Wednesday, October 21, 2015

English, But Not As You Know It

A couple months ago I read an article on cognitive fitness which encouraged various activities to keep the mind strong and limber: music, exercise, games, acting, and foreign languages, among others.

If you're anything like me, you may lack the time and ability to study a foreign language. But I strongly suspect that many of the same cognitive benefits can come about by working with a different dialect of English. The other day I stumbled upon one: Yola, otherwise known as the Forth and Bargy dialect.

This variant of English was spoken in County Wexford, Ireland. Although it died out in the 19th century, it evolved from Middle English and looks more like the English of Geoffrey Chaucer than modern American English. Those who are interested in the finer workings of pronunciation can find plenty of information online. But for those who simply want to try their hand at reading it, I'd offer the same advice I offer for Chaucer: read it out loud and then just listen to yourself. You might sound like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, but you may find yourself hearing words that you didn't recognize on the page.

Here's a simple example of Yola, with a modern English translation, that I pulled off Wikipedia:

Ee mýdhe ov Rosslaarè
'Cham góeen to tell thee óa taale at is drúe
Aar is ing Rosslaarè óa mýdhe geoudè an drúe
Shoo wearth ing her haté óa ribbonè at is blúe
An shoo goeth to ee faaythè earchee deie too
Ich meezil bee ing ee faaythè éarchee deie zoo
At ich zee dhicka mýdhe fhó is geoudè an drúe
An ich bee to ishólthè ee mýdhe, ee mýdhe at is drúe
An fhó coome to ee faaythè wi' ribbonè blue
'Chull meezil góe to Rosslaaré earche deie too
to zie thaar ee mydhe wee her ribbonè blúe
An 'chull her estólté vor her ribbonè blúe
ee mýdhe at is lyghtzóm, an well wytheen an drúe
Ich loove ee mýdhe wee ee ribbonè blúe
At coome to ee faaythè éarchee arichè too
Fan 'cham ing ee faaythè éarchee arichè too
To estóthè mýdhe wee ee ribbons blúe

The maiden of Rosslare
I'm going to tell you a tale that is true.
There is in Rosslare a maid good and true.
She wears in her hat a ribbon that is blue
and she goes to the faith every day too.
I myself am in the faith every day so
that I see this maid who is good and true
and I go to meet the maid, the maid that is true
and who comes to the faith with ribbons blue.
I myself will go to Rosslare every day too
to see there the maid with her ribbons blue
And I will meet her for her ribbons blue
the maid that is enlightened and good looking and true.
I love the maid with the ribbons blue
that comes to the faith every morning too
when I'm in the faith every morning too
to meet the maid with the ribbons blue.

If that was too easy, you can find a more challenging text here, along with some modern English.

Those interested in learning a bit more about Yola may enjoy this short video: