Irish is a language of many uses. You can use it to connect with the Irish culture and heritage. As a verb-subject-object language, it is very unique and mastering the Irish sentence structures gives a sense of accomplishment. Irish started as a language that was widely spoken around Ireland. However, as the plantations happened, the language started dying out. This happened from the 16th century where people from England and Scotland were encouraged to come and live in Ireland. Therefore, as more British people came to Ireland, English became more widespread.

To add to this impact, because Ireland was under the rule of Britain, fewer people spoke Irish and it began to die. Undoubtedly, learning the language will strengthen its position and the more people learn Irish, the more other people will be encouraged to learn Irish. This is very helpful because the study of foreign languages is not as popular in Ireland as it is in other EU countries. Eurostat revealed that in the majority of EU member states, more than three-fifths (60%) of all upper secondary education pupils were learning two or more foreign languages in 2018 which contrasted with only 12.5% in Ireland.

This large difference illustrates why it is important to promote the learning of Irish and foreign languages in Ireland. Nonetheless, if you want to begin learning Irish, this article will serve as your guide to learning Irish. Luckily, Irish is not expensive to learn, and you can check the varying costs to learn the language to help you decide where you will learn Irish.

Irish language learning
This article will be your roadmap to learning Irish like the pen showing the directions in this picture! Source: Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
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According to the April 2016 census, 39.8% of the population said they could speak Irish. Surprisingly, among the 1,761,420 people in this category, 418,420 never spoke it which is 23.8% so clearly, they would have forgotten a lot of Irish. 558,608 indicated they only spoke Irish within the education system which means they most likely only speak it in school during the few hours of Irish class or when necessary which is 31.7%. 33.3% (586,535 people) speak it less often than weekly and 73,803 persons spoke Irish daily which is only 4.2% out of everyone who claimed to be able to speak Irish.

Overall, only about 1.7% of the population in Ireland speak Irish daily despite the 39.8% who claimed they could speak the language. These statistics showed that Irish is somewhat spoken across Irish. However, it is barely spoken on a daily or even weekly basis. It is most popular in Galway, Cork, Mayo and Clare. A lot of Irish speakers also live in the many different parts of Dublin.

What are some Facts about the Irish language?

Before you begin your learning of Irish, there are certain things that you might want to know. Firstly, that the word for Irish in Irish is Gaeilge. Secondly, that Irish is a verb-subject-object language as previously mentioned which means that instead of the subject-verb-object English approach, the Irish sentence structure would be different. For example, in English, I would say ‘I collected the money’ and in this case, I would be the subject that is being discussed, collected is the action verb and the money is the object that the action is being done to.

On the other hand, in Irish, it would be ‘Bhailigh mé an t-airgead.’ Bhailigh is the verb which means collected, mé is the subject which means I and finally, an t-airgead is the object which means the money. Funnily enough, that sentence in Irish would be translated directly into English as ‘Hit me the money.’

Irish is the official language of Ireland even though English is more popular and widely spoken. Irish is noted as the official language of Ireland in the Irish Constitution and other official documents. I should also highlight the fact that Irish is also spoken outside Ireland should give you some motivation to learn it because you know it will be more useful if you are travelling to places where Irish is also spoken like in some parts of Canada.

I remember being shocked by the fact that in Irish, you use one set of words for general counting which are a haon, a dó, a trí, a ceathair, a cúig, a sé… meaning one, two, three, four, five, six, and so on. In addition to this, there are a separate set of words that are used when counting people in Irish which are duine, beirt, triúr, ceathrar, cúigear, seisear, seachtar… which means one person, two people, three people, four people, five people, six people, seven people, and so on. Unfortunately, this means that we had to learn different sets of numbers and the rules associated with them in primary school.

Moreover, Irish has different dialects specific to the different provinces: Ulster, Munster, and Connaught. Some dialects are even more so specific to a county. When learning Irish on paper, you might not notice any differences between dialects. However, when hearing people of different dialects speaking Irish, you will hear a massive difference in the grammar and pronunciation of words, even the vocabulary differs with some dialects using different words to mean the same thing. As I was taught Irish through the Munster dialect, I still find it hard to understand the Donegal dialect.

Also, if you see a fada on top of a word like cád where you see the fada on top of the a, the fada gives it a longer sound and even the word fada translates into the word long. Furthermore, there are rules to how words can change depending on the word that comes before it, whether it is feminine or masculine, whether you are quantifying the word, and many other conditions to have the spelling of the word changes. For example, teach is the word for house but if you were saying the woman of the house, it would change to tí, so it would be bean an tí. With the help of the right Irish teacher, you will be able to master these rules. You can read the article and search on Superprof for an Irish teacher.

Guide to Gaeilge
Find out the who, what, when, where and how Facts about Irish. Source: pixabay

How to Greet and say Basic Words in Irish?

A typical Irish conversation would begin with ‘Dia duit’ meaning hello, which is responded to with ‘Dia is Muire duit.’ It literally means God and Mary be with you but responds to hello in Irish. The next statement you would likely hear after is ‘conas atá tú?’ which means how are you? This is responded with ‘tá mé ___.’  You can insert an Irish word in the blank space to describe how you are like go maith (good/fine), go hiontach (great), go brón (sad). These are basically the general greetings in Irish which is how conversations usually start.

More common phrases in Irish are go raibh maith agat which means thank you, tá fáilte romhat which means you are welcome, tá brón orm which means I am sorry, slán meaning bye, le do thoil which means please, and gabh mo leithscéal meaning excuse me. One of the first phrases we learn in primary schools in Ireland is ‘do I have permission to go out to the toilet, please?’ which is translated into ‘an bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas, más é do thoil é?’

Oddly enough, Irish does not have a word for yes or no in response to questions, so instead, you would respond with the verb that was used to ask the question. For example, if you were asked in English if you broke a cup, you could just say yes or no but in Irish, you would have to respond to the verb. So, you would have been asked ‘an mbriseann tú an cupán?’ and your response would be ‘brisim/ní bhrisim an cupán’ depending on whether you broke the cup. Tá or sea means yes but technically, it means it is which is why you could not use it to respond to the above question. Conversely, níl and ní hea mean it is not.

Irish conversation with Superprof
With this guide and some Irish lessons, you will be having a conversation 'as Gaeilge' soon! Source: Harli Marten on Unsplash

What is the Best Guide to Learn Irish?

Practice, Practice and Practice your Gaeilge

There is a high chance that you have heard the phrase ‘Practice makes perfect’ and this is no exception when it comes to learning Irish. You have to keep practising so that you can get the hang of it and that you will not forget the words. In fact, you should read the article on how to practice your Irish between lessons which will highlight some fun and engaging ways to practice your Irish to show you that learning a language or anything else does not always have to be tedious. It does not always have to involve you sitting in front of a book all day!

The pronunciations may take a while to get used to which is why it is important to practice. For example, a non-Irish speaker seeing the word ‘bhfuil’ might not have a clue on how to pronounce it at first glance but it is simply a case of learning rules for pronunciation and then practising the pronouncing of the words. By the way, ‘bhf’ is pronounced with a ‘w’ sound so that would is pronounced ‘will.’ Read the other articles that will help aid your knowledge of the Irish language and before you know it, you will have started your journey of learning Irish. Finally, good luck as you bask yourself in Irish heritage through learning Gaeilge.

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