How to Learn the Irish Language

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The most effective way to learn another language, including Irish, is through immersion--an extended amount of time spent in the home country, among the people and in the culture. One of the difficulties with the Irish language, also called Gaelige or Gaelic, is that it is a minority language, even in Ireland. While many Irish citizens have some knowledge of Gaelic, common use is concentrated in the west of Ireland The good news is that learning the Irish language can be accomplished by staying closer to home.

Things You'll Need

  • Course enrollment
  • or
  • Comprehensive self-teaching materials: books, audio tapes or CDs, online resources
  • Accessory learning aids: phrase book, Irish language dictionary
  • Has fluency been a life-long dream or goal based on Irish heritage? Is there a plan for a lengthy stay or retirement in the west of Ireland? Ask yourself whether survival words and phrases ("Can you help me?" "Where are the restrooms?" "Please." "Thank You") and being able to read a restaurant menu and signs be adequate for a short-term vacation or business trip.

  • Options for fluency courses in Irish will be harder to find than a language such as Spanish. A good place to begin is an online search for Irish heritage organizations in the state, region or area, which may offer courses or have recommendations.
    If self-teaching is the only option, investigate reputable courses such as Rosetta Stone or Teach Yourself Irish by Diarmuid O. Se and Joseph Sheils, available in bookstores and at Amazon.com. Does your library have these materials on hand or offer an inter-library exchange? Omniglot (http://www.omniglot.com/writing/irish.htm) lists many online courses from which to choose.
    With a voice option on the computer, an online language exchange, such as Yahoo! Internet Life (http://www.mylanguageexchange.com/learn/Gaelic-Irish.asp) pairs students with native Irish speakers to help with grammar and conversation.

  • Whatever methods you find available for learning Irish (books, CDs or tapes, software or internet sites), cost and time required will be the determining factors. Knowing your individual learning style is also important when choosing the method.

  • Serious students of Irish should arm themselves with reinforcement tools that can be carried with them and used most any time or place, such as a phrase book or list, an English/Irish dictionary, tapes or CDs to use in the car, books, reading materials in Irish. Omniglot is helpful here, with lists of the modern Irish alphabet, pronunciations, links for those useful survival words and phrases and sources for magazines and newspapers.

  • It is up to you to set aside the time and accomplish the goal of learning the Irish language. Daily study and practice are the keys. An hour a day is ideal, but just ten or fifteen minutes every day will make a difference. The most effective learning is often accomplished as much by the trials as the triumphs, so don't be afraid to make mistakes.

  • Ádh mór ort (good luck).

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