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The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 2005- » 2005 (March-April) » Archive through April 03, 2005 » Irish Language & DVD Revisited « Previous Next »

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Mícheál
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Username: Mícheál

Post Number: 19
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Sunday, March 20, 2005 - 08:48 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

No matter what the specific topic centers around at this forum, it seems to me that three streams of thought interlace these discussions. The Irish language is a dying language pursued by those with an academic interest akin to Latin afficionados; the Irish language is holding its own and even blossoming in an increasingly English-dominated world; or some combination of the two, depending on whether one sees the subject in terms of a glass half empty or half full. I believe that any interest in the Irish language is worthwhile.

For example, while waiting on East 45th Street in New York City last Thursday to march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, I roamed through Asahiya Bookstore, a Japanese bookstore, one of several of its kind in New York. I am told that years ago, there was an Irish language store, but that it has closed. Few Irish materials are available in American chain bookstores. If more programs like the University of Notre Dame's increased the number of speakers of Irish, more of a demand for material in the language might result. Of course, we do thankfully have Irish Books & Media, Schoenhof's Foreign Language Bookstore, and the Internet to access items from Ireland, but it would be great to have other outlets.

After the parade, I visited the World Language Center of the New York Public Library. An entire room was devoted to Spanish and large sections were devoted to Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French, Italian, German, Hungarian, etc. In this city of millions of descendants from Ireland, the library had 33 books taking about three linear feet of shelf space in Irish Gaelic. It is common to talk with people who have no idea that the Irish had a language of their own before they became a principally English-speaking country. And there are people in the world who believe that the Irish are British with an accent.

On this day of the parade, however, I did have the opportunity to have a brief conversation in Irish with a person from County Clare. She was sorry to note that much of her Irish was slipping away due to less and less use.

I finally did receive a response from the Irish Film Board politely telling me that the Gearrscannán DVD would not be available for sale, but that they would let me know if it did become available. The worldwide interest was noted. I sometimes think that the interest in Irish studies in America is because learning Irish is not mandatory as it is in Ireland. Some of the Irish friends of our family have questioned why someone like myself would study a language with little relevence in their lives. Others respond by saying how wonderful it is to take part in our heritage. The comments of praise often come with a twinge of quaintness to it all.

Of course, any interest in Irish may not increase the number of native speakers, but since my chances of interweaving daily with people born to the language are rather slim, I will welcome my fellow learners from wherever they hail and however they learn.

Mícheál

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Antaine
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Username: Antaine

Post Number: 279
Registered: 10-2004


Posted on Sunday, March 20, 2005 - 11:39 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

It is, however, a somewhat poor yardstick to look at the state of the language in the US for several reasons:

1) we Americans are notoriously ethnocentric. I teach high school, and would have a hard time finding a student (even in college) who could tell you that German, not "Austrian" is spoken in Austria, or that Dutch and French are spoken in Belgium and not some other tongue twisting concoction resulatant from someone trying not to look dumb when put on the spot. As far as real concrete impact on the modern world through past colonialism or current millions of speakers - Irish is, sadly, an "obscure" language.

2) The languages you mentioned as being present on your excursion above have strong, vibrant (and in some cases *recent*) immigrant communities. I know, I know...so do the Irish *BUT* German or Hispanic immigrants came over speaking the language - most Irish immigrants did not, and those that did tried very hard indeed to forget it.

That having been said, Gaeilge is far from a "healthy" language in the sense that it is spoken widely and by many, and has a large number of people attempting to learn it. Irish seems to be at best "holding its own" for the time being. Make no mistake about it - that is a markèd improvement from the last few centuries and is representitive of a kind of momentum coming back in the other direction. There are many more (and now a whole new market in the 6 counties) that are attempting to pick up at least a conversational grasp, not to mention new approaches to schooling which, imperfect as they may be, hold out some encouragement.

You are very right in stating the differences in approach between voluntary and involuntary students, but my take on it is as follows (for what it's worth):
The langauge is not likely to die out in the near future (100-150yrs) as many have highly political motivation for keeping it alive. However, if it is to survive in any substantive way it needs to grow, and the overall aim should be bilingualism for the country such that is found in the Netherlands. Signage in the Gaeltacht was just redone. I honestly don't think that a plan to move all government papers, forms and proceedings (and signs, schools, etc) to Irish only within, say, 30 years is unreasonable, and would provide a starting point.

