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Can you speak Irish ? July 27, 2006

Posted by Rambling Man in Ag foghlaim na Gaeilge.

One of the topics which has caught my interest in recent media floggery has been the Irish language and all the various agendas attached to it.  The state of the language, the compulsory nature of learning Irish in schools, the everyday use of the language and so on, have all be discussed ad-nauseum (should that be go deo ?).

For what it’s worth, heres my take on it.  I can’t speak Irish properly but I would like to.  This after 12 years of compulsory formal schooling in the subject and several state exams under my belt proving that I have at least some level of competence.  But I can’t speak the language.  I can’t follow the Irish language news programmes on TV.  Not at all, really.  But I know the 3rd person singular conditional of the verb “to say” is “déarfadh sé“.  Do you see what I’m getting at ?

Having studied language in general and several languages aswell, a piece of advice I received from a tutor back in the day has always stuck in my mind.  “Learn the language, not about the language.”  So why then is my Irish not as good as my German (3 years in school and 2 in university) or even my Swedish (8 years listening to my wife phone her relatives) ?  I can only think that it was the way I was taught it and also the way I learned it – and they are two different things.  Far from boring readers with the ins and outs of everyday-velcro-blackboard-Mammy-goes-to-the-shop comhrá and the equally painful Buntús Cainte, there follow some points I think anyone wanting to learn Irish would do well to bear in mind.

(1) Accept that your native spoken language is English.
(2) Your number one goal is communication, and making yourself understood in Irish.
(3) Speaking grammatically imperfect Irish is better than speaking no Irish.

Readers will be kept up to date with the author’s efforts to gain some understanding of An Gaeilge amid, I’m sure, the howls of laughter and scurrilous embarrassment inflicted upon him by his cainteoir dúchais friends …



1. Nicole - July 27, 2006

Would you mind giving any of your posts in or about the Irish language a technorati tag of gaeilge? (It helps those of us who use aggregators…)

And a pissmire is an ant. 🙂

2. Nicole - July 28, 2006

Sorry for not telling you how to do it — include this code at the end of your posts:


3. Johan - May 23, 2007

Is mise Johan agus ta Sualainnach mé 😉 My girlfriend is irish, and I’m trying my best to learn gaeilge. She has told me about her experience of learning irish in school, seems to agree completely with how you describe it…

Was very happy when I realised that I can watch TG4 on http://www.tg4.tv, so with the aim of eventually being able to comprehend spoken irish I am now a frequent viewer of Rós na Rún. It’s a pity they don’t subtitle english programs as gaeilge though, would help a lot to increase my vocabulary.

And Nicole, my girlfriend can confirm that pissmyror (or f***ing pissmyrorna, as she used to call them), are a very irritating breed of ants 🙂

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