18 May 2011

JFK's top tip for impressing foreign audiences works well for the Queen in Dublin

"A hUachtarain agus a chairde" ["President and friends"]

Not quite "Ich bin ein Dubliner", perhaps, but the Queen's speech at the state banquet in Dublin Castle last night got off to a very good start by the simple device of following John F Kennedy's top tip for speeches to foreign audiences, namely use a few words in the local language.

The applause might have been slightly delayed (by one second) because there were so few in the audience who actually speak Gaelic. But, once they realised what it was, the ovation was enthusiastic enough to last considerably longer (by three seconds) than the 'normal' burst of eight seconds.

Given that so many of us native English speakers are so hopeless at giving speeches and lectures in any other language but English, it's not too difficult to mug up a few appropriate words from a phrase book as an opener. And, in my experience, it invariably goes down well enough with audiences to have been well worth the effort.

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Anonymous said...

'The applause might have been slightly delayed (by one second) because there were so few in the audience who actually speak Gaelic.'

I think you might be surprised. Most Irish people have at least a rudimentary grasp of their language, and would easily recognize A hUachtarain agus a chairde.

Max Atkinson said...

Thanks to Anonymous (or should it be O'Nonymous?) for this info - on which I'm happy to stand corrected. My false assumption was based on conversations with a hilarious taxi driver from Dublin airport into the city. I hadn't expected street names and road signs to be in two languages and asked him if a lot of people spoke Irish/Gaelic. "Oh no," he replied most of us are still finding it difficult enough to speak English".

This was the first in a long line of comedy patter from him, which impressed me so much that I almost invited him to come and join in as a tutor on the course I was about to run. The only reason I didn't was because I didn't know the clients well enough to know if they'd be willing to fork out a few Euros for the service...

Anonymous said...

I went to a Catholic grammar in Northern Ireland, and Irish was mandatory to O level, (that dates me a bit). In the republic, an A level in Irish nominally counted as two A levels, to encourage youngsters to continue their studies.

Also a certain level of proficiency was prerequisite for nearly every public sector job in the republic.

Max Atkinson said...

Anon: Interesting - and news to me. If competence is as widespread as that, it raises the intriguing question of why announcements in Irish on Aer Lingus flights are tape-recordings, which I'd assumed was because the cabin crew weren't up to speaking it themselves.

Meanwhile, some comments via Twitter from Damien Mully (@damienmullley) of Cork are worth reporting:

"Fluent Irish? More people speak Chinese. We'd know those few words though. If the queen spoke more than those we'd be banjaxed"

"but you know, she probably used a Munster dialect, would have confused the Dubs at it"

And his explanation of the delayed applause? "Judging by Twitter, they were in shock/impressed"