The trick is to find the right motivation that either makes it extremely profitable or an absolute necessity to speak, understand and use Irish without engendering resentment - a tall order indeed, but a possible one. The notion of the Gaeltacht reminds me of a quote from National Geographic regarding "cultural preserves" and it is, "It's not fair to tell them they have to live in a museum while we have showers that work." It was talking about southeast asian tribes and whether or not to "preserve" them from westernization. On the one hand, to Westernize them would be to kill their culture and would be doing them a disservice, but on the other hand is it right to decide for them that they should stay in the stone age (literally, in this case)?

Similarly with the Gaeltacht. Drawing lines around it limits it...a sort of "procedes huc et non amplius," if you will... To truly be effective, the whole country needs to be designated a "Gaeltacht" with all requisite benefits and stipends. Irish was so grievously wounded because English became the mark of privilege. Simply make Irish privileged. Don't penalize English useage, but give such benefits to Irish usage that it becomes irresistable. In short, "make 'em an offer they can't refuse..."

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Fear_na_mbróg
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Username: Fear_na_mbróg

Post Number: 467
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 04:44 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I'd still go for advertisements that show Irish people making a show of English people by speaking Irish in their presence, sort of like how the French speak French when they come over to the rugby matches here and we haven't got a clue what they're saying!

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Odriscoll
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Username: Odriscoll

Post Number: 16
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 08:23 am:   Edit Post Print Post

"The trick is to find the right motivation that either makes it extremely profitable or an absolute necessity to speak, understand and use Irish without engendering resentment "

I think you are right on the mark with this statement but we have to recognize that it will be impossible to avoid engendering at least some resentment. I think that here in Canada, New Brunswick is an example of such. It has been officially English/French bilingual for decades now and there is still some resentment harboured from both sides. There are pockets of French-speaking people who believe we haven't done enough and still aren't doing enough to further their language and culture and there are pockets of English who believe that, as much as bilingualism is a lofty goal to reach for, the financial resources of this small province are over-taxed because of the duality required by having two languages. All in all, I think it is working reasonably well. When I left high school with only the little bit of French taught in the core English program, I probably never would have become bilingual had I not recognized that I was less likely to get a very high-paying job without the two languages. Subsequently, my children were sent through a complete immersion program from the time they could talk so they haven't had to struggle with the issue. They just ARE bilingual - no excuses, no regrets.

In Ireland now, is it a requirement for most government or university level jobs to be bilingual? Perhaps this would be a good place to start and phase it in slowly?? There are probably many options, some better than others, none absolutely wrong?

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Aonghus
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Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 1160
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 09:22 am:   Edit Post Print Post

quote:

In Ireland now, is it a requirement for most government or university level jobs to be bilingual?



No. It used to be so (in theory) up to the 1970s. NUI, Galway, is supposed to still be that way; but I'm not sure how much they enforce it.

There is currently even a difficulty finding enough primary teachers (who are supposed to teach the language) who are sufficiently fluent.

I think we need to address the lack of fluent speakers in education and media first, and spread from there.

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Lughaidh
Member
Username: Lughaidh

Post Number: 209
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 10:52 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I fully agree with you, Aonghas. When i was in Ireland I became completely depressive because of that. Young people having studied Irish for ten years and not able to make a single simple sentence, and unable to understand me (I think their teachers weren't from Donegal, which is a bit strange in Ulster). And when Irish is bad-learned from the beginning, then it's very hard for people to change their bad habits (English pronounciation, syntaxic calques, etc).

They should try to employ only traditional speakers (or very good speakers) in Gaelscoileanna, especially with younger children.

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Antaine
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Username: Antaine

Post Number: 280
Registered: 10-2004


Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 11:06 am:   Edit Post Print Post

perhaps a set of state Irish-only education and communications schools, from which all applicants will have to come *unless* they can pass a fluency test - and a stringent one at that. Sort of like a combination of a Gaelscoil and a Magnet school...actually...that might not be a bad idea to do in all fields...

I'm looking into doing my PhD at NUIG, and they seem to be holding up their end of the bargain.

