Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Breton-French vs Hiberno-English

Happy Paddy's day everyone! 

Today is about celebrating what makes Ireland and Irish people so special. I previously talked about what Irish people say but don't mean, but what some of them don't realise is that they also say things nobody else in the English speaking world understand.
Irish people speak what it's called "Hiberno-English" (or Irish-English). It means that a lot of expressions and grammatical structures are directly derived from the Irish language. Sometimes, words even have a different meaning than in other English speaking countries.
I'm quite used to this type of language as we have the same "issue" in Brittany, where we use different words or phrases than the rest of France. That's because a lot of what we say comes directly from the Breton language. 
When I came to Ireland and met people who were from other parts of France, they were laughing at the way I talked. So I can only empathise with Irish people abroad who get a funny look when they talk about the press, the yoke or the craic...
The use of Breton was forbidden in churches and all administrations since the first World war, so you can imagine how the language quickly disappeared. It was also forbidden in schools up to the sixties, therefore many parents started speaking French to their children so they wouldn't "fall behind". As a result, there were less and less native speakers. My mother for example, was only spoken French in the house, but all her brothers and sisters were speaking Breton. So now, she understands Breton quite well, but can't speak it. 
You can see how the language was completely destroyed by the French government and what happened is that people started to force themselves to speak French but were obviously making mistakes, translating literally from one language to the other. And that's how Breton-French was born.

I haven't really found anything online (maybe I didn't search enough) about Hiberno-English history. Of course, the different invasions by the British seem to have played a major part in the diminution of native Irish speakers and the appearance of Irish-English. The same way Breton people were forced to speak French, Irish people had to speak English and therefore made mistakes while translating.

I'm not a linguist by any means, but I find languages fascinating.The funny thing is, I sometimes use a direct translation from Breton-French to Irish-English and it works, but not always for the same grammatical reasons. Irish and Breton come from different language families: Irish is a Goidelic language like Scottish, and Breton is a Brythonic language, like Welsh and Cornish. Even though they have different roots, I have noticed some similarities when they are both translated in English or French.
For example, both Breton and Irish people use the verb "bring" instead of "take". Trust me, Breton people "bring" everything everywhere, we even bring people. If say I "bring" my kids to school, nobody here will think it's wrong. If I was in the UK, it would probably seem a bit strange. And if I said it French, I would just get some laughs from my French colleagues.
The same goes from Yer man /Yer wan , which means this man/this woman. We have the same kind of word in Breton-French when we talk about someone else. 
In Ireland, people usually say "like" at the end of almost very sentence (I haven't found the reason why), and in Britanny we say "quoi" (what), but the meaning is the same. And there's no reason for it either...
I studied Breton at school for 2 years. It was optional and I really enjoyed learning the basics. I'm not fluent at all, but my mum used to reprimand or give us orders in Breton, so I know how to say "Go to bed", "Go home", "Stop making noise" or "Take the dishes off the table"! And I definitely speak a lot of Breton-French.
I'm quite good with the Hiberno-English as well now, and I would like to learn Irish at some stage. 
I know many Irish people who think it's a useless language and the way it's taught might be one of the reason. I think keeping some cultural heritage is important, and efforts should be made to make Irish language more attractive to the population.