Lit as Gaeilge
September 16, 2017 9:47 PM   Subscribe

This one time? At Irish camp? Students in the Irish language immersion summer school Colaiste Lurgan have become YouTube stars for their Irish-language covers of pop hits. Here, as Gaeilge, for your viewing and listening pleasure: An Laisc Is Mó (Blurred Lines); Ar Mo Thaobh (Stay With Me); An tÁdh 'Nocht (Get Lucky); Africa (le Toto); Func Anseo (Uptown Funk); Síoraí Spraoi (Cheerleader); Na Cuimhní (Somebody That I Used To Know); and of course, this summer's blockbuster, Despacito.

..and because no summer camp experience could possibly be complete without it, Tóg Amach Mé.

Discovered a 4yo previously after I built the post, but there's a lot more here now so maybe it's not completely doubly, I hope.
posted by Miko (32 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
posted by growabrain at 10:03 PM on September 16, 2017

Miko, a stor, do bhi sé baol ar chomh hiontach agus a shamhlaigh mé !
posted by Wilder at 12:31 AM on September 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

Can't believe I forgot to accent the Stór, my treasure, so by way of apology I give you the mirror version Bonny Raitt
posted by Wilder at 12:40 AM on September 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

This is great! Thanks for posting. I'm off to Ireland for the first time early next year (unless Béal Feirste counts, and that's a whole other discussion) and I've been listening in to local radio while I've been getting ready for the trip. It's fun to listen to iRadio (which targets 15-30 year olds) and hear the DJ effortlessly slipping between English and Irish mid-link.

I love when languages which - let's face it, the English - tried to extinguish come back to life through the youth of a country. The same thing has happened across Wales and to a lesser extent in parts of Scotland.
posted by winterhill at 1:21 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

My favourite Sclaiste Lurgan video is Royals.
posted by fshgrl at 1:47 AM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

My husband is Irish and his family experience of acquiring and using the Irish language is a mini template of the imperial narrative of linguistic control, resistance, revival and hybridity. His parents learned it in the 1930s through home life, but Irish was banned in schools, names of towns anglicised and no classes were taught through the language in school, except in discrete Irish lessons.

His parents could understand the language, but it was used more sporadically, rather than instructionally or publicly. Language was associated with Irish backwardness and tradition as a hangover from the famine times, and English became the economic path to modernity, that civilisation's future in the cultural capitalism model that England signified. Not only was English imposed, [and it was] but Irish was also abandoned. The way forward was to survive, embrace and use English to get ahead.

My husband's siblings were all baptised with Anglicised names, a few had nicknames drawn from Irish. My husband's name was a hybrid 'son bán' or in Irish 'leanbh gruaige bán' - the white haired son. In the 1970s he was sent to a posh boarding school in Wicklow that prided itself on delivering their entire curriculum through Irish. They were early adopters of this totally immersive pedagogy, each child's name was even de-anglicised and John became Seán for his ten years of education in that school.

For the Republic, recovering the Irish language and its heritage, affording socio-political clout through the valuing agency of children's educational experience with it was a publicly announced agenda.

In the times since, this flowering of the language has produced a generation of far more Irish children being named in Irish. Families seem to have gone from being full of John and Marys, to containing many more Saoirse, Aoife, Oisin, Caoimhe etc. RTE is respected and admired as the public broadcaster for several decades, films are made in Irish, amazing books like Máirtín Ó Cadhain's 1949 cacophonous modernist novel The Dirty Dust (Cré na Cille) translated by Alan Titley in 2015 - itself a celebration of the language and Irish's comic inventiveness and vigour.

So to me, watching these clips make me really a bit emotional. I love this part of the flowering and recovery and joy of the language of Ireland. I live in Australia, am very interested in the post-colonial journey this country on in terms the loss of, shame[ing] about Language, re-speaking, translating, reviving, building proud communities of Language, creating hybridity in post-colonial societies is a process to which I relate deeply.

