Listen while reading
Download

Ireland is reclaiming its language heritage in schools, on TV, and on the Internet. Writer Christina Williamson translates the effort for us.
Text by: Christina Williamson
Country: Ireland

o many, Ireland is an ancient and mysterious land, famous for its natural beauty, friendly locals, and its rich history.

Inhabitants of the island nation can be dated back some 10,000 years. The first settlers of this time were Iron Age warriors called The Celts.

The Celts had a huge influence on Ireland and to this day remain a strong and important part of Irish culture and heritage, particularly in art, literature, and, of course, language.

In fact, early Irish literature is the oldest vernacular in Western Europe. Some of the earliest existing examples of the written Irish language are Ogham (pronounced “oh-am”) inscriptions, which date back from the 4th Century AD. These inscriptions contain a medieval alphabet used to write the early Irish language, usually carved into stone.

There are several theories regarding the origin of Ogham inscriptions. One suggests that it was first created as a cryptic alphabet, designed by the Irish so as not to be understood by others—perhaps for political, military, or religious reasons. It provided a secret means of communication in opposition to the authorities.

Today, Irish enjoys the constitutional status as the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland, and is officially recognized as a minority language in Northern Ireland.

However, in reality, it is spoken as a first language by just a small minority of Irish people in places known as “Gaeltacht areas,” which are mainly found in western counties including Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry, and Cork. A much larger group speaks it as a second language.

If you visit Ireland, you will notice straight away that all road signs, government offices, and names of places will be written in both English and Irish.

Irish is very different from English and many of the other languages we usually study or hear spoken. Some of its quirks include:

1. There is no “Yes” or “No” in Irish.

There are no words in Irish for “yes” or “no,” but that doesn’t mean there is no way to answer a question. You communicate yes or no with the verb form. The answer to the question, “Would you like a pint of Guinness ?” would be “I would like a pint of Guinness.”

2. The word order is verb, subject, then object.

When constructing sentences in Irish, you start with the verb, then you add the subject and finally the object. So, in English we would say, “I saw a bird,” whereas in Irish you would say, “Saw I a bird.” This word order is extremely rare; only 9% of the world’s languages use it.

3. The words for numbers depend on whether you are counting humans or animals.

Irish has one set of numbers used for doing arithmetic or referring to times and dates, one for counting humans, and a third set for counting non-humans. So five children would be cúigear páiste, but five horses is cúig chapall.

4. The beginnings of words change, depending on their function.

This rule will challenge what you know about grammar. The word for “woman” can be any of the following: bean (byan), bhean (vyan), or mbean (myan), depending on whether it comes after certain possessive pronouns, prepositions, numbers, or a whole range of other conditions. Most languages require new speakers to learn to change the endings of certain words, but Irish requires the changing of both beginnings and endings.

5. On the bright side, Irish has fewer odd verbs.

As a kind of compensation, Irish only has 11 irregular verbs, unlike English, which has more than 80 commonly used ones.

6. It left a significant imprint on the English spoken in Ireland.

English phrases in many parts of Ireland show a parallel structure with their counterparts in Irish. Here are some common phrases which may make no sense to you, but make perfect sense to an Irish person: “I’m after eating me breakfast,” “I gave out about the terrible service,” and “He does be working every day.”

If you ever visit Ireland, the following phrases and words could be useful when you are conversing with the locals or simply listening to conversations in a cozy pub next to the fire.

Although English remains the primary language in Ireland, the Irish have developed what is called “Hiberno-English,” which blends the grammatical style of Irish into the English Language. Here are a few phrases you may hear along your travels:

“C’mere till I tell you.”

Could you come closer? I have something to tell you.

“You never asked if I’d a mouth me.”

You did not ask if I was hungry.

“Sure, you know yourself.”

Used to show a person empathy. Mary: “I can’t believe the bad weather.” Patrick: “Ah, but sure you know yourself.”

“Your arse is parsley!”

Used to tell someone that they are talking rubbish or exaggerating.

Banjaxed

Describes when something or someone is in a bad state of repair.

Quare

Fine, great or big. “That’s a quare horse!”

