Why do you learn Irish?
Hello! I am French and I learn English and Irish on Duolingo. I discovered Irish when I had to compare the pronunciation of Old Irish and Modern Irish for university two months ago. It's so different from the various languages I've come across so far, it fascinates me! So I decided to learn it!
When I was looking to the various topics on the Irish discussion, I realised that there are either people who only learn Irish or people who learn at least five other languages. I would like to know where you are from, and why you decided to learn that language: because you are Irish and want to know the language of your people? Because you love languages in general? Because you are fascinated by this language? For another reason?
Thank you for your answer!
I'm an American. I'm a thorough mixture of about a dozen different ancestries, Irish among them. It's a beautiful language; some of the finest music out there is in Irish.
I've always enjoyed reading about Celtic history, culture, mythology, art, etc. Some of the books I write take place in a setting based on historical Ireland, and studying Irish keeps my head in the right place for it.
I also live in Boston at the moment. The people here seem more excited about being of Irish descent than the Irish are.
That doesn't surprise me that much: I've heard that some communities in the United States are very proud of their Irish heritage, and the people from your close circle are generally the ones who know how to make you get into something that they like :)
I don't know that much about the Irish culture. Since you seem to really be into it, do you have a favourite book about the Irish culture, or a favourite writer, singer, or artist in general that would be a good start to discover the Irish culture for me?
Thank you for your answer ^^
I'm Hungarian , but I live in Finland. At first I did not plan to learn any language seriously with Duolingo. I just wanted to try it out because I was curious how it works (if it works at all). But then I tried it out with my native language (and Swedish) and it seemed to work okay... So I decided to learn Irish with it. I Irish Dance and listen to Irish music all the time... might as well speak the language a little, too.
So I'm not the only one who isn't from an English-speaking country to learn Irish!
Learning the language will also help you to understand the lyrics of the songs you listen to without having to ask someone to translate them for you. If you really like Irish music, that will definitely be good for you ^^
I am Italian with no Irish heritage whatsoever but I’ve always been interested in languages. I’m on my second year of translation studies at university and I feel like it opened a new world for me, because they want us to dig deep into the language, its structures and the differences between the languages. I tried learning Scottish Gaelic just for the hell of it a few years ago, during high school, but couldn’t find any material (I tried Russian as well, but I didn’t like it that much, and Japanese, which I’m picking up again after I get to a decent level in Irish and stop forgetting how to say things I repeat every day). This year I remembered about it and since I knew they had Irish here I reopened this Duolingo account (i had used it for Swedish ages ago because a friend of mine was living in Sweden and I wanted to know the language too, now I don’t remember anyhting at all). I like the Irish tree a lot (unlike the Japanese one) and there are other valid resources on the internet as well. I think I finally found the time, the passion and the motivation to keep studying a language that I like and that is surprisingly easy despite what people say about it (“you don’t read 90% of the letters but they change the pronounciation of the ones you have to read!!” yeah, this happens in every language... “it’s complicated!!” and that’s the best part of studying it... “it’s useless!!” even if it was, so what? is going for a walk once in a while or knowing everything about dinosaurs or algebra or watching tv more useful? does everything really need to be useful?) I really hope I’ll be able to speak it with people and I plan on going to Ireland anyway, to university or just on a holiday.
I had translation classes when I was studying English in university, and I felt the same! I wasn't really good at it because I didn't have a lot of vocabulary, but I loved it nonetheless because it really made me think in that language. I was able to think in English before going to university, but working on that language for translation classes made me think through the eyes of an English-speaking person. I think that the vocabulary and the way is built a language shape your perception of the world in a way because there is a restricted number of words that restrict the description of the world you can make. Learning another language reshapes your perception of the world, first because you are open to new people and new cultures, but also because you see the world differently when you're able to think in that language. People should learn another language just for that reason, but that's just my opinion ^^
And I would not say that learning Irish is easy, but it's definitely less difficult than I expected. It was complicated for me at first, but then I realised that what I thought was difficult also existed in French (the pronunciation of vowels, the lack of pronunciation of many letters, the spelling, the syntax structure, etc.). It became way easier when I stopped complaining about it!
I plan on going to Ireland next year to perfect my English and start to practice my Irish (which will be decent in a few months, I hope), and I think that it'll be a really good experience for me!
That’s true, and there’s always a reason to learn a language other than how much money you can make by knowing it... that’s sad, actually, but that’s not the point and this is not the place for philosophy (?)
