Dedicated to the Gaelic Language of the Isle of Man

Gaelg as mish: October

I’ve always been fascinated by language; words like chocolate and hockey are just nice words to say and hear.  Foreign languages have always intrigued me and the way in which the language that you speak influences the person that you are.  I can remember sitting with the song lyric book from a CD meticulously studying the words to the same song written in Spanish and English trying to match words and compare phrases. 

I wanted to understand the song with the message that it was originally intended to express, although I could understand the story by listening to the English version, the original Spanish was always more beautiful to listen to, the rhyme and rhythm were natural and the sentiment somehow more genuine.  As much as it was important to me to understand those songs exactly as they were written I have also always enjoyed being lost in language. 

I could spend a long time sitting outside a cafe in a foreign country listening to life around me and watching the everyday interactions of people happening as they would in English but with a slightly different emphasis.  The small variation put there by the cultural but also the linguistic differences.  The way we use language influences our life style but equally the way we live shapes our language.  The joy of learning Manx is that the discoveries I make about the nuances of the language are discoveries about my heritage, my culture and my people and not somebody else’s.  The songs I enjoy translating now are Manx songs that are not only beautiful to listen to but mean so much more to me as they describe contemporary and traditional aspects of my own country and its values.

 I began learning Manx as a child at primary school and then picked it up again as an adult when I discovered that I could learn informally, for free at coffee shops and local meeting groups. I have met such a diversity of fascinating people from the Island and around the world.  Although our initial reasons for learning Manx may be different we very quickly become united when we are bitten by the same bug. Gaining the ability to communicate in a second tongue has a certain exhilaration anyway but combine that with all the little ‘eureka’ moments when words, phrases and place names that you have used (or misused) for years suddenly hold meaning and gravity, add in a cup of coffee and slice of cake at 9 o’clock on a weekday morning and you have a recipe for addiction! 

Unfortunately, this addiction is further fuelled by the fact that Manx is a language that can actually be used on a daily basis.  Other languages that I have learned, even to quite competent levels, have regrettably been forgotten as their use is limited to sporadic trips to the relevant country.  I use my Manx every day at home, at the school gates, music performances, playgroups, cafes, shops and countless social events. 

I wonder now how I ever managed as one of the minority of the world’s population who can only use one language, as with the Spanish songs I used to listen to, sometimes there just isn’t a good enough translation and I find myself using Manx to communicate my true feelings.  Learning Manx is yindyssagh erskyn towse! 

Published: Thu, 01 Jan 1970