Irish Language Blog

An Bhfuil Gaeilge / Béarla / Fraincis / Rúisis / Sínis / Tliongáinis / Ceatsuais Agat? Posted by on Aug 17, 2009 in Irish Language

The recent discussion of language, whether Tliongáinis or Fraincis, suggests another popular topic among language learners – what languages do you know?  Any such discussion can range from the standard questions to those off “an bealach buailte” (the beaten track).  Sometimes I do think that the bealach “neamhbhuailte” will be pretty well “buailte” by the time I’m done with it though!


A key point regarding these questions is the traditional structure: An bhfuil Gaeilge agat?  Do you know Irish?  lit.  Is Irish at you?  This is the same basic structure used to show possession in Irish (cf. Tá carr agam, I have a car, lit. A car is at me).  Although I don’t hear it so much lately, this notion of “having” Irish also appears in English, in statements like, “I haven’t got the Irish.”  That’s what Fiona says at one point to her seanathair in the film, The Secret of Roan Inish, a film, which, by the way, has some great flashback scenes in Irish. 


As for the “the” in the phrase, “I haven’t got the Irish,” it was traditional to use the definite article with language names, at least with Irish itself.  I don’t hear that so much lately either.  If you do use the definite article, it will trigger lenition in many cases, as most language names are feminine (Béarla, for English, being one major exception).  For example: Fraincis, An Fhraincis; Sínis, an tSínis (that’s the s -> ts variation of lenition, Ceatsuais, An Cheatsuais, but An Béarla, srl. 


It is, of course, perfectly reasonable to ask, An labhraíonn tú Gaeilge?  Do you speak Irish? 


So, here are a few questions for starters.  Can you figure what the languages are?  In most cases, the ending that indicates a language name is –“is” or “-ais.”  If anyone wants to send in some answers, it would be interesting to see what other languages are spoken by lucht leanúna an bhlag seo. 


An bhfuil Gaeilge agat?                                        Tá / Níl


An bhfuil Spáinnis agat?                                      Tá / Níl


An labhraíonn tú Rúisis?                                     labhraím / ní labhraím


An bhfuil Béarla agat?                                          Tá / Níl


An bhfuil Caistílis (Spáinnis Chaistíleach) agat?       Tá / Níl


An labhraíonn tú Ceatsuais?                              labhraím / ní labhraím       


An bhfuil Svahaílis agat?                                     Tá / Níl


An bhfuil Laidin agat?                   B’fhéidir:       Tá Laidin agam ach ní labhraím í. 


And finally, since I can’t resist,

An bhfuil Tliongáinis agat?                     Tá, beagán. OR  Níl, níl Tliongáinis ar bith agam. 

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  1. Eoghan:

    Béarla ‘unintelligible utterings’; with metathesis > BéaRLa. When first encountered, English was a gibberish to the ears of the Irish.

  2. Róislín:

    Go raibh maith agat as scríobh, a Eoghain. Is iontach an rud an mheititéis, nach ea! An bhfuil “Gibris” againn freisin, mar sin?

  3. E:

    Ar ndóigh, BéaL Rá > BéaRLa ata i gceist agam,

    Sampla eile den mheititéis is ea Easpag < Episcopus na Laidine

  4. Liam:

    An bhfuil Gaeilge gat? Tá mé ag foghlaim Gaeilge.

    An bhfuil Spáinnis agat?
    Tá beagán Spáinnis agam.

    An labhraíonn tú Rúisis?
    Labhraím beagán Rúisis, freisin.

    An bhfuil Béarla agat?

    An bhfuil Caistílis (Spáinnis Chaistíleach) agat?
    Tá beagán. (My Spanish teacher taught Castillano.)

    An labhraíonn tú Ceatsuais?
    Ní labhraím

    An bhfuil Svahaílis agat?
    Tá beagán Svahaílis agam. (My mother was learning Swahili, and some of it spilled onto her children).

    An bhfuil Laidin agat?
    B’fhéidir: Tá beagán Laidin agam ach ní labhraím í.

    An bhfuil Tliongáinis agat?
    Níl, níl Tliongáinis ar bith agam. (That’s my son’s fine ambition, though, to learn Tliongáinis).

  5. Róislín:

    Obair mhaith, a Liam! GRMA!

    Pointe beag: an tuiseal ginideach i bhfrásaí mar “beagán X,” “mórán X,” “ag labhairt X,” agus “ag foghlaim X.” Sna sampla seo, cuireann tú an litir “-e” ag deireadh an fhocal. Mar sin:
    beagán Spáinnise, mórán Rúisise, ag foghlaim Svahaílise, ag labhairt Laidine. Ádh mór do do mhac agus é ag foghlaim Tliongáinise! – R

    P.S. Níl aon athrú do na focail “Gaeilge” agus “Béarla” don tuiseal ginideach, mar tá guta (vowel) ag an deireadh.

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