Just when you have settled into your plans for a trip to Ireland, confident that you have chosen a great place to visit because you already speak English, then you run into something called the “Irish language” and you think, “Wow, is that what they call English?” No, that is not what they call English – and if you have never heard Irish, you are in for a bit of a shock. You will not be able to understand a word of it.
Irish is the first official language of Ireland and also an official language of the European Union. It is more than just an historic relic – it is spoken widely today, especially in more rural areas in the west, and a required subject in Irish schools. In many parts of Ireland, even if you only hear English being spoken, you may also see bilingual road signs in both Irish and English. Irish is a Gaelic language which comes from Ireland, and it is spelled in Irish as Gaeilge.
In addition to Irish, there are also several distinct dialects of Irish which are spoken in some parts of Ireland. So even if you set out to master Irish, you might still find yourself coming face to face with a language you do not understand!
The good news for travelers to Ireland is that you do not need to try to learn Irish, you just need to be familiar with its everyday uses. Some words are used quite often, so you will grow accustomed to them after awhile, and if you are visiting an area that is particularly known for speaking Irish, learning a few polite phrases never hurts.
Some resources you might use to familiarize yourself with the Irish language before your trip:
- We have ten useful Irish phrases which every traveler should know
- This is the official website for the Irish language
- An Irish-English dictionary is here
- Here is a list of place names in Irish
- There is all kinds of Irish slang which is also fun to learn, but not always necessary!