Conversations With Real Live Bilinguals: Iníon Ní Sinéad Murray

Here with us today is the ever so sharp and sassy Sinéad Murray coming to us from Éire, or for those of you who don’t know Irish Gaelic (world population minus give or take 1.77 million), Ireland!

Sinéad is the third oldest of the six Murray kids, all with traditional Irish names that would make the average American schoolteacher tremble with fear while reading off the attendance sheet on the first day of school: Sean, Roisín, SinéadNiamh, Fiachra, and Peader Óg. Luckily, Sinéad speaks perfect Irish, having attended one of Ireland’s 180 gaelscoileanna (an Irish-medium school) as a child. She just got certified as a primary school teacher in Ireland (congrats!), and so we can rest assured she won’t be having any problems with all the little Siobhans and Cathals running around her classroom. She also likes long walks on the beach, laughing, and movies. World, meet Sinéad!

What’s your name?

Sinéad Murray.

Where were you born?

I was born in Dublin.

What languages do you speak?

Irish, English, and French (and I can count to ten in several other languages 😉 )

Where did you grow up?

Maynooth City, County Kildare, Ireland.

What was going to a Gaelic (Irish-medium) school like?

I absolutely loved my experience of school through the medium of Irish. We spoke Irish so fluently without having to think about it from the early age of 4. When we started off we were allowed to speak in English but the teachers spoke mainly in Irish. We picked it up so quickly that we were probably speaking it within a month or so. It’s crazy to think of that now when I’m trying to teach Irish in an English-speaking school because they have such difficulty with it.

Was it weird switching to an English-speaking high school?

Well when I went to secondary school, I did the first three years through Irish so it was more of what I was used to. There was more and more English used however, so I suppose I was eased into the English-speaking setting when I eventually did everything through English in 4th year. The only thing that was difficult to switch from was Science and Geography because of the scientific terminology but for most of the time, we learned everything through English and Irish.

What language do you think in? Dream in?

I’d love to say that I dream in Irish but I definitely think and dream in English. I don’t get the chance to speak Irish as much as I would like so English is my first language. Sometimes I sleep talk in Irish so maybe I have the odd dream as Gaeilge.

What sort of things do you associate with the Irish language?

Music, fun, school. I’ve always loved Irish and still love the language so I associate it with everything positive. A lot of people in Ireland have a negative view on Irish but I associate the language with everything good about this country. I associate it with culture and art and the history of this country, of course.

What language do you feel most comfortable speaking?

English, but I am very comfortable speaking Irish and speak it whatever chance I get.

Are there certain things in Irish you can’t feel you simply can’t translate into English?

Lots of things! The one that comes to mind straight away is ‘craic’. It simply cannot be translated. You just have to visit Ireland to find out the meaning.

Which language do you speak at home with your family?

I speak English at home. For a while there I was getting a lift to work with my Dad and we spoke Irish to and from but for the most part we speak English.

When you’re speaking Irish in front of other people do you feel like you’re part of a secret club with VIP entry?

Haha yes of course. It’s what I always strive for in life. But really, it is pretty cool being able to speak Irish in a foreign country knowing that 99% of the time, people are not going to know what language you’re speaking. I say 99% of the time as my Mom was caught out one time in NY…but all Americans are Irish I suppose so you do have to be careful 😀

If you become a teacher at an Irish-speaking school do you think you could speak in Irish for 40 hours a week, no problem, or you’ll have to brush up on it a bit?

It would probably take a while to get used to but I think my standard of Irish is at a level that I would be able to slot into that role. Ideally I would love to work in an Irish-speaking school and if I get that chance, I’d probably be nervous in the beginning but I think that after a while, my fluency would come back to me.

What’s your favourite part about being able to speak Irish?

Irish is the official language of Ireland according to the constitution. It’s something that is unique to this country. Speaking the language is in a way saving the language and that’s why I love speaking it. I also love being able to talk about people without them having a clue what you’re talking about. 😀

Can you teach us a word/expression in Irish? What does it mean and why did you choose it?

Inis do Mháire i gcógar é, is inseoidh Máire dó phóbal é. This means, “Tell it to Mary in a whisper and Mary will tell it to the parish.” I chose it because Irish people, especially women, are such gossips at heart. Sure tis’ part of the culture.

A naughty, naughty word please

There aren’t that many ‘naughty’ words in Irish (we’re just that classy) but here are some of my faves

Cac: Shit

Bud: Penis

Bitch: Bitseach

As I said, I’m classy so I would never use such filthy words 😉

Please translate ‘Alice Egan is the American sister I never had” and “The lazy fox jumped over the brown dog”.

Is í Alice Egan an deirfiúr nach raibh riamh agam.

Léim an sionnach leisciúil thar an madra donn.

Any other musings or anecdotes on being one of about 80,000 native Irish Gaelic speakers in the world?

Well first of all, wow, I never knew that figure until now so my mind is blown. Well when I was living in Prague I was amazed to find out that so many Czech people are learning Irish every year. Not only that but students from all over Europe who were on Erasmus were taking classes in Irish. It’s amazing how interested people from all over the world are in our beautiful native language and it goes to show that the language is still being revived. To sum up, it’s a grand ole language. Slán agus beannacht (Farewell and goodbye)! 😀


Thank you Sinéad!


About alicestockwellegan

Language and culture enthusiast from New York living in San Francisco.
This entry was posted in Conversations with Real Live Bilinguals, Culture, Dialects, English, Europe, FYI, Language, Learning Languages, Multilingualism and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Conversations With Real Live Bilinguals: Iníon Ní Sinéad Murray

  1. Pingback: Oh, The Places I’ve Been! | Language and other musings

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