Wish You Spoke Fluent Irish? Here Are Little Steps You Can Take To Up Your Vocabulary
Have you said more than once you wish you spoke Irish? Well, what are you waiting for?
Ugh tá mé chomh tuirseach,’ I regularly say in the office after that 3pm slump, or ‘Tá ocras orm!’ leading up to lunchtime. I’ll mumble away as Gaeilge on a daily basis despite no one else in the office really speaking it, and it’s clearly because I miss it. I grew up in a Gaeltacht, and although my parents didn’t speak the language, between school, older locals and bilingual chats with my friends, I had my regular fix of Irish speaking at home. Luckily my Dubliner boyfriend is fluent, so in our home or when we’re out and about, a portion of our conversations will sometimes be in Irish or at least have Irish words included. But living in Dublin for the last six or so years, I’ve really missed being able to go into a shop or a pub and have casual chats in Irish.
I’m clearly not alone, there are plenty of people living away from their Gaeltacht homes in cities because of greater career choices. And even if you’re not from the Gaeltacht I hear almost weekly from people who did Irish as a subject in school or attended a Gaelscoil that they miss getting the chance to speak it, or worse, feel they’ve lost the language entirely.
Thankfully, there are more and more ways to actively speak our native language, regardless of where you live.
One such way is the Pop Up Gaeltacht. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It takes place in a pub in various locations around the country, (and even the world) and it’s really just pints with the added bonus of getting to speak Irish, no matter how fluent you are. I headed to my first ever Pop Up Gaeltacht in Dublin over the summer. I, along with a group of friends with different fluency of Irish went along out of curiosity. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it might be a bit overwhelming. You might picture your Leaving Cert Irish oral exam in which you have to sit opposite an inspector and talk about your family and summer plans. But no, it’s far more casual.
The group of us took a seat and just carried on chatting about our day, but as Gaeilge. It was the first time I’d spoken Irish for a long period of time with most of them but something about the setting and knowing that everyone around us was speaking Irish helped it flow more naturally. There was no one walking around taking notes or checking to make sure you’re speaking Irish, but the beauty of it is that anyone who comes along has enough appreciation for the language that they are happy to yap away in Irish. And don’t worry, you don’t get kicked out after three strikes for speaking English. Like I said – much more casual.
If you’re looking to improve your conversation and flow, I’d highly recommend the Pop Up Gaeltacht, which takes place on the last Thursday of every month in Dublin, and frequently in other counties too, and even outside of Ireland. There are several in Canada, the USA and England and they’ve even spread to places like Honolulu, Bolivia and Hong Kong. So there’s really no excuse! If you’re not quite ready for this, and just want to jump back into the language not having spoken it for over 10 years, or ever, for that matter, there are loads of others options.
Firstly, the wonderful Duo Lingo. You might have used the app a couple of times in the run-up to a holiday in Spain, or maybe you’ve dabbled in some French because of the hot guy that works across the hall in your building. But it’s also great for the Gaeilge. It’s free to download and not much of a commitment and perfect to keep you busy on your commute.
There are currently over 940 thousand people actively using the app for Irish at the moment, which means it must be pretty good. If you’re not sure how your Irish is you can do a quick ‘placement test’ where it will decide your level of fluency starting from basics. From there you can do little five minute tests every day and improve your fluency in no time! If you’d rather learn by osmosis, there are loads of ways to immerse yourself in Gaeilge so that it becomes more natural in your daily life.
For me, I really struggle with spelling and grammar because it’s not around us every day. Following Gaeilgoirs on Twitter really helped me because it meant that Irish was popping up on my feed, and I was reading it just like English every day when I’m scrolling. Aside from Twitter, there are more and more influencers and bloggers doing posts and videos as Gaeilge on Instagram every day.
We’re all guilty of watching Instagrammers chat away about their day on their stories, so adding some Irish accounts will mean you get more of the language without making any huge efforts.
On Facebook, there are pages like Gaeilge Amhain, which is a group for Irish posts, memes and discussion. We’re on our phones every day, so by adding a few accounts or joining some groups where Irish is spoken you’ll slowly but surely introduce or reintroduce it into your every day. If you’re the type to have the radio or TV on in the background when you’re doing household chores, choosing an Irish station can make a huge difference. Raidió Na Gaeltachta, Raidió Na Life, Raidió Rí-Rá and loads of other shows have discussions on music, tv and current affairs just as any of your favourite English-language stations would too.
Meanwhile, TG4 has plenty of shows to get stuck in to. Ros Na Rún would give Home And Away a run for its money and Turas Bóthair is a bit like Carpool Karaoke! And if you’re a documentary fan, Finné tells powerful Irish stories about injustice, redemption, resilience and strength. They also have English programs too, so just by having the channel on even if you’re watching Orange Is The New Black (which currently airs on TG4) the announcements and ads in Irish will still help you keep the language in your mind.
If you’ve got kids that you’d love to have more Irish, there are plenty of cartoons as Gaeilge on the station too! For podcast fans, there are plenty of Irish offerings that could help you to improve your fluency. Beo Ar Éigean is a chatty RTE podcast with three female presenters, BiteSize Irish is more of an educational series, as is Motherfoclóir, which discusses mostly in English the Irish culture, grammar and more. If you want to make a more focused effort of learning the language you can attend an Irish course for a couple of weeks to really get immersed in it. Organisations like Conradh na Gaeilge and Gaelchultúr provide courses around the country for up to 10 weeks for as little as €150! There are also online courses if you feel you don’t have time to commit to a sit-in class.
Essentially there is no shortage of tools and resources for learning Irish, from watching to listening to chatting, it’s really about finding the things that suit you best. It may sound a little cheesy but the absolute best tool that you can have for learning or improving your Irish is confidence. It can be tricky and nerve-wracking to speak a language you’re not fluent in but a huge reason why people aren’t speaking it is fear and embarrassment. The more you accept that you’re never going to get everything right but that you care enough to try, the quicker you’ll learn and the better you’ll be. Go n-éirí leat!
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