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Do you understand? How to answer…

January 23, 2019

If you’re asked: A bheil thu a’ tuigsinn? or A bheil sibh a’ tuigsinn?  you might want to answer:

  • Tha mi ‘tuigsinn (HAH me TOOK shin) I understand.


  • Chan eil mi ‘tuigsinn (CHAH NYELL mee TOOK shin) I don’t understand.

In a lesson long ago and far away, we learned that there is no ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in particular in Gaelic. You can’t just reply, ‘Yes’ to a question. You reply with tha mi, which is technically is me (or am I) and the verb to which you are agreeing. So:

Tha mi ‘tuigsinn, literally, Am I understanding, or, as we’d order the words in English: I am understanding.

Chan eil is the negative, hence a rough translation is: I am not understanding.


Do You Understand?

January 22, 2019
  • A bheil thu a’ tuigsinn? (ah VALE oo uh TOOK shin?) Do you understand, informal
  • A bheil sibh a’ tuigsinn? (ah VALE SHEEV uh TOOK shin?) Do you understand, formal singular or plural


Bon Voyage

January 21, 2019
  • Turas math dhut! (TOOR us mah ghoot) Good journey to you! (informal singular)
  • Turas math dhuibh! (TOOR us mah ghOO iv) Good journey to you! (plural or formal singular)

The OO in TOOR is going to be somewhere between the U in PURE and OO in POOR.

The R is ‘rolled’ so you get a bit of a D sound at the end of the word–but not quite!

Down the Long Rabbit Hole

January 19, 2019

The fun (and frustration) of learning a language (or any learning really) is that you can (and do!) end up distracted by and going down all sorts of rabbit holes (which is sort of like all these phrases in parentheses, but more time-consuming (and much more interesting!))

So in looking for ways to wish someone a nice meal, I found the phrase given yesterday:

Làmh fhada is cead a sìneadh!

While the other two phrases given on my secret source are straight forward in their translation (Ith gu leòir! and Ith do shàth! are, respectively, eat plenty! and eat your fill!), this one is not.

I find it repeated endlessly on other sites about Gaelic, but nowhere do I find an explanation of what it actually means. So (remembering that I’m a learner,too) I’ve broken it down myself. At the very least, we learn a lot about words and how they’re used by doing so.

Depending which definition we take, it comes out something like:

Hand long is permission to lengthen.

But keep in mind that adjectives follow nouns in Gaelic, so we can at least make a little more sense of it:

A long hand is permission to lengthen.

Or maybe A long handle and permission to stretch out.

The definition given at FACLAIR is simply: enjoy your meal, or bon appetit, or tuck in.

So let’s take it as a chance to look at the meanings of some words within the phrase:


  • hand, handle

fada (fhada is the lenited form of this word)

  • long, far, lanky or tall
  • fairich an ùine fhada: to be bored (but I think we can rule out that the phrase is wishing boredom with one’s meal!)


  • be/is
  • and


  • right
  • approval
  • permission
  • farewell, leave-taking

a sìneadh:

  • act of stretching out, drawing out, extending
  • act of prolonging
  • act of adjourning
  • putting off
  • act of beginning, starting
  • length (of a vowel or consonant) (I’m sure that is not the meaning we want in this phrase, unless maybe we’re talking about having to eat our words?)

My best guess (and if there’s a fluent Gaelic speaker out there, please chime in!) is that it means something like:

May you have a long handle (ladle, serving spoon) and (I give you full) permission to stretch (it) out (into all the delicious food!)

This seems to me like a great Bon Appetit!

Bon Appetit…in Gaelic

January 18, 2019
  • Ith gu leòir! (EEch goo looor) Eat plenty or Eat much!
  • Ith do shàth! (EEch doh HAH) Eat your fill!
  • Làmh fhada is cead a sìneadh! (LAHV AH da iss KEE id ah SHIN eh) This is apparently an idiom, as the literal translation is something like A long hand (or handle) is permission to lengthen (or stretch out).

Note the word shàth: it is the lenited form of sàth, which means plenty, abundance, fill, enough (of meat or drink), surfeit, satiety, depending which dictionary you look at.

As a side note to the note, it can also mean push, thrust, stick into, stab, pierce.

Pronunciation: leòir is pronounced with a sound made with somewhat of a rounded mouth, to land on a vowel halfway between U in LURE and O in LORE. If you’ve studied German, you know this sound. And never forget the Rs are rolled, so it could also be written as LOOOD, but as you can see from the above, that wouldn’t give quite the right sound…at all.

Another Note (C# this time perhaps?): Tomorrow’s post will take us through the dictionary meanings of the words in the last phrase.

Phrases: To Toast!

January 17, 2019

I’m a little late for offering good health as a New Year’s toasts (but hey, having studied New Year’s throughout history, is it fair to say…It’s New Year’s somewhere?

In all seriousness, I teach many Vietnamese students and can tell you that both the Vietnamese and Chinese New Year are coming soon on February 5. If you don’t learn the phrases by then, the Lao New Year is on April 12.

  • Slàinte! (SLAHN chuh) health
  • Slàinte mhath! (SLAHN chuh VAH) Good health!
  • Slàinte mhor! (SLAHN chuh VOHR) Great health!

Please note that this CH is not underlined, and is therefore the CH as in CHURCH. (The first or the last CH of the word–take your pick.)

And for the over achievers, here’s a long string of words! Of course, many of them will be familiar to you by now:

  • Slàinte mhor a h-uile là a chi ‘s nach fhaic (SLAHN chuh VOHR a HOOL uh LAH a cheez NAHCH AIK) Great health to you every day I see you
    and every day I don’t.

It IS Your Lucky Week!

January 16, 2019

And a third way to wish someone luck.

  • Piseach! (PIH shech) informal
  • Piseach mhath ort! (PIH shech VAH orsht)  informal
  • Piseach mhath oirbh! (PIH shech VAH OR iv) formal/plural

A reminder about pronunciation:

  1. The ch  is pronounced in the back of the throat, like the CH in the German ich.
  2. Rs are rolled. So oirbh would be pronounced something like OD iv, but of course to write that would also not be completely accurate.
  3. It is impossible to notate pronunciations exactly in phonetic language.
  4. In my pursuit of language and pronunciation across the web, even for a language with as relatively few speakers as Scottish Gaelic, there are differences in dialect and pronunciation.
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