Duolingo is the most popular way to learn languages in the world. Best of all, it's 100% free!


Ciorcal Comhrá

I attended my first ciorcal comhrá this morning and thought I'd report back here on how it went.

As much as I'd been looking forward to this opportunity to converse with native Irish speakers, I found myself almost equally anxious about it this morning as I walked over to my local library, where it was being held. I was suddenly feeling very self-conscious about how well I'd be able to follow any conversation in Irish, or be understood as Gaeilge, myself.

I needn't have been. The couple hosting the conversation couldn't have been kinder, or more welcoming - they're really lovely people and were both gracious and generous in their help. They were truly happy to have a newcomer among them.

There were 6 of us in attendance (including another mum from my son's primary school!), in addition to the host (a retired secondary school teacher of 36 years) and hostess. I was the only non-Irish attendee. We were asked to introduce ourselves and tell a brief story relevant to us (in Irish, naturally) and I was the last in the circle to do so.

I had a very hard time following the first six stories that went around the circle, but by the time the circle reached the woman to my left, the second-to-last guest to share a story, I was picking up enough words from her to be able to get the gist of her tale.

She was telling us about a pheasant that had fallen out of a tree in her back garden this morning. Her dog grabbed it before she could grab her dog, and sadly the bird's neck was broken in the scuffle and it died. She didn't want the bird to go to waste, though, so had prepared it and was roasting it with potatoes for dinner. I was able to glean most of this on my own, which was very rewarding!

I have to hand it to this Duolingo course; it really does an admirable job of exposing newcomers to the language. I feel like my lessons here served me very well today, I think everyone in the group was surprised by just how much Irish I'd been able to pick up from a free online course.

After telling our stories, we played a word game to help us with making comparisons using comh, with the retired teacher asking us to come up with comparisons, i.e comh bán le bainne, comh dubh le gual, comh tapa le capall ráis. My own contribution was comh fuar le h-oighear.

We also did a song about the parts of the body (standing up and holding out the called out parts), which the retirees in the group laughed over, not having heard the song since their own primary school days decades ago. It went like this: "Lámh, lámh éile a haon, a dó. Cos, cos éile a haon, a dó. Súil, súil éile, a haon, a dó. Cluas, cluas éile a haon, a dó Ceann, Srón, Béal, Smig. Is fiacla bána sa bhéal istigh.

We also did review of telling time, and had a cupan tae and Jammy Dodgers. Today was a bit like preschool for adults. :P

I really felt that they did these more elementary "lessons" for my benefit, but I was grateful for the effort, and the others in the group were happy enough to play along.

When someone got into a great long story, or thread of conversation, they generally gave me a quick review of what it was about afterwards in English, so that I could fill in whatever bits I'd missed as I'd tried to follow it, and so that I didn't feel left out.

It was a great morning, and I'm feeling very encouraged with how much further I might now be able to progress with my Irish by taking part in this conversation group. The host and hostess assured me that I'd be leading my own ciorcal comhrá by the time they were done with me. I'm not sure about that - my pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired, and I don't ever expect to be fluent - but I'm relieved that they didn't think I was a lost cause, or that I was in over my head because I didn't grow up with an exposure to the language (doubts that I've had at times, myself).

My thanks to the creators of the Duolingo Irish course, and to the people like our library's host and hostess, who all give generously of their time to help others learn or brush up on this beautiful language.

I return to my Duolingo lessons today feeling invigorated, and I'm really looking forward to my next Ciorcal Comhrá next month!

If you can find a local Irish conversation group in your city, I highly recommend it!

2 years ago


  • 25
  • 17
  • 15
  • 12
  • 8
  • 7
  • 7
  • 2

I enjoyed reading this. It sounds like it was a lovely experience. Good for you, and thanks for sharing.

2 years ago


I presume that the other people were speaking Munster Irish. Did you pick up on anything that was noticeably different from the Irish you have learned so far?

There are a number of examples of Lámh, lámh eile on YouTube - this one is fun (though anyone who isn't familiar with rugby might find it confusing!).

2 years ago


The only thing that really jumped out at me was the prevalence of tá mé in sentence structure, as opposed to táim. Both are used on DL, and I know that both are gramatically correct, but when I used "táim" in my own sentence structure, I got the impression that it took them a beat to understand what I was trying to say. That, or my pronunciation of the words is just a whole lot worse than I thought.

The other thing I noticed was people saying what sounded like conas tá tú, rather than "conas atá tú. When I spoke it the latter way (and the way I've learned it here), I was gently told that people tend to leave out the first syllable of "atá", just because it's easier to say (perhaps because it glides off the tongue more smoothly). Having said that, though, when I tried saying it that way to my seven year old, he promptly corrected me, saying, "It's conas ATÁ tú, Mom!", so maybe it's a generational thing.

And that Irish haka Lámh, Lámh eile cracked me up. Thanks for that. :D

2 years ago


I had a "discussion" with my niece about how to pronounce crann (her teacher's Mayo Irish gave her "cron", versus the "crown" pronunciation that her dad and I learned). Kids in school only know the dialect that their teacher speaks, and they aren't used to parents disagreeing with the teacher! Some people decry "Caighdeán Irish" because they say that it's killing "real" Irish in the Gaeltachts, but for the vast majority of school students, who aren't immersed in Irish at home, a single Caighdeán that is followed by all the teachers that they'll encounter in 14 years of schooling is probably for the best.

The a in atá is easily elided in spoken Irish (even by those who put it in written Irish). Imagine how they would have reacted if you had asked them Cén chaoi ina bhfuil tu? or Cad é mar atá tú?:-)

2 years ago

  • 24
  • 21
  • 10
  • 34

I'm quite envious! The Duo course is brilliant and I really enjoy doing it but I wish there was a list of words with the pronunciation. Hint!

2 years ago


I use Foclóir Gaeilge-Bearla and Abair.ie to help me with my pronunciation.

2 years ago