- Why is Irish important?
- What other reasons are there to learn Irish?
- Is Irish the hardest language to learn?
- Why is the Irish language unique?
- Is Irish Gaelic still spoken?
- Where is Irish spoken the most in Ireland?
- Is Irish a dead language?
Irish is still an official language in Ireland and is a compulsory school subject. But because English is the dominant tongue in Ireland and spoken globally, you may not understand the point of studying Irish. However, there are still many benefits to learning the ancient language, and we’re here to break it all down for you!
Why is Irish important?
As English is the daily language of most Irish people, the benefits of learning Irish might not be very obvious. Irish isn’t a language you need to learn to communicate with people in other countries or Ireland.
Knowing Irish is important if you want to move on to higher education. However, understanding the language is essential for Irish students. Students must have a minimum grade in the Irish language before being accepted to study at third level in many universities, including any institution within the National University of Ireland.
The Irish government has also made promoting the Irish language a priority. In 2021, officials announced that 20% of new public employees must be proficient in Irish by 2030, and 20% of all public advertising by public organisations must be done in Irish. Knowing Irish can give you a significant leg-up over your peers when applying for a job! In addition, all companies offering public services must be able to provide the service in Irish. Learning the Irish language is truly important for future career success.
What other reasons are there to learn Irish?
Despite its small population of 5 million people, Irish culture has a huge global reach. Irish literature, music, customs, and traditions are well-known worldwide. The Irish diaspora, especially in the United States, only adds to the country’s cultural scope and influence.
However, with most of the music, series, books, films and other media consumed by kids in Ireland coming from other English-speaking countries (namely the US and UK), it’s easy to forget just how important knowing Irish is. The Irish diaspora, especially in the United States, only adds to the country’s cultural scope and influence.
A language is more than communication; it’s a way of thinking that shapes the attitude and culture of the people. As Padraig Pearse, one of the Republic of Ireland’s founding fathers, said, “A country without a language is a country without a soul.” Learning Irish can help you better connect to your country’s wealth of history and culture and your own family’s history.
Knowing Irish can even give you insight into how Irish people speak English. This dialect is called Hiberno-English, unique to people from the Irish Isles. If you’ve ever travelled abroad and found that even other English speakers were confused by you, it’s probably because you’re speaking Hiberno-English!
Hiberno-English contains many structures that are directly translated from the Irish. While common phrases such as “My mam’s giving out again,” or “I was after doing my homework” might sound incorrect to the unknowing ear. However, these sentence structures are examples of grammatically-correct Irish structures surviving the centuries-long linguistic switch to English.
Learning to speak Irish well can be like finding a missing piece to complete the jigsaw puzzle of your own identity. As the world becomes more competitive and complex, it can feel more important than ever to connect with your background.
Is Irish the hardest language to learn?
Learning any language can be challenging, depending on when you start learning it. In general, it’s easiest to learn a new language when you’re young and your brain is still in an active language acquisition mode. However, you can still learn a new language as an adult!
Even if you start learning Irish when you’re older, you shouldn’t have any more difficulty learning Irish than you would learning French, German, or Spanish. If you’ve already studied another language, you know that you’re not just swapping out words. Instead, you’re learning a different way to communicate and think about language.
Irish is an Indo-European language, which means it evolved from the same roots as English, so there are some similarities. English and Irish don’t share as many features as English does with other languages, but as you learn Irish, you’ll recognise many words from place names and general cultural exposure.
Certain linguistic structures and rhythms will be familiar from the Hiberno-English you hear every day. There are also words in Irish borrowed from English, French and Latin. Irish is simpler than English in some ways, too. For example, while English has well over 200 irregular verbs, Irish has just 11. Irish also uses a form of the Latin alphabet, just as English does.
Irish is also tricky for a surprising reason—there isn’t actually a single “Irish language.” Instead, the three major dialects are spoken in the provinces of Ulster, Connacht, and Munster. Each dialect has differences in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation and there’s always controversy about who speaks “real Irish.” While there is an official government standard for the spelling and grammar of written Irish, when it comes to speaking, there are many variations in spoken Irish.