Some parallels can be drawn between french and english speakers in canada, but it is my understanding that those most likely to care what is spoken and where view the other side as "Other" with a capital O. There is no movement for an independant Gaeltacht, with catchy license plates that read "cuimhneoidh mé." Like the Breton in France, many look at the french speakers either as an oppressed people after the capture of Acadia or are uncomfortable with an unassimilated group. Resentment builds up there for reasons that don't carry over to Ireland questions.

Irish resentment (and you can never please all of the people all of the time) can mostly be stemmed by ensuring people don't feel they are forced to learn a "dead or dying" language with no useful application in the real world. Let's give it some application...most would remember enough from school to read headers on form fields (ainm, seoladh, &c) so lets start there. Tax forms? Irish only. University application forms? Irish only. Government proceedings from the local to national level (up for debate when courts could be phased into this)? Irish only. etc.

As long as people can participate fully and get along just fine in Ireland only speaking English there will never, EVER be sufficient motivation for wide scale learning of Irish.

Again I bring up the Netherlands. There is such an exorbitant percentage of those fluent in English, for the sake of dealings with the world the country could easily go over to English. But they haven't and they won't. Dutch is not widely studied outside of the Netherlands...those looking for a second language worldwide (or even just in Europe) will tend to opt for english, french, german and possibly even russian or italian LONG before they consider the need to learn dutch.

Ireland needs dealings with countries other than england - non-english-speaking countries, and alot of them, such that learning a single foreign langauge won't help. Then maybe the grip english holds over the minds and pockets of the Irish can begin to be loosened...

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Aonghus
Member
Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 1163
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 12:02 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

quote:

Ireland needs dealings with countries other than england - non-english-speaking countries, and alot of them, such that learning a single foreign langauge won't help. Then maybe the grip english holds over the minds and pockets of the Irish can begin to be loosened



The problem is that English is pretty much the lingua franca at the moment - there are few foreigners who deal with Ireland who are not at least moderately competent.

This will change as China becomes the economic superpower, but I'm not exactly looking forward to that.

Consider that we currently have a Finn and a Breton posting here, neither of whom has too much difficulty in dealing in English...

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Antaine
Member
Username: Antaine

Post Number: 281
Registered: 10-2004


Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 12:06 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Latin was once the lingua franca for most of europe, the middle east and north africa, as was greek before it.

the only constant is change.

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Aonghus
Member
Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 1164
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 12:11 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Sin é. Ach níor scuab an Laidin an Ghaeilge chun siúl.



Milis an teanga an Ghaedhealg,
Guth gan chabhair choigcricíche,
Glór, géar-chaoin, glé, glinn, gasta
suairc, séimhidhe, sult-bhlasta.
Gide Eabhra teanga is seanda,
gide laidean is léigheanta,
uatha uirthi níor frith linn
fuaim nó focal de chomhainn.
Seathrún Céitinn.

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'dj@ks
Unregistered guest
Posted From: 159.134.221.234
Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 12:11 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

"This will change as China becomes the economic superpower, but I'm not exactly looking forward to that"
-Aonghus

Yep. Knocks learning irish into a hat for difficulty. I don't think 'reading and listening before you speak' will be an initial option there.

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Lughaidh
Member
Username: Lughaidh

Post Number: 214
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 03:57 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Aonghas > Jonas and me are postgraduate students, and in most European countries postgraduate students know English. It doesn’t mean that most Breton, French or Finn people know English. I dunno for Finland but most people in France just know a couple of English words (with a very bad accent) and sentences. :-)

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Jonas
Member
Username: Jonas

Post Number: 660
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 - 05:21 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

"Consider that we currently have a Finn and a Breton posting here, neither of whom has too much difficulty in dealing in English..."

Go raibh maith agat, a chara. At the same time, neither Lughaidh nor I think too highly of English - precisely because it is the lingua franca (I love speaking English in England) and thus the de facto killer of too many languages.



