Celebrating Autumn in Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Welsh
Updated: Nov 5
Happy November! I hope you have a fun and safe All Hallows’ Eve and a joyful Samhain. Since Samhain is, in part, focused on honoring the ancestors, I thought it would be appropriate (and fun) to celebrate both the ancestors and autumn by devoting this week’s post to Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Welsh words and phrases about autumn. Below are some autumnal topics and phrases with translations into the three best-known of the six living languages of the Celtic family of languages.
Since Samhain marks the Celtic New Year, I encourage all of you who are descendants of Celtic peoples to consider, as a New Year’s resolution, learning a bit about your ancestral language. I’m not exhorting you to become fluent. Sadly, I'm not. After all, if you live outside of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, it’s not easy to do. The best way to become fluent in a language is to live among and converse with native speakers. For many of us, though, that’s just not an option. I would love to spend a few years, or even a few months, living in one of the Irish Gaeltacht regions, but I don’t have the financial resources to do so.
Still, I have gained some facility in the three languages through Duolingo, a free online language program. Full disclosure: Duolingo is not compensating me at all. I recommend the website because I have used it for years and found it quite easy to learn with. Recently, I discovered Bitesize Irish, a UK-based website that offers a free course in Irish for “absolute beginners.” The website Future Learn, offers free courses (levels 1-4) in Irish as well. Two other resources are Babble and Rosetta Stone. Both have been highly recommended to me by friends. That said neither offers free programs or resources.
Why Learn a Celtic Language?
My first answer to why learn anything will always be because it’s fun! No, seriously. That’s the truth. But, for this topic, I have other reasons too. Celtic culture is important to me as a way of connecting with my ancestors and language is an important ingredient of culture. To get really serious for a moment (just one moment, I promise), all of my great-grandparents came from Ireland. They were discouraged from speaking Irish. Not only were they encouraged to speak English, there was shame associated with speaking Irish. In fact, prior to their generation, the British had made learning and speaking Irish illegal. It's called trying to wipe out a culture. So, it’s important to me to reclaim and pass on my ancestral language. Okay, now that I got that out of my system, another reason to learn one of these languages: being bilingual (or multilingual) is cool and, back to reason # 1, it’s just so doggone fun!
But Aren’t Celtic Languages Really Hard to Learn?
Admittedly, Celtic languages can look intimidating. Irish has all those consonants. Take comhghairdeas (congratulations). And Welsh seems to be nearly devoid of vowels: Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Happy New Year). But once you get used to these languages, you’ll learn patterns that make them easier to deal with. In Irish, just as in English, often those groups of consonants represent one sound (think of the ph in English which makes an f sound). As for Welsh, here’s a little secret: w and y are sometimes vowels.
One other thing that takes a little getting used to for English speakers is the sentence structure in these languages, English speakers are used to subject-verb-object. These languages usually use the structure verb-subject-object. This results in something like this: Itheann na páistí. This translates into English literally as “Eat the children.” Gruesome! But it means, “The children eat.” When I add an object—chocolate—it becomes “Itheann na páistí seacláid” (Eat the children chocolate). This, then, means “The children eat chocolate.” It’s not hard to learn. It just takes a little getting used to.
A Brief Overview of the Celtic Family of Languages
First, it’s important to note that Celtic is not a language. It is a classification of people, a loose collection of tribes, whose culture, scholars say, began to develop as far back as 1200 B.C. They inhabited a large swath of what is now Europe, from the current British Isles as far as modern-day Turkey. They were not one cohesive nation of people, but scholars say they were connected by shared religious beliefs, customs and traditions, and languages that are believed to have to have sprung from one language. This mother language is referred to as Proto-Celtic. From this sprung the Celtic family of languages. Many of these languages have become extinct. The few that have survived and are still spoken today are called the six living languages. These are classified into two groups: Goidelic and Brittonic.
The Goidelic languages are Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Manx. The Brittonic are Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. Cornish and Manx are considered revitalized languages because they actually had died out (people stopped speaking them). People have now begun teaching and learning them in a conscious effort to prevent them from being lost forever. And that’s the biggest reason for those of us of Celtic ancestry to learn about these languages—so they do not disappear from the earth.
Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Celtic Phrases for Autumn
Finally, the good part.
Irish: fómhar Scots: fogar Welsh: hydref
Autumn is here.
Irish: Tá an fómhar anseo. Scots: Tha an fhoghar an seo. Welsh: Mae'r hydref yma.
Autumn is my favorite season.
Irish: Is é an fómhar an séasúr is fearr liom. Scots: Is e foghar an ràithe as fheàrr leam. Welsh: Yr hydref yw fy hoff dymor.
Irish: an fómhar (Yes! The word for autumn means "harvest.") Scots: am fogharadh Welsh: y cynhaeaf
The harvest is done.