There

Not to be confused with the word for indicating location, it is used as a full stop to end a sentence, regardless of the topic. “I hadn’t seen him in ages there!” (I had not seen him in a long time.)

Dead on!

Used to say something (usually a person or arrangement) is great or perfect and without problems. Mary: “I’ll meet you at two for lunch.” Patrick: “Dead on!”

Doll / Lad

Doll is a local term for girl or young woman, and lad is for a boy or young man. “Who’s that doll?”

The Craic

What’s new, what’s happening, any news? “Hello, John! What’s the craic?”

Most people you will meet in Ireland will have a culpa focal, or a few words, of Irish. Locals, especially in the Gaeltacht areas, will always appreciate any effort made to speak the local language.

Fact box

Today English is the mother tongue of most Irish people. Several factors caused the decline of Irish as a first language:

First, the power of the English State increased in Ireland during the 17th Century. The English viewed the use of Irish unfavorably and saw it as a threat to all things English in Ireland at that time. The English language was viewed as more desirable in terms of social class, education, and job prospects, and therefore, the use of Irish was strongly discouraged and even frowned upon.
The next stage of decline began in the 19th Century, during and after the Great Famine of 1845 to 1852, when Ireland lost 25% of its population to either emigration or death.
A censusfrom 2011 estimates that the active Irish language scene probably comprises 5% to 10% of Ireland’s total population.
After gaining independence in 1922, the Republic of Ireland declared Irish the first official language and has been working hard ever since to revive it. A government body called The Gaelic League, or Conrach na gaeilge in Irish, was set up to actively promote the use of the Irish language throughout the country.
It is now a compulsory subject taught in all schools, from early primary classes until graduation.
Recent developments in modern technologies have also helped; a television channel called TG4 broadcasts completely in Irish, airing several popular soap operas and cultural programs which are regularly watched by thousands of viewers.
The Internet has been another powerful tool, enabling the sharing of information regarding the Irish language, delivery of classes for online study as well as an accurate platform for speedy translation.
These revival techniques have greatly helped change the perception of and access to the language, particularly with the younger generation, whom the survival of the language ultimately relies upon.




feedback
nombre@ejemplo.com

Irish in Ireland: Gaeilge i Éirinn


Ireland is an ancient and mysterious land, famous for its natural beauty, friendly locals, and rich history. The first settlers were Iron Age warriors called The Celts, who arrived around 10,000 years ago. The Celts had a huge influence on Ireland, particularly in art, literature, and the language.

Gaeilge, or Irish, is the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland. However, only a small minority of Irish people speak it as a first language, in places known as Gaeltacht areas. A much larger group speaks it as a second language.

Irish is very different from English and many other languages. Some of its quirks include:

1. There is no "Yes" or "No" in Irish.

The answer to the question, "Would you like a pint of Guinness?" is "I would like a pint of Guinness."

2. The word order is verb, subject, then object.

In English we say, "I saw a bird," but in Irish you say, "Saw I a bird."

3. The words for numbers depend on whether you are counting humans or animals.

Irish has one set of numbers for doing arithmetic or referring to times and dates, one for counting humans, and a third set for counting non-humans. So five children would be cúigear páiste, but five horses is cúig chapall.

4. The beginnings of words change, depending on their function.

The word for "woman" can be any of the following: bean (byan), bhean (vyan), or mbean (myan), depending on what part of speech it follows or a whole range of other conditions.

5. Irish has few odd verbs.

Irish only has 11 irregular verbs, unlike English, which has more than 80 commonly used ones.

Although English remains the primary language in Ireland, most people you meet in Ireland will speak a few words of Irish.

 

Comprehension

Below you will find text comprehension questions. Read and listen to the text and answer the questions (we recommend you read first and then listen).

Irish in Ireland: Gaeilge i Éirinn

Quiz

 

Grammar in Use

Below you will find PDF documents with the Grammar in Use.

Elementary: Acronyms

Intermediate:Idiom: Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

Vocabulary

Irish in Ireland

Summary Vocabulary

Discover its sights, sounds, and tastes:

Travel and learn!

If you want to learn English TeaTime-Mag recommends: