13 Things You Should know About Irish Gaelic Before Visiting Ireland

You’ve probably already heard of “Gaelic” or of “Irish Gaelic” before. It’s the ancient Celtic language that still survives in some communities.

Here’s a quick list of what you need to know about the language!

  1. The term “Gaelic” can refer to both Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic.
  2. Those Scots and Irish Gaelic are very similar.
  3. People in Ireland simply refer to the Irish language as “Irish”.
  4. Many people outside of Ireland are learning to speak Irish. With lots of online resources, including TG4, Ireland’s Irish-language TV station, it’s never been easier.
  5. Obama used Irish Gaelic in his speech during his 2011 visit to Ireland. He said “Is féidir linn” meaning “Yes we can”.
  6. As a language, Irish is older than English. It was first written 2,000 years ago.
  7. Irish Gaelic is a Celtic language, having come from somewhere in central Europe.
  8. The parts of Ireland where Irish is still spoken are called the Gaeltacht regions.
  9. You don’t need to speak a word of Irish to get around in Ireland.
  10. Just about every person raised in Ireland has a basic understanding of Irish because of the school system. Many Irish people have found renewed interest in learning the language in their adulthood.
  11. Ireland’s constitution names Irish as the first official language, with English recognized as the second official language.
  12. You’ll see Irish written on most roadsigns in Ireland, along with English place names.
  13. You’ll surprise the locals if you use some Irish with them!


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Bitesize Irish Gaelic - learn to speak irishEoin — a native Irish Gaelic speaker who founded Bitesize Irish Gaelic with his wife Saša. If you want to impress the locals, you can learn Irish Gaelic with their online Irish course.


Author: Guest

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  1. If there’s anything I haven’t covered in the post, but you’d like to know about the Irish language, feel free to ask here.

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  2. Nice post and links. I made a failed attempt at learning a bit of Irish last fall. Life and work got in the way. I intend to get back to it.

    One thing I found confusing was the different dialects. I tried to augment the class I was taking with various Internet resources. However, the pronunciation of even basic phrases – the first 10 you’d encounter were different. I decided to shut off all sources other than my class and pretend that was the only Irish. It’s hard enough to learn the pronunciation, let alone have 3 different possibilities.

    How do you deal with that? Thanks.

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  3. The three different dialects belong to three different areas in the country, Munster, Connacht and Ulster. You’re wise to stick to one – not just easier, but more sensible. There’s an Irish language radio and tv service which broadcasts content from all three Gaeltacht areas. (Check out Radio na Gaeltachta, or TG4) Only twenty or thirty years ago a native speaker from one Gaeltacht might have had difficulty in understanding someone speaking the dialect of a different one. But, because of the radio and tv service, even though the pronunciation, construction and vocabulary differs from one Gaeltacht to another, a native speaker these days will most likely understand what’s said in any dialect. But would probably find it very odd listening to someone who was speaking a mixture of all three dialects at once!

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  4. I managed to say some words and phrases in the Irish when I was over there last month, and it always delighted and surprised the natives. I said hello, how are you, thank you, good bye, cheers, etc… A couple said I had more Irish than they did 🙂 It was very gratifying! I did have a couple correct my pronunciation (mostly in Connacht, as I learned the Munster pronunciations).

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  5. I’d add, as someone who has some Irish and some Scottish Gaelic, that they have much in common (they diverged into separate languages about four hundred years ago) but many differences as well. As Eoin says above, in Ireland the language is called Irish. In Scotland, Scottish Gaelic is called Gaelic, which is pronounced with a short a: gallic.

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  6. The Irish language has a name for itself: Gaeilge

    Nobody in Ireland calls it Gaelic (and definitely not Irish Gaelic).

    As you say, everyone here simply calls it Irish.

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