Thanks Miko, this is so great.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:20 AM on September 17, 2017 [19 favorites]

I'm learning Irish right now and will share these with my classmates. Go raibh maith agat a Ghrowabrain.*

*NB: experimenting with vocative case lenition; not a typo.
posted by Morpeth at 4:47 AM on September 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I also loved evidence you could see in Despacito that some of the immigrant kids are happily learning Irish!

I learned Irish by rote in school in a completely unimaginative, unrealistic way, I hated every lesson! Unfortunately we couldn't afford the summer schools in the Gaeltacht but I luckily met a girl in my TaeKwonDo lessons who spoke Irish at home, Eibhlin, I was enchanted to hear her shout at her brothers, tell her mother how the class went, bliss! It was a living language!

This coincided with the first time I went to Spain with age of 16, up to that time I genuinely thought I was really bad at aquiring languages so I had very little confidence.....after two years of classes in school in Spanish, within two weeks I was chattering away and understood almost everything said to me. It's really changed my life, and I have gone on to acquire others. It pains me that my Irish is not the strongest of those, ( I've lived abroad for 25 yrs) and I was so pleased when my daughter went to university in Dublin to see how very vibrant the language is now and how frequently friends of hers use it.
posted by Wilder at 5:50 AM on September 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

In the times since, this flowering of the language has produced a generation of far more Irish children being named in Irish. Families seem to have gone from being full of John and Marys, to containing many more Saoirse, Aoife, Oisin, Caoimhe etc.

My Irish friend's family held on to Irish pretty tight; when my friend was growing up, the family all spoke both Irish and English around the house (and when my friend was a toddler they actually spoke only Irish, and she only started learning English when she was about three). They also have very traditional Irish names; I knew how to pronounce Cillian Murphy's name right away when he broke onto the scene because I've been hearing about her brother, who is also named Cillian, since the 80s.

I actually sent her a link to the video that TG Lurgan did for "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore, and a copy of the English lyrics; I had a feeling that they'd taken some liberties with translation. She confirmed that they pretty much wrote their own rap; but moreover, she says that the TG Lurgan version of "Can't Hold Us" is actually a rallying cry to Irish kids to take over and preserve their language and culture on their own rather than relying on the government, schools, etc. to preserve Irish use. (I was also pretty impressed that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis appeared as themselves and spoke Irish to introduce the clip.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:52 AM on September 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

And apparently Can't Stop The Feeling is just as catchy in Irish.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:01 AM on September 17, 2017

Irish comedy duo Rubberbandits did an As Gaeilge version of their song I Wanna Fight Your Father.
posted by Catblack at 7:04 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can't Stop The Feeling: it's interesting to see that the title and refrain are translated out of the negative form.

Can you not stop the feelin please?
posted by Morpeth at 8:03 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the context and personal stories. I'm also about to make my first trip to Ireland, meeting family that have been separated for 100 years, and am enjoying learning some beginning Gaeilge as part of the preparations. I could see pursuing it further - it is a fascinating language, so very different from the romance languages, and I also feel touched by its history and recovery. My Irish first cousins, who are around my age, often chat and banter in Facebook as Gaeilge, and it is heartening to see the cultural survival and young people embracing it and enjoying it.
posted by Miko at 8:10 AM on September 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

I teach a foreign language in a post-colonial place to teens with little everyday practical need for them to use it save the practical reasons parents love - exams, university, work, maybe travel - and this series of videos is hugely inspiring: you KNOW the students LOVED this, have been talking about it all year (in Irish!) and were instrumental in the formulation and design of everything.

And unlike nearly all of these things I've seen here, it's clearly a performance for themselves - a celebration of their hard work that they know they've earned - not for a panel of judges or an audience of parents. It's for them! It's theirs! The performers have an intensity and a confidence that is hard to generate in any classroom; I'm seriously in awe.
posted by mdonley at 8:39 AM on September 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

Discovered a 4yo previously after I built the post, but there's a lot more here now so maybe it's not completely doubly, I hope.