Why is the Irish language unique?
Anyone who has studied Irish knows it’s a special language! Here are some of the reasons Irish is so unique:
- Irish is one of the world’s oldest languages. With writings dating from the sixth century, it has the oldest body of literature in Western Europe.
- In Irish, there are no words for “yes” and “no.” Instead, Irish speakers repeat the relevant verbs to answer the question. For example, if you are asked“Did you eat it?” in Irish, you reply by saying “I ate it” or “I did not eat it.”
- Words go in a different order in Irish. While English is a subject, verb, object language, Irish is a “verb, subject, object” language. Just 9% of languages in the world use this structure!
- Irish has many types of numbers, depending on whether you’re counting people or objects, talking about dates and time, or doing arithmetic.
- Irish is a Celtic language and is thought to be at least 2,500 years old.
Why is Irish a dying language?
Contrary to popular myth, Irish was never officially banned by the British during their colonisation of Ireland. However, colonization's economic and cultural effects led to English gradually replacing Irish as the language most people spoke in their daily lives in the late 18th Century.
By 1800, there were only about 800,000 monolingual Irish speakers out of a population of 5.5 million. By the end of the Great Famine in the 1840s, many Irish people had immigrated or sadly died. Because of this, the number of people who spoke only Irish had dropped to around 320,000.
In 1911, there were fewer than 17,000 monolingual Irish speakers. When independence from Britain was declared in 1922, Irish was mainly spoken only in isolated rural areas.
The Irish government has made half-hearted attempts to revive Irish as a living language, but despite making Irish compulsory in schools and a requirement for civil service jobs, its efforts to revive Irish have usually met with little success.
Is Irish Gaelic still spoken?
There are no monolingual Irish speakers left, but many people still know Irish and some speak it daily, although the numbers have been falling for decades. The 2016 census showed that 1,761,420 people said they could speak Irish; 13,017 fewer people than in 2011. However, there's a difference between people saying they know Irish and people who actually speak Irish.
Of the 1,761,420 people who answered “yes” when the census asked if they could speak Irish, 418,420 of them said they never used it. Another 558,608 said they only spoke Irish in school or college, and 111,473 said they spoke it weekly. Only 73,803 spoke Irish every day, a number which had fallen by 3,400 since the last census in 2011.
Where is Irish spoken the most in Ireland?
A Gaeltacht is a region in Ireland where Irish is still spoken, and a few still remain throughout the country. County Galway has the highest percentage of Irish speakers, with 49% of people saying they can speak the language. County Clare comes next with 45.9%, and County Cork comes in third with 44.9%.
Furthermore, the most important Gaeltacht areas are in the counties of Galway, Donegal and Mayo, which represent almost 86% of the Gaeltacht population. There are smaller Gaeltacht areas in Counties Cork, Kerry, Meath and Waterford.
In Gaeltacht areas, 20,586 people speak Irish daily, which is around 21.4% of the Gaeltacht population total. Around 6,280 people in the Gaeltacht speak it weekly. Surprisingly, Dublin and its suburbs account for a large amount of the nation’s daily Irish speakers. The 2016 census reports that 14,903 people in and around the capital speak Irish every day. This is a rise of 674 in 2011 and makes up 20.2% of all daily speakers across the country.
In Northern Ireland, 29% of Catholics and 2% of Protestants, say they know the Irish language. However, just 1% of Catholics and 0.5% of Protestants say that they speak it at home and only 4% of the population report using Irish occasionally in social situations.
Is Irish a dead language?
Irish certainly isn’t a dead language, and it is certainly more alive today than it has been in decades. Though Irish is not spoken as widely as it was a century ago, the language has been kept alive through government policy and speakers in the Gaeltacht areas. The surprising rise of urban Irish speakers in Dublin and other cities also reflects a radically changing attitude to the language. There are now more reasons than ever to learn the language.
However, like any language, learning Irish isn’t always easy. If you’re studying Irish and need a little extra help, GoStudent is your solution. Our expert Irish tutors will guide you to understand Irish and become more confident speaking it, too. Sign up for your free trial lesson today and see why we’re the #1 Rated Global Tutoring School.