I love learning languages and the irony that comes from having to make an effort and spend time to do something that other people already do since they were three— The vowels with fadas are still my greatest enemy (long vowels are something we Italians are infamously unable to grasp, with a whole series of misunderstandings in English as well, for example in couples of words like sheep/ship, sheet/shit, beach/bitch... :D). Other than that, Irish spelling is actually easy and pretty straightforward and with very few exceptions. And the word order is something you get used to eventually. The Irish language sure taught me patience and calm, because sometimes it makes me want to cry, or scream, or both, or ???
Good luck with that, and go n-éirí an bóthar leat! (yes, I had to look it up)
Edit: the swear words became hearts, I didn’t write them like that but I’m laughing a lot so I’m leaving them like this. :D
I have the same problem with long vowels! I think that there are way more similarities between French-speakers and Italian-speakers than I expected ^^
Although I'm not that good at learning languages, I love to do that! I only started Irish two months ago, but I'm starting to get how words are spelled when I hear them for the first time, and to write words in the correct order! It's difficult, but I can do it \o/
Thank you for your encouragements (and for leaving the hearts :D)!
I'm not that surprised by that: I've read in many articles that the number of Irish-speaking people is decreasing because Irish is very complicated compared to English. I think that's a shame because, if the language goes extinct, a huge chunk of the culture will as well. That's really cool that some people like you want to fight against that!
Well, compared to English almost all languages are complicated... (in my opinion - and my language is different from English in a million ways).
But the slow death of Irish language makes me sad as well...
Based on other examples (small finno-ugric and samoyedic languages in Russia) I think the unwillingness to learn Irish in Ireland has more to do with the fact that it is not actually the language used during everyday conversations (apart from the Irish-speaking-areas). Languages are tools, if they have no function in everyday life, they will not be used/learnt. No matter how much the government force people to learn it. Or how much they try to make it a symbol of national identity when people in general do not feel the same way about it.
And then there is that, too - people are forced to learn it in schools. People usually hate to do things when they are forced into doing them... Doesn't help...
But there is hope! A few hundred years ago Finns mainly spoke Swedish and Finnish was a minority thing. Now Finns speak Finnish and usually cry when they have to learn some basic Swedish in schools. Maybe Ireland can turn things around, too (I know they try since a long time now but... it doesn't cost a dime to dream...).
I didn't think about that, but now that you say it, it should have been obvious! There's the same problem in France: regional languages such as Breton and Corsican have less and less speakers because everyone speaks French. There are other factors, such as the laws implemented by the French government to forbid teaching these languages in schools during the 20th century, but the fact that they're not used in everyday conversations today doesn't help at all.
Do students really have to learn Irish in schools? If so, I think that it would be better to give the option to learn it instead of forcing students to learn it, and to replace the classes dedicated to the Irish language by classes dedicated to the Irish culture. If students are interested in the Irish culture, they'll be willing to learn the language. There would surely be less people able to speak Irish, but they would be more to actually talk in Irish on an everyday basis.
As far as I know, learning Irish and English are both compulsory in government-founded primary and secondary schools and you can be excused from them only in a very limited number of cases (you were living abroad before or such). But as I heard, the quality of education in respect of Irish is quite bad (the overall quality of education is said to be good). Maybe if they would have better teachers or more resources or different curriculum for Irish or... whatever is not satisfactory in the education... the kids would like it more. My very few Irish friends here said they hated nothing more than Irish class.
Most of the kids in Irish schools that "hate Irish" do so because the people around them "hate Irish". It's an attitude that gets passed around like a germ, long before kids have any idea about what constitutes bad teaching, or what will or won't be useful in later life. It becomes a habit that then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that gets passed on to the next batch of kids. It can be strengthened or weakened by the attitudes of parents and of teachers. It's analogous to the "girls can't do maths" notion, or "boys don't play with dolls", a form of social "training" that is difficult to stamp out once it takes root.
That's really sad, because it may make Irish people hate their own culture if they associate it with these bad memories. I hope that things will change in the near future.
Why not! As a Frenchwoman, I can only encourage you to keep up your efforts! French is a difficult language to learn because its grammar rules are quite complex, but I think that it's definitely worth it :)
I'm from the US. I study Irish because as a Scottish Gaelic learner/speaker, I am exposed to a lot of Irish online and there is a lot is interaction between the Irish and Scottish Gaelic communities. I'm of both Irish and Scottish descent (but not "Scots-Irish"--that's sometime else) but I strongly prefer Scottish Gaelic but it's good to know some Irish and be able to read stuff in Irish online, like on Twitter.
