: Tha mi gu math, tapadh leat. Ciamar a tha thusa? (I am well, thank you. How are YOU?)

OK, not necessarily a better example but I’m sure you get the picture!

We then swiftly moved on to numbers 1-10 and the Gaelic for page, which is duilleag.

Gàidhlig English
aon one
dhà two
tri three
ceihir four
còig five
sia six
seachd seven
ochd eight
naoi nine
deich ten

Then things got a little bit complex. We learned about possession, as in “I have” and that it doesn’t exist as a direct translation into Gaelic. Hold on, what? This is potentially linked to religious influence on the language according to our tutor. So instead of saying “I have a car” you are basically saying “a car exists at me”, there are some slight similarities there between Gaelic and Japanese but you have to really want to see them!

To complicate matters prepositions and pronouns are not permitted to co-exist in Gaelic, presumably as they were created by the devil, and so are instead combined. So “at me” which would be aig mi becomes agam and “at you” which would be aig thu becomes agat. Again, combining words has a distinctly Japanese ring to it.

So by way of an example:

Gàidhlig English
tha cù agam I have a dog
tha cù agad you have a dog
tha cù againn we have a dog
tha cù aca they have a dog

A far more in-depth explanation on the topic can be found in the article ‘Possessives and syllabic structure or Ar n-Athair a tha air nèamh‘ on the Akerbeltz wiki site .

Next up we learned Dè tha thu a’ dèanamh? (What are you doing?) as well as the grammar and some related vocabulary for the verbs ag òl (to drink) and ag ithe (to eat).

To say “I am eating bread” is tha mi ag ithe aran and to say “I’m drinking whisky” is tha mi ag òl uisge-beatha and now I’ve learned about 50% of the language I need to live as a hermit on the islands in the unlikely scenario that I outlive my wife!

These sentences can be combined and improved with the following words agus (and), le (with) and gun (without). So utilising them all, we can say tha mi ag ithe aran le ìm agus ag òl uisge-beatha gun uisge which means “I am eating bread and butter as well as drinking whisky without water”.. though a little water does enhance some whiskies in all fairness.. I don’t now how to say ice in Gaelic yet but take it as written that if I utter a similar sentence the ice will ALWAYS be preceded by gun!

Gàidhlig English
tha mi ag ithe iasg I am eating fish
a bheil thu ag ithe buntata? Are you eating potato?
tha e ag òl fion-dearg he is drinking red wine
a bheil ise ag òl bainne? is she drinking milk?

Lastly, we covered the verb ag iarraidh which is equivalent to “wanting” and is used for ordering, it apparently doesn’t translate exactly to “I would like” but is more “I am wanting” which may come over as somewhat rude in English but is perfectly acceptable in Gaelic. This of course completes my never-going-to-happen hermit life-style Gaelic necessity, with the ability to now order my whisky, bread and butter.

Gàidhlig English
dè tha thu ag iarraidh? What would you like?
tha mi ag iarraidh uisge-beatha I would like whisky
drama uisge-beatha? a dram of whisky?
botul. tha mi aonaran a bottle. I’m a hermit.

As always there was some gentle, though in this case not uplifting, respite from the intensity of the class with our weekly song. After singing last week’s song An Tèid Thu Leam A Mhàiri, which was about a man hopelessly trying to get Màiri to move away with him, we moved on to Gràdh Geal Mo Chridh’ which is a tale about a hopelessly (yep, again) sad woman who is mourning the loss of her relationship after her partner left her. I have one word for this song and it is depressing, also way too slow to sing along to.

Also, the first three lines of the chorus which we had to sing have literally no meaning.. they are the equivalent of la la la.


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