No worries, I'm sure this is the sort of thing we don't mind doublin'.
posted by hangashore at 9:10 AM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you don't watch all of them, in my opinion, their cover of "Africa" is the most beautiful of them all.
posted by WCityMike at 10:45 AM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Whenever I see these, I'm always curious about the "faithfulness" of the translation; sometimes a direct Gaelic wouldn't scan, and sometimes the lyrics are a little...questionable. For instance, I was pretty surprised that the lyrics to "Blurred Lines" are pretty similar. And I was not surprised that "Can't Hold Us" got totally changed (I mean, Macklemore's original has a line about "Got that Bob Barker suit game and Plinko in my style", and I don't think that would translate).

Their take on "Wagon Wheel" ("Tóg Amach Mé") is totally different too - and actually, I like it. The English version is about a guy trying to hitchhike down south to meet up with his lover, but the Irish version becomes a sweet little ode to summer camp crushes and romance. To wit:

The lyrics to the first verse and chorus in English go like:
Heading down south to the land of the pines
I'm thumbing my way into North Caroline
Staring up the road and pray to God I see headlights
I made it down the coast in seventeen hours
Picking me a bouquet of dogwood flowers
And I'm a-hopin' for Raleigh, I can see my baby tonight

So rock me momma like a wagon wheel
Rock me momma any way you feel
Hey, momma rock me
Rock me momma like the wind and the rain
Rock me momma like a south bound train
Hey, momma rock me
And in Irish, that goes like this:
Southwest towards the sea
Amongst the yellow flowers and rocks
I long to be back in Connemara
That nice little place where we fell in love
The first place you took my hand
We will walk on the beach
with a full moon tonight

Swinging, swinging with all the boys
Kissing, kissing with all the girls
Hey-ey-ey take me out
Swinging, swinging with their boyfriends
Kissing, kissing with their girlfriends
Hey-ey-ey take me out
I kind of think I like the gist of their song better.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:13 PM on September 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

"In the times since, this flowering of the language has produced a generation of far more Irish children being named in Irish. Families seem to have gone from being full of John and Marys, to containing many more Saoirse, Aoife, Oisin, Caoimhe etc"

I so identify with this; same with my Irish relatives. My County Galway great-grandparents and my grandfather were all John and Mary. The son of my father's first cousin Michael is also Michael, His children are Sharon, Lisa, Aileen, and Nial; the next generation of little ones include Darraigh, Roisin, Cathal, etc.

My father, born in the US, knew no Irish. I once asked him if his father did, and he said, " he sang in Irish when he was drunk." My great-grandfather John was illiterate; I saw a legal paper he signed with X. Not uncommon for tenant farmers in the West of Ireland at that time. So much was lost in the years after the famine and then the revolution, there are no records of these people and we could not even find my great-grandparents graves. I assume they are among the many unknown graves in the local cemetery, where we did find my Dad's Aunt Brigid.

I took a night school class in Irish, it is a difficult language to learn, but beautiful. I barely scratched the surface, but could read some of the street signs when we visited Ireland and my relatives. It is so lovely to see the young of Ireland with such enthusiasm for the language that was almost stolen from them.
posted by mermayd at 12:59 PM on September 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Someone got me on to watching the series No Béarla in which a documentarian/activist attempts to travel Ireland for a long time using only the Irish language (title means "No English"). He's clearly a patrician sort of person, and I got a little of the same well-off vibe from the camp kids. This makes me wonder, for those familiar, is speaking Irish and being part of the revival at all class-marked? For example, is it more likely that if you're rich, you've gone to schools that celebrate Irish and gone to summer camps for it and think revival is important? Or is it much more widely embraced than that? Would appreciate any perspectives.
posted by Miko at 5:36 PM on September 17, 2017

Miko- Ireland is pretty middle class all around. There is no poverty like there is in the US. Irish school is something kids do to get better scores on exams and while it's not free it's not like only elite kids are going.