I knew that the Scottish and Irish communities had a common heritage, but I didn't know that they interact a lot on social media in their respective languages. That's really cool! Why do you prefer Scottish Gaelic to Irish Gaelic?
I'm German and just started studying Celtic Studies at the university. Irish is part of my program, so I decided I should practise it further, especially during holidays. Besides, I love languages and Irish is just amazing! It is so interesting to learn a language that is so different from all the languages I know and learned.
I didn't know you could study Celtic cultures all at once: there are so many of them that it seems almost impossible to regroup them in one degree! But I'm sure it's very interesting!
I see... Then, I suppose you're studying languages such as Old Irish and Old Norse in order to understand the various texts and runes written in those languages ^^
Not really, it's not that much about the languages. It's more about the things we know about their lifestyle, how the Romans and other cultures interacted with them and so on. There's a lot of archeology, but we also study the old writings of the Irish people, the legends and stories about their kings. At least that's what we do right now, it changes every semestre :)
My bad! I know nothing about all that, but it definitely sounds very interesting!
I am actually not sure! For me I just started learning Irish on a whim. A friend of mine recommended Duolingo and at first I thought I would learn Spanish or Italian, but as I was scrolling through the list Irish caught me eye. I live in Canada, but unlike many Canadians I don't have any Irish heritage. I am sure not why I have continued with Irish, I think at this point it is just stubborness and a love hate relationship. It is beautiful, musically, playful and idiomatic but also really hard. I can't seem to wrap my head around the grammar. I haven't actually felt like I am making any progress in a long time. Still, I am now addicted to an Irish soap opera, Rós na Rún, so that keeps me motivated to maybe one day be able to follow it without subtitles. I also feel a bit like the odd one out about the fact that most people who learn Irish seem to have a deep connection with it, either through heritage, or music...whereas for me it is just curiosity.
Well, we are at least two odd people here! You say that you don't have a "deep connection" with Irish, but "Rós na Rún" made you continue to learn that language. That's difficult to create a connection with another culture, especially if you don't perfectly understand its language. I started to learn English when I was in 4th grade, but I only felt like I created a connection to the American and English cultures when I read "The Catcher in the Rye" the year I graduated high school. It took me a long time, but I feel like I'm as connected to English as I'm with French now, although I'm not bilingual yet. I think it's normal not to feel as connected to the Irish culture as the others are, but you seem to be connected to it nevertheless, which is important. Thank you for your answer ^^
De rien! Your English is excellent. Je souhaite que mon français peut être si bon un jour. It is hard to fell connected to a culture when you study it in school. When I learnt French in school it was mostly grammar grammar grammar, but now I am trying to enjoy it more through music and poetry. I think finding a way to connect definately makes it more worthwhile and rewarding.
Thank you! I completely agree with you: I've studied English for two years in university. It definitely helped me to improve my English because I was listening, reading, writing, and speaking in that language everyday, almost more than French. I was able to do that because I loved what I was learning. I had this connection to the English-speaking cultures.
And I think that your French is quite good! I don't know if you have the opportunity to speak with French or Quebecker people, but they can help you to discover their own culture and give you feedback on your French when you interact with them. You don't need to practice it as much as I did with English in university, but half-an-hour everyday is more than enough!
That's a really noble thing to do. I hope that speaking Irish will become a tradition in your family ^^
Really interesting comments.... My reasons are varied... I live in Ireland and am surrounded by the language (or maybe I should say languages, since the differences between the dialects is so substantial and so significant). Many of my friends were forced to learn Irish at school, most of whom then learned to hate the language, even though it was spoken at home. I, however, received a privileged education where all Irishness was strongly discouraged. (Signs reading "no Irish need apply" were still common in England where so many Irish went to find work). However my granny spoke to me in Irish regularly (actually in Leinster Irish/As Guerlainn, which is now extinct, until I was about five) and my grandfather (being an Antrim man) in something pretty much like Donegal Irish. So I know enough to say hi in the street, greet friends, order a beer, say thanks, and I'll see you tomorrow...and maybe get some of the weather forecast... but I'd like to do more. It is a very different way of seeing the world. Unfortunately I think Romance style grammar misrepresents the language. I see it as essentially nominal... it's core is about the relationship between things, not action or doing... though they are there... "Tá madra agam" isn't really saying I "have" or "own" a dog. "Tá" is only described as a verb because we use Romance grammar terms. It's really saying "this is the current state of being". There is currently me and a dog is connected to me in a relationship we describe in English as "at". I know there are many linguists who will argue with this... I'd just respond that you can't see the forest for the trees... this is not a Romance language, or anything like. We didn't start using the Roman alphabet until around 1400 years ago... So have a go at thinking out of the box as you learn it... it will reward you. And thanks for the question, it was really useful for me to explore my own thinking.
