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Colloquial Irish: The Complete Course for Beginners (PB + CD) Paperback – 17 Apr 2008
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About the Author
Thomas Ihde is currently director of the Institute for Irish-American Studies at Lehman College, CUNY, New York. His current research focuses on Irish language materials development and bilingual acquisition. His previous publications include a book on the Irish Language (1994, Bergin and Garvey).
Maire Ni Neachtain, a native Irish speaker from West Galway, teaches language, literature and linguistics at the Department of Irish, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland.
Dr Roslyn Blyn-LaDrew currently teaches Irish at the University of Pennsylvania, and was previously President of the North American Association for Celtic Language Teachers.
John Gillen, a research fellow at the Institute for Irish-American Studies, has taught Modern Irish and Old Irish for the New York Gaelic Society, and currently works at Hostos Community College, CUNY.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Whereas 'Learning Irish' gives an excellent overview of grammar and vocabulary, 'Colloquial Irish' adds to the vocabulary in 'LI' and accounts for the way it is actually spoken, rather then written.
Where as I would not recommend this textbook on it's own, as the grammar is not as comprehensive, nor is the vocabulary, I would recommend the the book as a supplement with 'Learning Irish.' It is actually uncanny that the two textbooks deal with the same dialect of Irish.
For some reason, the authors decided to pick the Irish dialect of Cois Fhairrge for this book. That's a brave choice, given that an excellent and very extensive Irish course (Learning Irish) focuses on exactly the same dialect. So, the learner eager to learn Irish (or Cois Fhairrge Irish in particular) has got two courses at hand, which one should he pick? My answer is Learning Irish, for the following reasons:
- Learning Irish is by far the more extensive of the two courses. While Colloquial Irish will only give a vocabulary of about 800 words, Learning Irish will see to it that you finish with around 2.500 words. As the average vocabulary of everday conversations is 4.000-5.000 words, Learning Irish brings you a good way towards that while Colloquial Irish doesn't.
- The grammar is explained in great detail in Learning Irish, making sure that the reader really learns it and reducing the risks for misunderstandings. Colloquial Irish gives a much more rudimentary grammar presentation, and the likely result is that the reader will be more confused than helped. If not when reading this book, then at least by the time he goes to the Gaeltacht and tries speaking Irish only to discover that he doesn't know all those things Learning Irish would have taught him.
- There are many more excersises (with answers) in Learning Irish, so the learner really has the opportunity to practice.
Having worked my way through Learning Irish, I went to Ireland and managed to live in the Gaeltacht for many months, speaking only Irish. Of course my Irish improved a lot during my time there, but I would never have come so far without the very solid foundation Learning Irish had given me. Colloquial Irish is much to short and basic to come anywhere near that.
That established, the Colloquial Irish course is everything that I have come to expect from Routledge. It is fun, practical and well-grounded. I have some nine of the Routledge courses. The Colloquial Irish reaches the standard set by their Colloquial Welsh course, which is excellent.
It must be remembered that Learning Irish is primarily for the written language. There is not that much dialogue. What dialogue there is is sometimes stilted. The examples in LI can be dense to ridiculous. How about this sentence given to teach the vocative : Oh hens ! Maybe farmers talk to their poultry, but I have no plans to address a hen in conversation any time soon. And this one: The little birds are on the little stones. How interesting !
I have spent a good bit of time with Learning Irish and it is thorough, but it is hardly a text for the spoken language. The vocabulary that is taught in LI is also of questionable value. Who needs to know the Irish words for "auction" or "shrew?"
Colloquial Irish by Ihde, et al is an exciting introduction to the spoken language. It is as good as my German textbook was -- Ich Spreche Deutsch -- and that was an excellent spoken German text on the market for its time. The introduction to CI is upbeat and encouraging. It makes the point that Irish studies today are in full swing like never before. Fortunately, the academic world has discovered both the value of Irish and Yiddish -- two vernaculars from different peoples who have shared a parallel history in expulsion, dispersion and contribution to the world's cultures.
It is a little strange that O Siadhail in his introduction to Learning Irish is so pessimistic regarding the fate of the language. One almost wonders why he bothered to write it. After such a gloomy introduction, does he really expect to attract students to the language ?
After Colloquial Irish, one might take up Intermediate Irish from Routledge and Turas Teanga from RTE. There is also Speaking Irish for advanced learners.
Generally, I'm not a fan of Colloquial Series language books; none that I've seen until now rate any higher than so-so. In an attempt to introduce material by `function' (family, lodging, pastimes, employment, skills, food, drink, holidays, shopping, etc), they often ignore clarity, completeness, and language patterns; vital grammar/structure topics are often introduced in a chaotic and half-hearted manner, if at all. Inadequately transcribed conversations, vocabulary lists, and glossaries are typical. Practice problems are lacking, and what's there tends to be fluff. I could go on, but you get the picture...
So, how does Colloquial Irish compare? Well, actually, I feel better about this book than any other Colloquial Series book I've had. As is typical, grammar/structure topics are a bit lacking; but what's there is actually a decent intro. There is also a grammar summary in the back of the book. This is a step in the right direction at least. Vocabulary is introduced in cohesive groups when possible--around the house, pastimes, time, greetings, travel, days/dates, work, etc (very helpful for memorization). Useful vocabulary lists ARE presented--imagine that! Dialogs ARE all transcribed (some on the same page and the rest at the end of the book). Wow! And shockingly enough, there ARE quite a lot of exercises, giving the impression that drilling and study ARE of value in language learning. I know! I almost had a coronary, too! Pronunciation is addressed throughout the book, implying that pronunciation could very well be important in language learning. I think someone must have awakened at the `Colloquial Series Think Tank.'
As for specifics: first are some sections on language/culture, the alphabet, pronunciation, and study suggestions. Then you have 14 thematic chapters. Most chapters also include pronunciation pointers. There are good dialogs and some grammar topics. There is quite a bit of cultural/general information along the way. At the end is a grammar summary (about 17 pages), dialect appendix (kind of nice), exercise key, some transcribed dialogs, a two-way glossary, and an index.
I won't get into the debate about dialect. This book goes with Galway (the appendix does contrast it with the others, though). Most of my previous study has been Ulster (because I love the sound), but all in all they aren't THAT very different. It shouldn't really be a concern for the complete beginner anyway.
Overall, this book isn't a bad intro at all as long as you keep in mind that it is an INTRO, not a magic trip to fluency. It's quite light on the grammar, but better than many other offerings I've seen. How does it compare with the venerable Learning Irish? Well, it doesn't. Simple. But then again, is it really supposed to? This is an introductory book with simple communication/understanding as a goal. The goal of Learning Irish is much loftier. It's really unfair to compare them. Personally, I like them both for what they are.
Ultimately, if you want to really dig into the language, you are going to want to work through Learning Irish. But that's a tall order and will take you a lot of time and effort. I'd have to say that Colloquial Irish is going to be a bit more enjoyable and user friendly for most folks as a first exposure. Work through this one first, and then dig into Learning Irish if you want more.