It has been a busy week, coming on the back of a hectic weekend, so there wasn't much time for blogging.
This time last week, we were just back from the Falls Road, from a concert in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich on the Falls Road. Originally Broadway Presbyterian Church, the building has been converted into a three-storey arts and cultural centre.
Turns out that the centre is named after:
"Roibeard McAdam, a Presbyterian businessman who pioneered the revival of the Irish language in 19th century Belfast and Tomás Ó Fiaich, a stalwarth of the Irish language in the twentieth century."
The concert was an end-of-term performance by the Cór Loch Lao, almost entirely sung in Irish, and preceded by some enthusiastic youngsters performing and a Donegal singer/piper. It was the last time they would sing under the direction of Manus O Baoill - so there was particular enthusiasm and emotion in the performances. their four part rendition of Psalm 84 (to the tune of Psalm 85 - or was it the other way around?) was spectacular.
Really glad we accepted the invitation to attend - and really appreciated the warm welcome we received.
For anyone who suggests that the Irish language is dead, the night was a great example of how alive it could be, with choir and guests chirping away to each other in their Gaelic tongue, greeting and chatting, fluently and naturally.
Bumping into Fergus from Raidió Fáilte in the cafe afterwards was another reminder of the renaissance in Irish - an Irish language community radio station, broadcasting from upstairs in the same building. They'd recorded the concert for later transmission.
Now on the linguistic spectrum, I'm stuck somewhere at schoolboy French with the year of Latin and two years of German now long since forgotten. So as a non-Irish speaker, walking into the hubbub of culture and language was at first bewildering. But while I'd struggle to get my tongue around any of the words, it was a relief that a friend with us (who's currently learning Kyrgyz in Osh, Kyrgyzstan) was finding the form of the language quite impenetrable - and she's somewhat of an expert!
One question to any Irish-speaking readers. Is there a word for "banana" in Irish? Or was it just someone being lazy and not translating when I overheard this last week: "Blah blah banana blah blah!"
At first, it was like walking into another world. A vibrant, welcoming, world. Not a threatening one.
Has Northern Irish society made Irish something to be ashamed of? I’ve never heard a conversation in Irish in work. More likely to hear Hindi or French.
Language is special. The way the words nuzzle up against each other on a page, the way words rhyme, the way phrases roll neatly off a tongue … these all shape the constructs we can use to think and analyse and express. Language shapes us. And different languages shape us differently. Losing a language, allowing it to die out, means you risk losing a particular outlook on life, a particular way of seeing things. And diversity’s usually a good thing for cross-pollination and finding creative solutions to difficult issues.