And thank you for sharing your thoughts! I think that learning any new language makes you question the way you see the world. Learning English made me realise that there are many French grammar rules creating social distinctions. For example, there is no neutral pronoun in French to qualify a person or people. So you have to refer to people by their gender: “Il” (= “he”), “Elle” (= “she), “Ils” (= masculine “They”), and “Elles” (= feminine “They”). Because of that lack of neutral pronoun, if you don't know the gender of a person, or if you're referring to a group of people in which there is at least one man, you'll have to use the masculine pronouns “Il” and “Ils”. When I learnt English, in which you can use the gender-neutral pronoun “they”, I realised that this French grammar rule may be one of the reasons to why it's difficult for many French people to discuss gender equality and non-cisgender identities. When your language doesn't give you the tools to tackle some topics, it's even more difficult for your brain to even think that there is something to question. I only started to learn Irish two months ago, but I hope that it'll open my eyes on some topics like English did :)
As a non-binary Italian speaker I feel like I have to reply here as well. I’ve always loved English, for no particular reason, it came out so naturally and while all my classmates were struggling to understand how to say the things they had in mind in their language as if they could translate them word by word, I loved learning every single word and grammatical structure as they were, even when they were difficult to me, because the whole language just seemed like a whole new universe and it was so fascinating, being able to come and go whenever I wanted... In recent years I started realizing that, besides the excitement of my first foreign language (I only started studying French later in high school, while I still remember my first English textbook with animals and colors from elementary school), it was mainly because I didn’t have to gender myself at all when talking. That’s why it felt so natural, that’s why I felt so welcome in that new language that frightened everybody, that’s why I find it easier and clearer than my first language itself... and that’s why here once you’re a “he” or a “she” you’re a “he” or a “she” forever. I feel the same with Irish now. I feel like I’m discovering yet another new world with a thousand other hidden cool features.
I wanted to tell you one of these cool things, but I’ll let you find out yourself the same way I did. Be sure to read the whole story and comments as well, I loved this :D https://thegeekygaeilgeoir.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/even-racists-got-the-blues/amp/
That confirms what I've been thinking about French, and it seems to be the same with Italian. I guess that both our mother tongues need a little improvement to make everyone feel included. I understand why you like English that much ^^
And thank you for sharing the article! Colours seem to be a very complicated part of the Irish language, but it's a very interesting way to describe them. I was also fascinated by people desperately trying to translate "Black/Blue Lives Matter" into Irish! It made my day :D
Thanks! I was really curious about it but I never dared to ask, mainly because when I (and many others with me) try to make Italian easier for people like me, and less gendered for everyone (e. g: not referring to groups of people only with masculine adjectives, pronouns, etc. regardless of its actual composition) people say we’re ruining the language... we’re too politically correct... and "forcing" things in a language that’s not my own wasn’t exactly something I planned to do. To be honest, I didn’t even think people would be interested when Irish is not widely spoken in the first place, both by binary and non binary people. Now I know I’m not the only one who thought about this!
… maise. I had some attempts at Malagasy recently (in Madagascar), again a non Romance language with a different way of expressing the world... but both you and weepingweellow have clearly grasped the nuances available in English. Maith an bhean... only gets made sexist by it's English translations...
I'm French, but I come from Brittany, so Breton as well :) I speak Breton. It's as you may know a Celtic language. So I got curious and begun to learn about the Celtic languages. During a year in Erasmus in Cork, (in UCC !) I had the chance with other international students to have Irish lessons offered. I got them, obviously haha. Now I learn Welsh, close to Breton. And I begun working on my Irish, though it is as difficult to learn as it is beautiful to hear ;)
I remember seing that Breton and Welsh are in the same subfamily of the Celtic languages. I hope that it's not too confusing for you: there must be many similarities between these two languages ^^
I find it enriching! :) I do it without any expertise, but you find very similar words, about basic activities and things. The structures are very similar as well, with the very specific use of prepositions. Sometimes, you find similarities with Irish too. When it happens, it is like finding a treasure haha ^^
For a while I have searched for a language my friends and I could all learn so we could speak to each other in kind of like a "secret code". After looking at several uncommon/lost languages, we settled on Irish. Hopefully all of us (including me!) stick with it all the way through. Such a beautiful language!
