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Do you recognize any of the words in the Irish phrase above? “Pádraig” [PAW-drig] perhaps, since that is the name “Patrick” in the Irish language.
Hmm, you might be wondering, what exactly is the Irish language? Don’t people in Ireland speak English? Well, yes, they do, but some people also speak “Gaeilge, [GAYL-ig-yuh] ” the native language of Ireland. Currently about 73,000 speak Irish every day in Ireland and all the schoolchildren learn the language. Some people outside Ireland also speak the language, especially in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Britain, countries where many Irish people have emigrated. Sometimes it is their descendants, three or four generations down the line, who learn the language.
The Irish language isn’t structurally similar to English at all. Its closest linguistic neighbor is Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig), which is spoken in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and in Nova Scotia, Canada. The next closest language is Manx Gaelic, from the Isle of Man, which has also given us the famous tailless Manx cat.
So what does the language look like and sound like? Here are a few samples, which will also bring us back to our St. Patrick’s Day greeting (Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig):
|Cailín [like “Colleen”]||girl, colleen|
|An tSeamair [un TCHAM-irzh]||the shamrock|
|Béigeal uaine [BAY-gyul OO-in-yuh]||a green bagel (!)|
|Beoir uaine [byohr OO-in-yuh]||green beer|
|Féile [FAYL-yuh]||a feast day [to honor a saint]|
|Beannachtaí [BAN-ukh-tee]||greetings or blessings|
|Oraibh (OR-iv)||on you (plural)|
Getting back to “Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh,” taken word by word, it means “greetings of the feast day of Patrick on you.” In other words, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”
You might have noticed the word “happy” is not actually in the phrase. Nor is the word “saint,” which is “naomh” [neev] in Irish. This often happens when we translate from one language to another. Different words are used to express the same basic meaning.
You might like to learn the Irish word for “happy” though, so you can use it in the song “Lá Breithe Sona Duit.” “Sona” means “happy.” “Lá breithe” [law BRE-huh] means “day of birth” and “duit” means “to you” (singular).
So now you can say “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” and “Happy Birthday” in Irish. All from one blog.