"Aonghas > Jonas and me are postgraduate students, and in most European countries postgraduate students know English. It doesn’t mean that most Breton, French or Finn people know English. I dunno for Finland but most people in France just know a couple of English words (with a very bad accent) and sentences. :-)"

Well, it's a bit different here. It would be hard to find many people under 40 in Helsinki who could not carry out at least a basic conversation in English, and most could discuss quite fluently. My grandparents can't speak a word of English and in my parents' generation only the educated can speak it, but it's different now. Most younger people are rather fluent. In their newest guid to Europe, Lonely Planet even gives English as an official language for the UK, Ireland, Malta and... yup, Finland :-( Most Scandinavians converse freely in English, and I'm not saying it out of some nationalistic pride in our language abilities; I'm afraid we'll be the first ones after the Irish to loose our national languages. :-(



"1) we Americans are notoriously ethnocentric. I teach high school, and would have a hard time finding a student (even in college) who could tell you that German, not "Austrian" is spoken in Austria, or that Dutch and French are spoken in Belgium and not some other tongue twisting concoction resulatant from someone trying not to look dumb when put on the spot. As far as real concrete impact on the modern world through past colonialism or current millions of speakers - Irish is, sadly, an "obscure" language. "

Antaine, I can agree that some Americans can at times seem rather etnocentric, but I'm afraid Europe cannot take pride in its education either. The number of highly educated people in Finland and Sweden who think Irish and Welsh are English with an accent is just embarrasing. I've even had a university graduate in linguistics(!) claiming that both Irish and Welsh have been extinct for quite some time now... And while I've never heard anyone talk about an "Austrian" or "Belgian" language, I can guess the number of people thinking that Spanish is the language of Brazil must be very high indeed. People generally think Romanian is Slavic. When my mother was a guest lecturer in France, she used to start her lectures by asking what the two official languages of Finland are. Never once did she receive the correct answer. I could go on for a long time, but I'll end with my favourite example. During my first summer in Ireland, I had an Irishman telling me
"So, you're from Finland... That must mean you're fluent in... [pause]... Phoenician."

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Aonghus
Member
Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 1165
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 05:26 am:   Edit Post Print Post

France is a strong monoglot country. The same is true of Germany. In both these countries you would have trouble getting by with over 40s in English.

In the rest of Europe, I think you would have no difficulty (at least in cities) getting by with English.

I currently work with companies from all over Europe - the technical documents are written in (a new form of) English.

(I'm actually glad I speak German and can read French - otherwise I'd be pretty confused by some of the "English" I read).

But I think that national languages in Europe will survive, at least until the civil services stop using them. If national languages are forced into the purely domestic/cultural area, they will die.

See also this review, which was mentioned in foinse
http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/history/0,6121,1436277,00.html

quote:

There's an old linguist's joke that a language is a dialect with an army, but the material in this book suggests that the real key to survival is for a language to be a dialect with a civil service


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'dj@ks
Unregistered guest
Posted From: 159.134.221.139
Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 10:39 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Aonghus,
very interesting. Contingency and context and social change effecting the destinies of langues, if I read correct. It is a better arguement than the nonscense ones to the tune that minority langues (Welsh or Irish, for example) would put one at a disadvantage intellectually.

How is/was the civil service interaction in your home gaeltacht, Aonghus? If there are other cainteoirí duchais anseo, and if you have read down this far (!), has there been an improvement in goverment seirbhisí?

PS
Since langue is natural, and consciousness appears available to the child before it is born (based on the arguement requisite brain architecture enables it from the 6th month of gestation onwards) thinking elequently could be said to be dependant on some natural ability and good training. If a langue had poor written material, then it might be a bad resource academically, but that is not the same as it been 'bad for you' as Irish has been accused of.

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Aonghus
Member
Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 1168
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 11:12 am:   Edit Post Print Post

quote:

How is/was the civil service interaction in your home gaeltacht, Aonghus



I live in Wicklow! The only interaction I have with the civil service is PAYE (ÍMAT). I had to write them a threatening letter last year, but otherwise I've had no problems since I came back in 2000.

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'dj@ks
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Posted From: 159.134.220.63
Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 01:29 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Aonghus,
opps! I knew from the post about speaker's corner that you had access to Dublin, only I also thought you were originally from a particular gaeltacht.

As for beurocracy in langue aid, I'll tell of a local context:
In the 90's Leitrim County Council promoted Irish shop signs with the result that in my local village of ballinamore 2 pubs, 1 music shop, 1 gift shop, and a café have titles as gaeilge. Its only 5, but with the added ability of the county council to talk about issues on the phone in Irish, it shows that local governance can be a lot more responsive to the wishes of people on the ground.

