04 June 2010

When knowledge of a second language is beneficial....

I know I've posted this a few years ago but I'm feeling lazy.....

In an earlier age
I'm sure that my father could have been a seanachai – a traditional story. If there's one thing he likes to do it's talking and he has a mine of stories. One period of his life he likes to talk about now is his time in the RAF during WWII (but go back 25 years and he was rather tight lipped about his experiences). Joinging the RF in 1941 at the age of 15 (with a doctored Irish birth certificate) he trained as a bomber navigator and was flying on operations over Germany when he was just 16.

By 1944 he found himself based for a short while near Cairo before heading to Iraq and finally Burma. One day he was in Cairo minding his own business, looking in looking in a shop window. As a result he did not see two officers pass. The first he knew was when he was accosted by a Sergeant and a Corporal of the Military Police who were following the officers and putting anyone who did not salute them on a charge. Although he outranked the MPs as a Warrant Officer he knew he would be reported to his CO if he spoke. But he knew he had to say something so he said:

“Ár n-Athair atá ar neamh, Go naofar d'ainim, Go dtagfadh do ríocht Go ndéantar do thoil ar an talamh mar a dhéantar ar neamh.” The MPs looked puzzled so he carried on: “Ár n-arán laethúil tabhair dúinn inniu, agus maith dúinn ár bhfiacha mar a mhaithimidne dár bhféichiúna féin Ach ná lig sinn i gcathú, ach saor sinn ó olc”

The MPs looked at each other, one said “he must be a Pole or something” and walked off. When he got back to base he told his CO, a Wing Commander (equivlanet to an army Lt Colonel) and another Irishman who laughed like a drain: dad had recited the Lord’s Prayer in Gaelic at the MPs.

His had heard of these officers and their stupid little antic of putting men on charge for not saluting them and declared he would go to Cairo, find them and “have the bastards saluting him till their fecking arms dropped off”. (Nb the "e" in fecking replaces a vowel that comes rather later in the alphabet

I suppose the moral of the story is that knowledge of another language is useful....Ah well, it’s amusing when dad tells the story!

13 comments:

Stan said...

Great story, Jams! That was quick thinking on your father's part — he sounds like quite a character.

Coincidentally, I saw a short video earlier of the actor/seanchaí Eamon Kelly. Might be worth a post, when I get a chance...

Sean Jeating said...

Great story. Oops, just notice(d) I am repeating Stan.

So here's the story of rather an amusing advertisement that is contradicting your conclusion that even knowledge of several knowledge languages is not necessarily useful.
Some old men silently sitting on a bench. Appears a stranger asking his way in English. No reply. He tries again in French. No reply. Italian. No reply. Russian. No reply.
The stranger gives up, disappears. Says one of the old men: 'This man knew many languages.' - Says his neighbour: 'Yes. And what did it help him?'

Kind regards to the seanachie.

jams o donnell said...

Gald you like this story.

A charachter Stan? Wekll he is a Corkman!

A great story Sean!

Claudia said...

I love your dad, Jams. And your story, Sean.

I can say a lot in French and English, and a bit with the Crees and the Inuits. But being a woman, I found that the less I say, the sweeter I am.

Sean told me that when he praised Taciturnity (Omnium, July 23, 2008.) Binn béal'na chomhnuidhe.
The mouth that speaks not is sweet to hear.


I took the hint very seriously.

James Higham said...

Ní tír gan teanga, Jams.

Claudia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Claudia said...

Jams - I just tried to put a link to Sean's post "In Praise of Taciturnity." I failed. Will practise again another day.

jams o donnell said...

Or in this case no charge without a language James!

I am extremely fortunate to have the parents I have Claudia but it's a good story.

Sean is right that silence is golden. I should shut up more and them people would think me intelligent!

As for the link thanks for trying!

Sean Jeating said...

Ha ha ha, Jams. Glorious response re taciturnity!
[Don't know yet when I'll be able to stop chuckling]

jams o donnell said...

I do have a habit of not knowing when to stop talking Sean!

susan said...

Excellent story.

jams o donnell said...

Thanks Susan!

jams o donnell said...

Why thanks BB!