I want to learn Irish. Where do I start?
- First, find out if there are any classes in your area. Attending a class is probably the best way to learn the language. Check this database of Irish classes and conversation groups, this list, and this other list for a class in your area. If you don't see a class near you, contact the nearest class and see if they know if a class near you.
- If there are no classes in your area, there are many books available. Be sure to get one that comes with a DVD, CD or set of tapes. It's nearly impossible to learn the pronunciation without hearing the language.
- Irish has different dialects, just as English does. Each dialect has minor differences in grammar and pronunciation. Roughly speaking, Ulster and Munster are two ends of a spectrum, with Connacht somewhere in the middle. Which dialect should you learn? If you're in a class, your best bet is to focus on the dialect used by your teacher. Once you get comfortable with the basics of the language, you can change dialects without a great deal of difficulty. If you're learning on your own, you might want to pick Connemara (Connacht) Irish because it follows the "standard" a little more closely than the other dialects.
- Start saving your money so you can attend a class in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region). You will make amazing progress during your stay, you will make new friends, and you will have fun. Check this list of Gaeltacht courses.
I'm learning Irish; how can I improve more quickly?
Here are some techniques I have found useful for learning Irish.
Go beyond your books and tapes; make up "games" that are appropriate for your skill level. For example, you may not be able to follow a news broadcast in Irish, but you can listen for words you know. Your next challenge might be to guess the topic of the story: the economy, a murder, a tribunal, student test scores? Is it good news or bad news?
When you hear a new word, try to guess how the word is spelled, then check your answer. This is an excellent way to develop your ability to distinguish between broad and slender consonants.
Oh that's where I left the cuisneoir!
Choose a dozen objects around your house, and label them with the corresponding Irish word. Post-its are handy for this. Every time you see the object, the post-it will remind you to say (or at least think) the word. This helps you bypass the mental English-to-Irish translation step by making a direct association between the object and its Irish word. When you've learned those words, remove those post-its and label some more objects.
Two (or more) for the price of one
When you learn a new word, check the dictionary for other forms of the word that are likely to be useful. For example:
|Once you know that...||...it's easy to remember that...|
|abair means "say"||abairt means "sentence" or "phrase"|
|cruinniú is a "meeting"||cruinnigh means "gather" or "assemble"|
|scrúdú is a "test" or "exam"||scrúdaigh means "examine"|
Maybe you already know that word
If you encounter an unfamiliar word containing 'j', 'k', 'q', 'v', 'w', 'x', 'y', or 'z', you may not need to look it up. It's a loan word, so you can probably figure out the meaning by sounding it out. For example, try to figure out the meaning of the following words:
To view the answers, select the area below:
job, virus, vote, xylophone, zoo