Irish: Déantar an fómhar. Scots: Tha am fogharadh air a dhèanamh. Welsh: Mae'r cynhaeaf yn cael ei wneud.
The harvest is abundant.
Irish: Tá an fómhar flúirseach. Scots: Tha am fogharadh pailt. Welsh: Mae'r cynhaeaf yn helaeth.
Irish: fuar Scots: fuar Welsh: oer
Irish: an ghaoth Scots: a' ghaoth Welsh: y gwynt
The wind is chilly.
Irish: Tá gaoth an fhómhair fuar. Scots: Tha gaoth an fhoghair fuar. Welsh: Mae gwynt yr hydref yn oer.
Irish: duilleoga Scots: duilleagan Welsh: dail
The leaves are red, orange, and yellow.
Irish: Tá na duilleoga daerg, oráiste, agus buí. Scots: Tha na duilleagan daer, orains, agus buidhe. Welsh: Mae'r dail yn goch, oren, a melyn.
The autumn leaves are lovely.
Irish: Tá duilleoga an fhómhair álainn. Scots: Tha duilleagan an fhoghair brèagha. Welsh: Mae dail yr hydref yn hyfryd.
Irish: gealach Scots: gealach Welsh: lleuad
Irish: Gealach Lán Scots: làn ghealach Welsh: lleuad llawn
The full moon is bright
Irish: Tá an ghealach lán geal. Scots: Tha a' ghealach lán soillier Welsh: Mae'r lleuad llawn yn llachar.
The harvest moon is pretty.
Irish: Tá gealach an fhómhair go hálainn. Scots: Tha gealach an fhoghair breagha.
Welsh: Mae lleuad y cynhaeaf yn bert.
Irish: mionna Scots: mìosan Welsh: misoedd
October and November
Irish: Deireadh Fómhair agus Samhain Scots: Dàmhair agus Samhain
Welsh: Hydref a Thachwedd.
November skies are grey.
Irish: Tá spéir na Samhna liath. Scots: Tha speuran na Samhna liath. Welsh: Mae awyr Thachwedd yn llwyd.
I prefer October.
Irish: Is fearr liom Deireadh Fómhair Scots: Is feàrr leam Dàmhair. Welsh: Mae'n well gen i fis Hydref
Food and Drink
Irish: Bia agus Deoch Scots: Biadh is Deoch. Welsh: Bwyd a Diod
Would you like coffee?
Irish: Ar mhaith lait caife? Scots: Am bu toil leat cofaidh? Welsh: Hoffech chi goffi?
I prefer tea
Irish: Is fearr liom tae. Scots: Is fheàrr liom tì. Welsh: Mae'n well gen i de.
We drink hot chocolate on chilly days.
Irish: Ólainn muid seacláid te ar laethanta fuara. Scots: Bidh sinn ag òl teoclaith air làithean fuar. Welsh: Mae'n well gen i fis Hydref.
We eat soup for dinner.
Irish: Itheann muid anraithe don dinnéar. Scots: Bidh sinn ag ithe brot airson dinnear. Welsh: Rydyn ni'n bwyta cawl i ginio.
The children eat cinnamon apples.
Irish: Itheann na páistí úlla cainéil.
Scots: Bidh a' chalann ag ithe ùbhlan cinnamon. Welsh: Mae'r plant yn bwyta afalau sinamon.
apple / apples
Irish: úll / úlla Scots.: ùbhal / ùblan Welsh: afal / afalau
I like apples. I eat apples in autumn.
Irish: Is maith liom úlla. Scots: Is toigh leam ùblan. Welsh: Dw i'n hoffi afalau.
I eat apples.
Irish: ithim úlla Scots: Bidh mi ag ithe ùblan. Welsh: Rwy'n bwyta afalau
I eat apples in autumn.
Irish: itheann mé úlla san fhómhar. Scots: Bidh mi ag ithe ùblan as t-fhoghar. Welsh: Rwy'n bwyta afalau yn yr hydref.
Samhain is the Celtic New Year.
Irish: Is é Samhain an Bliain Nua Cheilteach. Scots: Is e Samhain a' Bhliadhn' Ùr Cheilteach. Welsh: Samhain yw'r Flwyddn Newydd Geltaidd.
Happy New Year!
Irish: Athbliain faoi Mhaise Duit! Scots: Bhliadhna Mhath Ùr! Welsh: Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
Irish: Go raibh maith agat. Scots: Tapadh leat. Welsh: Diolch.
Irish: Tá fáilte romhat Scots: 'S e do bheatha Welsh: Croeso
In doing this week’s post, the resources I used to try to ensure my translations were correct were Duolingo, Bitesize Gaelic, and Google Translate. If you are a native or fluent speaker of any of these languages, please use the comment section to let me know if a translation is incorrect. Thanks!
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Slan go foil!