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Speaking the Language

When you only have two weeks of vacation you have weigh a number of factors when choosing a destination. Will you like the food? Is the climate comfortable? How long is the flight? Many of us strive to get just the right balance between adventure and convenience. That's why the United Kingdom seems attractive. It's easy to get to, kind of like home and, most importantly, they speak the same language...except when they don't. The Savvy Traveler's Adam Fowler explains.

Speaking the Language
by Adam Fowler

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Bobbie Burns

"Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O' what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an chase thee
Wi murd'ring pattle!"

So you don't think you need to pack a phrasebook when you visit the United Kingdom. Well, if you plan to venture far from England and into the Celtic nations of Ireland, Wales and Scotland, think again. Not that everybody in Scotland talks like Robert Burns. Some people in the south of the country speak like Suzi.

Suzi: "In the Scottish borders, if you meet somebody and you know them, you might say, 'Hi, how'r ye dae'in.' And if they're doing OK they'll say, 'Aye, canna complain."

And that's just dialect. Many of the words are English, or closely related to English. So, the chances are, after a while, you'll be able to communicate without too much trouble. Until your travels take you farther afield, that is, to the more remote corners where you could bump into people speaking an entirely different language. Like Clare in Northern Ireland, for instance, who might greet you in Gaelic.

Clare: "Conas tá', that means how are you. 'Táim go maith'. That means I'm very well."

Or if you make it to Wales, famous for male voice choirs and friendly locals like Julie.

Julie: "Dia duit ar maidin'. How are you today. 'Tá mé go breá. Go raibh maith agat. Conas tá?' I'm fine thanks, how about you?"

So, you've collected a small travel library: How to Speak Welsh, Scots Gaelic in Three Months, and Irish Gaelic Made Easy. All you need now to insure a trouble-free trip is a road atlas. Except that you may have trouble reading it as you try to get from A to B, especially if B is a village in Wales with the longest place name in the world: "Llanfairpwyllgwyngillgogerychwrndrobwillantisiligogogoch."

Nelson's Monument
A Monument in Llanfairpwyll...

In other words, if you do stray into the Celtic parts of the United Kingdom, expect to get lost. And whether you can understand the locals or not, you'll get one message loud and clear.

Clare: "A saying, an Irish saying is, 'Go n-éirí an bóthar leat!' which means 'may the road rise with you', it means 'good luck and may the wind always be with you in your travels'."

In Glasgow, I'm Adam Fowler for the Savvy Traveler.


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