That's such a good idea! I knew two people, who were best friends, who had decided to learn Vietnamese for the same purpose. It was both very impressive and annoying to see them talk in that language: impressive because it's difficult to learn by yourself a foreign language, and annoying because I was always wondering what they were saying (and they would tease me on that, of course!) haha ^^
I'm a 68 year old and I learnt Irish in school , didn't use it much when I left school and travelled . I married a French man and returned to Ireland , our children went to an all Irish school which meant I had to relearn my gaelige my French man has a cupla focal as well. Now living in Spain I wanted to top up my Irish so I can keep up with my grandchildren who are all fluent . I love the language and of course the music and getting addicted to Ros na run
I think it's awesome that you've helped your children to learn Irish, and now your grandchildren are the reason why you want to perfect your Irish ^^
Also, you're the second person to mention "Rós na Rún". I definitely need to check that out!
I'm Irish, moved to Canada when I was very young, and I feel like it's a good way to reconnect with the country of my birth, and even a little bit to connect to who I might have been had I grown up there. I heard irish growing up, my parents and other family used to speak irish when they wanted to say things without us hearing. I learned a few words growing up. Now I find that my ear is just drawn to it, it seems familiar even thought I'm still learning. Would love to be able to spend some real time in Ireland at some point.
I hope that you'll be able to go to Ireland very soon :)
I don't know if you learn Irish with your parents but, whether it's the case or not, it'd be also very nice to talk with them in that language. Also, they won't be able to hide things from you any longer :p
Great question! I have lived within 100 miles of Dallas, Texas for my entire life (nearly 50 years). Although I have travelled all over North America for work, I had never been across the Atlantic until last year (2018).
Ireland had simply been a “curiosity” to me for many years, but I never really gave serious thought to going there. That is, until I happened across an Irish song on YouTube one night. The sound of the music and lyrics really grabbed me, and my curiosity quickly became more of a passion. As I listened to more Irish music (in English and in Irish), my heart started longing to learn about the country and her people.
My wife and I decided to take a week-long vacation in the southern part of the Republic last summer. In the most literal and figurative senses of the word, I “drank” in every moment!
We fell in love with the Irish people and their land, fueling my desire to learn all I could about the history, culture, music, politics, and daily life of Ireland.
Only after returning home did I learn about Duolingo (I now know about as much Irish as a 3-year-old child might). I try to watch Irish language videos every day so that I can get a better grasp of how native speakers sound - as one can imagine, it’s quite different from the classroom-style approach in Duo!
Just last week, we booked our next trip to Ireland. Having one brief trip there under our belts, we can be more intentional about where we go and what we do. This trip will be much less “touristy” than before, and we will see a bit more of the country (and see it more closely!).
As for why I want to learn Irish...
Aside from it being the tongue of one of the most beautiful places in the world, I’ve found it to be a BEAUTIFUL language - even though the concepts of its sentence structure are very hard for me to grasp. I’ll get there, though!
I did a couple of years of Irish in school in NI before my family moved to England. I normally use Duo to brush up for travel but I'm going nowhere due to the pandemic and locked down at home. I thought I'd give Irish a go. My mother apparently was fluent but I've never heard her speak Irish.
I was exposed to the odd Irish word or phrase through social media, Irish TV and films on Netfix, etc. and became curious about the language. I thought I would probably only keep at Duolingo for a month or so (and never even bothered choosing a name) but I have been learning Irish for over a year now and I absolutely love it. It's a beautiful language and I'm so grateful to Duolingo for making it available to those of us who would never have a chance to learn it otherwise.
Why not! The most important thing is that you don't force yourself to do something that you don't like in the end, which I hope is the case ^^
And learning Irish will help you to discover even more things about the Irish culture ^^
I am of German Irish Heritage and have always wanted to learn the languages of my ancestors. I chose Irish first because It is not used as often and I don't want it to be a dying language. Plan is to learn and teach my children then have at least one night a week where all we speak is Irish to each other.
That would be very cool to be able to do that with your children: not only will it keep the Irish langauge and culture alive within your family, but it will be a great opportunity to share a nice moment with your family!
I just recently discovered (through 23andme) that I'm significantly more Irish than my family was telling me.. nearly 80 percent! I was so extremely fascinated by this. I always was told growing up that we were German, so much so that I even spent some time there and learned a lot about the language and culture. This new knowledge has me extremely excited to learn about my ancestors, their history, and their language.
80 percent? That's a lot! Maybe your family didn't know that you all had that much of Irish blood flooding in your veins, but that was a great opportunity to learn about German language and culture -- and I hope that you're still interested in it! It's the same with Irish language and culture now, except that you're sure that an important percentage of your ancestors were Irish ^^