As a breakdown: on the small islands Irish is the main language but that's the only place really, most people in the west and northwest of the mainland speak irish fairly commonly in their day to day and many to most are fluent (they all spell differently though), in the middle of the country not too many speak it every day as a rule and in Dublin and the southeast it'll be mixed who knows any Irish at all, depending on your family, and you won't heard it spoken much. It's a compulsory subject at school but it's possible to take 10 years of Irish and be completely shite at it. It is mandatory for the Leaving Cert so college bound kids (and it's HARD to get into college in Ireland) will be off to Irish school in the summer to get more fluent. That's why you'll see kids of all backgrounds and races there: being Irish isn't about your race, it's about experiencing all the things that make Ireland a country: like the miserable pressure cooker that is the Leaving Cert and getting sneakily drunk and having your first kiss at Irish school. And singing. Irish people love to sing, good luck avoiding that growing up- you can't.

Most musicians in Ireland will speak Irish pretty well too as singing and music are taught everywhere and often by traditional artists as a kids first exposure. I learned to sing in Irish before english and that's probably still common. Also most kids in Ireland would have had singing classes in school at some point. Which brings me to my second point:

you KNOW the students LOVED this, have been talking about it all year (in Irish!) and were instrumental in the formulation and design of everything

Irish school is usually only 3-6 weeks long. So they are doing this pretty sharpish. From what I've heard this has made it super hard to get into Lurgan and made it a real arts Irish school, which is cool. So these kids are showing up pretty talented but they don't know each other or have like 8 months to rehearse.
posted by fshgrl at 5:54 PM on September 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

That is super helpful and interesting. Thanks!
posted by Miko at 5:58 PM on September 17, 2017

Also- as far as the revival, that happened a long time ago: the 40s through the 70s. These kids grew up in a country with Irish as a living language, almost certainly many of their parents speak fluently and a lot of them were schooled entirely in Irish. My fathers family always spoke it, although my Irish is terrible.
posted by fshgrl at 6:01 PM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't speak Gaelic, but the "someone that I used to know " track seemed very lady focused, as in the guys had no lines. Is that right?
posted by maryrussell at 7:19 PM on September 17, 2017

To clarify: I am not objecting!
posted by maryrussell at 7:25 PM on September 17, 2017

From the article Miko linked [my italics] - this sense of revival is still in transition, even if many of the folks we know in Ireland can speak it.

"... The videos’ success is particularly impressive given the language’s endangered status. Although Irish has been a mandatory part of the country’s curriculum since the 1920s (all students study it from primary school on), just 4 percent of the population speaks it at least once a week, and more than half the country can’t speak it at all. The school system’s overemphasis on pedantic textual analysis has long been blamed for widespread resentment of the language—a sentiment perfectly captured by the (Irish-speaking) parliamentarian who in 2011 deemed the curriculum “the highest form of torture known to humankind.”

This is an ongoing point of Irish camaraderie, even if today's pedagogy in early childhood language teaching is hopefully much improved. It is definitely improved by shifting 'pedantic textual analysis' of Irish to performance and perhaps hybridising approaches - singing English songs in Irish, as well as singing traditional Irish songs. But as it is, Irish is behind English, Polish and Lithuanian as the fourth language most used in Ireland.

And the conclusion of the article really does highlight the contributing function of educational approaches in the de-colonising processes of otherwise largely Anglophone states:

"...It’s little surprise, then, that Lurgan’s approach—musical, energetic, social—has attracted such attention. Last fall, when the school posted applications for 2014 online, traffic to its Web site more than tripled over the previous year’s, as parents of would-be students flooded the site, causing it to crash."


