Here's what I learned:
1.) Spanish infiltrates English speakers in Texas like you have no idea.
I didn't have any idea how much until I began on Irish and failed so utterly when in Spanish I did the first ten sections in like, a day, including repeats when I inexplicably didn't get full hearts in every lesson and I was anal about that. I'd go back and redo ones just to get full hearts and sulk if I missed something. Yes, I do that. Even the most rampant English-only speaker living in a border state cannot help but absorb the principles of the language at least in basic vocabulary.
(Interesting note: you're more likely to pick up a lot of it if you're lower/working class than middle class, due to migrant and undocumented immigrant labor. My dad wouldn't admit it to save his life, but he understood more Spanish than I did since he worked construction and I heard him talking to his coworkers, so come on. My mom didn't pick up much as a caseworker because she worked in a small town, but when I was a clerk and then a caseworker in Austin, my Spanish went high conversational within six months, and I could interview in it fairly well when needed.)
I tested this in French and Portuguese as well: French I can get two sections without noticeable effort (letter combinations start hurting me here), Portuguese three or four (Portuguese sounds to me like Spanish spoken at the back of the throat, and that's the part that throws me off). Irish--three repetitions for one lesson (One. Lesson) to get full hearts and honest to God I sweated through it.
2.) Irish is really different.
Yes, all languages are different, but this is a different-different for me as a primary English speaker and my language familiarity. If you dropped me in Mexico, I could likely fairly quickly get myself food, lodging, a bathroom, and directions to anywhere, and could make some very sketchy jokes with my new friends and probably carry on a fair conversation about my life and times (you'd be surprised how much you know when that's your only language option). If you dropped me in Finland, I could do the same but less conversation and more profanity because my host brother and boyfriend were good about teaching me that. My French would fail, no lie, because French, but I could eventually work out what I needed to say.
In Ireland, should I be without English speakers, Ithim úll, I eat an apple. Ithim an úll, I eat the apple. And I know the 't' will be silent. So I'm good for describing my action with the apple. That's it, and I'm currently I'm on the fourth section. Unless I happen to have a pad of paper and I can totally write out my drink choices sú úll and sú oráiste, apple or orange juice and uisce, water. Go me. I can't say any of them to save my life.
My first cousin is a linguist and polyglot, but all hers are the Romance languages, though she has a working understanding of a few others. If I remember correctly, her waterloos were (forgive generalities), South Asian (specifically I think it was Chinese that threw her off the most, but I can't be more specific). She adapted, but that was where she hit her first serious wall on comprehension, and as this is a woman who was trilingual before she began college and finished her degree in two years, yeah.
If I'm right--and I'm pretty sure I am--mine is anything that uses the alphabet I know in ways I don't understand (goddamn phonics). I still have the entire Cyrillic alphabet effectively memorized and never had a problem reading or understanding Russian at the level that Irish is bothering me. My roommate in college was Syrian-American and was bilingual in Arabic and English, and I never had a problem with what she taught me--this shape makes this sound and those sounds make this word, I could read it later and recognize the word without a major hiccup. (I can't do it now, but at one time I could say several truly indecent things and ask for a beer or water.)
It's like French (fucking French): those letter combinations that don't sound like I think they should (I wrote an essay about me and French) why do you hate me? I blame this on phonics.
3.) Retention is a problem written.
Not Irish to English; that I nail every time. English to Irish is giving me problems, which makes sense. Ithim, itheann, I eat, (he or she) eats isn't hard to recognize. In fact, none of the verb conjugations are hard to recognize and translate, it's just remembering the root and adding the conjugation is because of the slim/broad rule.
This is where I discover I don't like things that are too regular too soon (blame English, we don't do regular, we do exceptions). I don't trust last root vowel matching to get the ending, and I go through, not kidding, a three point series of questions to myself before I finally accept yes, this is a regular freaking verb why are you doing this to yourself? I don't know, but I still have to stop and go okay ith has a 'i' therefore slim ending 'eann' Itheann move on now after point one "what ending goes here, it can't be that simple" and "no, really, it can't be that simple".
This is the 'to eat' verb, for goodness sake. This is how I get an apple in Ireland.
4.) Retention is a huge problem listening.
This is where my phonics training fails until I internalize the letter combination pronunciations (this will take a while, I don't do well at this in my native tongue for fuck's sake)(for which we can blame English stealing all the words)(why didn't English steal more Irish?????????????????).
The secondary problem with this is that this is in beta, and while all the oral uses a real human voice--which is fantastic for clarity, btw, you can easily hear and repeat what they're saying, no problem at all--not all the oral parts are added yet, as this is, again, in beta. So sometimes, you get the word leabhar but not the pronunciation for maybe several questions after that (or a different lesson). Hint: for an English speaker, it sounds nothing like it looks, except that it definitely starts with an 'l' and ends with an 'r'. Uisce, no matter how many times I hear it--and I listened to the same sentence with it in there about a dozen times straight--will not register when I hear it again. Unless it's a sentence about drinking and then I know if it starts with a 'b' it's milk, an 'f' is wine, and the other one is uisce.
5.) My reading retention is shockingly good.
This shouldn't surprise me, but it always throws me a little to realize how textual I really am. And that has been a problem; I can pretty much force-pass the lessons on guesswork on the strength of translating Irish to English and slide by the rest with short-term memorization, but finishing with four hearts every time means I have to pass every question both written and oral and the difference is painfully obvious on how long I spend listening to the same sentence over and over until I can work out the words by more than first letter and context guessing (which also works). Or slowly, painfully pushing English to Irish. And honestly, retention of the sounds has to be a priority, which is annoying me. I'm used to flying through basics and I keep going back to re-run all the early lessons before I start a new one to retain the sounds correctly.
Why I like the beta languages innovations:
The Irish language has portals (this was not there for the other English to X courses) and when you start a new section, there are notes relevant to the lessons below, not limited to the explanation of the slender/broad conjugations, a complete list of pronouns, and some very useful grammar and terminology. I read it, did the lessons several times, read it, did the lessons, and slowly it came together but far better than if it left me on my own (Spanish I don't need it; Irish oh God yes, please). It's super useful once you accept in your heart that no, those letters will not sound like that and live with it.
I wish--desperately--that US schools did more foreign language training, though I do get historically why we didn't and why it's become a thing only recently to start pushing it earlier (Child's school starts in primary, I think).
I will say this: I reward myself with Spanish lessons and boy, I feel smart then. Four hearts, listening, speaking, reading, writing, watch me get all the hearts. Several times, even.
So anyone else try the other beta languages yet? I'm curious about Dutch and Danish. Also, if anyone else ends up in Irish, tell me! Especially how you nailed uisce. Seriously, this is haunting me Why won't it stick?
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