Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Invest in some software, please!

Just a rant (not directly Irish-related) to get something off my chest.

If you were running a university that was composed of 13 colleges spread across most of a country, and had 50 extra "learning centres" spread across that same country, would you not put a bit of money into some timetable scheduling software?

Wouldn't that be a bit better than having administrators at each of your colleges individually sorting out timetables then phoning each other to sort out the one or two students who chose to take a module from one of the other colleges as an option?

My problems at the moment come because one overworked individual didn't notice that I was doing a particular course -- a course that is part of my basic degree pathway.  She shouldn't have needed to notice anything -- that's what we have computers for now.

So I'm probably going to have to pick another module (instead of Irish), but I'm completely stumped because the lack of central timetabling means there's no place where I can go and see which modules are available from other colleges that don't clash with the courses I'm taking already.  So it may well take me another week to work out what to do, and in that time, I'll be getting behind in whichever class I do end up taking.

Sunday, 29 January 2012


Oh dear.  The timetables went up around the college today and there's a bit of a problem -- one of the two periods of Irish clashes with the music course I was also supposed to be doing.  Do I pull out of Irish, or do I attempt it on one hour of teaching plus my own self-study to keep up?  Tricky tricky tricky.

Fáilte... a new start

Irish has been on my hit-list for years.  In fact, when I first started learning Scottish Gaelic, I considered learning Irish instead.  After all, my family's mostly Irish if you go back a few generations.

In the end, two major factors convinced me to start with Scottish Gaelic:
  1. There wasn't a great deal of it, but there was Gaelic on TV here in Scotland, and there was a radio station too.  Having access to material was obviously going to make learning easier.
  2. I'm a bit of a bolshy type, and I was worried that I'd get in into my head that Irish was somehow "correct" and that Gaelic was simply an incorrect form of Irish.
Well, number 1 is no longer an issue.  There's more Scottish Gaelic TV (it's got its own channel, BBC Alba, though a lot of what's on is just repeats), but then TG4 is now available online, with only a few US imports blocked for viewers outside of Ireland.  Raidio na Gaeltachta can also be listened to over the internet, so there's bucketloads of material at my disposal.

As I've got a good amount of Scottish Gaelic under my belt, I'm in no danger of falling into the number 2 trap.  Also, because I studied a fair bit about linguistics and language change at uni, and because I've already learned several languages that are closely related to each other (Spanish, French, Italian and Catalan) I'm quite comfortable with the idea of multiple individual and independent languages arising from a common source, with none being more "correct" than any other.

I had been thinking about picking up Irish properly for a while, and then I discovered that I could take it as an optional model -- I'm studying Scottish Gaelic full-time this year, and the college offers the Gaelic course as a 15-point module (ScotCat points -- a full year equals 120 points).

So, no more excuses.  Term starts tomorrow, and I'm on the course (unless they've messed up the timetabling).  The exams are in the week of the 14th-18th of May, so I've got a well-defined timetable, something that has been lacking for a lot of my self-directed study.

As I understand it, the course is quite academic in its approach, but there's an Irish poet living near the college who is giving conversational Irish classes too, which should be a useful supplement.

There's a very good range of resources in the college library, covering the usual range of learning materials, some heavier specialist linguistics texts about the language, and loads of literature.

As I said, I've got TG4 and RnG on-line that I can access at any time.

I've previously done a little bit of Irish:
  1. Pimsleur's short course -- 8 or 10 lessons (can't remember exactly) at 30 minutes each.
  2. A little reading on the internet, which didn't get me very far but means I at least know what the main tenses are.
  3. A little bit of a discussion of Irish-substrate theory in Hiberno-English as part of my English grammar study.
  4. Pootling around with the first couple of lessons in a flashcard-based piece of software, TeachMe! Irish.
I also used to watch stuff on TG4 from time to time, although I mostly just read the subtitles, as I was really relying on similarities to Scottish Gaelic to keep me going.

So this blog is basically my log for the next 3-and-a-half months, where I'll be keeping track of what I do and how much as I try to get myself a good conversational and written level in the language.  It will serve as a record of what I actually do, rather than merely what I think I do, so that I can better evaluate the correctness of my beliefs, and so that I can adjust my beliefs to better suit reality.

Any suggestions and insights are of course welcome.