Just because I find this topic so interesting and close to my heart, I might just mention these few texts [of many that exist] that cover some of the language territory that comes with de-colonising states. Not really apropos other commenters here, but this post really stayed with me overnight.

An Irish-Speaking Nation is an interesting exploration of the history of Irish language use, adaptation and bilingualism 1770-1870. The Broken Harp by Tomás Mac Síomóin in 2015 [reviewed by the Irish Times here] also stokes the sense that revival is still very much debated and a work in progress.

Language activism is something that has surfaced very topically as a point of negotiation in the power sharing stalemate in Northern Ireland. Language funding for community learning centres was interrupted in March, and caused a large social media and street presence event in Belfast, until the funding was returned and The Economist examined this topic again only recently which is why this comes to mind: "...This is a heady time to be a language activist in Northern Ireland. ... As their negotiations have dragged on, the status of the Irish language has emerged as one of the most intractable and visibly contested issues at stake...Sinn Fein, the biggest Irish-nationalist party, has made entrenching the language one of its terms for entering a new power-sharing deal. Its central demand, the passage of an Irish Language Act, has been opposed by its erstwhile partners, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)."
posted by honey-barbara at 10:31 PM on September 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

This is an ongoing point of Irish camaraderie,

Surely they aren't still doing Peig..... Are they?

As their negotiations have dragged on, the status of the Irish language has emerged as one of the most intractable and visibly contested issues at stake...Sinn Fein, the biggest Irish-nationalist party, has made entrenching the language one of its terms for entering a new power-sharing deal.

Years ago I saw a very funny bit where some smart ass went around asking people in Dublin what Sinn Fein translated to. I can't find it online but it was hilarious.
posted by fshgrl at 12:06 AM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had fun on my third day in Dublin. I'm a bit near-sighted. Before they fixed my cataracts it was a lot worse. I do read Irish passably. Dublin had bilingual street signs. The Irish was in the old alphabet. I was really glad I learned it because the Irish part of the street signs were bigger. Kept me from getting lost more than a few times! Anyway my third day was rainy and I was off to a museum. A lady was on the corner. She was lost. 'Where is John Street?' she was asking. I stopped, and looked up. There it was 'Sraid Eoghain Baiste' in big friendly Irish letters. 'Ma'am I think this is John Street right here.' I pointed at the sign. It took her a couple minutes to take in that I had not relied on English to reach this conclusion. She thanked me in a combination of politeness and fluent Anglo- Saxon which was pretty comical. Obviously she'd never been to Irish Camp. She'll be telling the grandkids about the time some Yank gave her directions in her own city for a long time!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:37 AM on September 18, 2017

Surely they aren't still doing Peig..... Are they?

I didn't do Peig and I did my Leaving almost 20 years ago in 1998.

(Cannot for the life of me remember what we did do, may have been about a drunk irishman dying alone in London? Or was that one of the short stories? Certainly wasn't Peig anyway.)
posted by scorbet at 4:34 AM on September 18, 2017

For those playing along at home, Peig is Peig Sayers. I learned about her this week by watching that TV show I mentioned, which begins (amusingly enough now that I know the context) with an animation of her bludgeoning the host. Sounds dreary.
posted by Miko at 5:53 AM on September 18, 2017

Peig phased out of the curriculum a few years before we took our leaving cert, I know my older sister did Peig for her leaving cert. I did mine in 1999 and likewise I haven't a clue what we did.

I started following a lot more Gaelgeoir's on twitter recently and my life has been improved by the preponderance of bilingual puns making the rounds pretty regularly.
posted by TwoWordReview at 8:38 AM on September 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Peig was the inter cert, I thought. I'm old. Whatever awful dreary book they had was probably the leading cause of people leaving school after the Inter cert. And emigration.
posted by fshgrl at 1:34 PM on September 18, 2017

Ah that would make sense and the cut-off was when the inter cert became the junior cert!
posted by TwoWordReview at 2:15 PM on September 18, 2017

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