Most new developments in the county are in Irish,(Dún na Bó, An Cuan, Sean Bhealach, An Mhanistir, Lis Cara, etc) even if some are of a dubious grammar.

The primary school in ballinamore wanted to go to Gaeilge only, but the teachers union stepped in to prevent it.

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Mícheál
Member
Username: Mícheál

Post Number: 20
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 01:52 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Go raibh maith agaibh!

All your comments to my original post have been very interesting to ponder. This site is great for learning Irish and for learning about how people around the world feel about learning languages. I wish that I could visit all of the places mentioned. As the American poet Robert Frost once said: "The best things and best people rise out of their separateness; I'm against a homogenized society because I want the cream to rise."

Bain sult as,

Mícheál

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Aonghus
Member
Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 1170
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 03:46 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I was born, bred and buttered in Dublin. By I (and my father before me) was raised speaking Irish.

My Great grandfather started to learn Irish, and was among the early members of Conradh na Gaeilge; my grandfather went to Com Dhineoil (Corca Dhuibhne)to learn Irish.

There are quite a few people who are second, third or fourth generation speakers of Irish who have no direct family connection to the Gaeltacht.

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Peadar_Ó_gríofa
Member
Username: Peadar_Ó_gríofa

Post Number: 166
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 04:58 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

English-language postings on the web have dropped below 50 per cent of total traffic and Spanish is now the majority language of the US.
http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/history/0,6121,1436277,00.html

Um, yeah, right.

Peadar Ó Gríofa

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'dj@ks
Unregistered guest
Posted From: 159.134.221.198
Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 05:23 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Aonghus,
what's da st@raí bud? Ya, and there are lineages who seem to learn Irish anew each generation but not pass it on (but granted the two prior genertions related to me involved priests its no wonder!). I intent, myself, to do the patriotic duty and ensure healthy tranmission. Oh, and a bit of Irish too...

Peadar,
are they speaking Spanish in Alabama? My cousins sure don't agree....

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Peadar_Ó_gríofa
Member
Username: Peadar_Ó_gríofa

Post Number: 167
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 05:25 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I'd be pretty confused by some of the "English" I read

I did a Google search for the phrase "for the done work" just now and found this nice piece:
http://www.germandentalcenter.ru/eng/information.15.shtml

Peadar Ó Gríofa

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'dj@ks
Unregistered guest
Posted From: 159.134.221.151
Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 06:42 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Did a machine translate that? In "Because our specialists are not only responsible for the done work, but also want to justify the money and time you spent" I want them to finish the clause, but they don't. I'm feeling frustrated. I'll go beat a dictionary.

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Antaine
Member
Username: Antaine

Post Number: 283
Registered: 10-2004


Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 06:54 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Peadar...now, now...87% of all given statistics are simply made up on the spot, 76% of all people know that...that's why I never let internet statistics bother me too much...

;o)

'dj@ks....I agree with you whole heartedly on the whole "duty" aspect of it...

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Peadar_Ó_gríofa
Member
Username: Peadar_Ó_gríofa

Post Number: 168
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 08:56 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

"My cousins sure don't agree....
....with my banjo on my knee."

Peadar Ó Gríofa

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Peadar_Ó_gríofa
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Username: Peadar_Ó_gríofa

Post Number: 169
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 09:05 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Results 1 - 7 of about 24 for "spanish in alabama". (0.90 seconds)

Your search - "español en alabama" - did not match any documents.

Results 1 - 1 of 1 for "español de alabama". (0.55 seconds)

Your search - "castellano en alabama" - did not match any documents.

Peadar Ó Gríofa

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Aonghus
Member
Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 1172
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - 04:13 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Dj@ks;

That passage is a good example of the kind of thing I often see in technical documents.

"the done work" is good german, but bad english!

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Aonghus
Member
Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 1174
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - 04:24 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Also, the meaning of responsible is slightly different in German. Responsible could mean "take pride in" - so the clause would be closed.

And it may be different again in Russian - I don't know whether the person who wrote that was a russian or german speaker. I doubt it is a machine translation, though.



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