My teacher in university taught us : "Tá cupla focal agam." (eng.: I have a few words.) to express that we speak (at least a bit) Irish. Worked like a charm in Ireland, and I hope the expression made the cut here, at least in one lesson :)
I know in English that "I speak Irish" can mean both the act of speaking Irish and also the ability to speak Irish. Does this also apply in Irish? I was taught that the way you express an ability to speak Irish is "Tá an Ghaeilge agam" (or something like, can't remember exactly). But can you also use "Labhraím Gaeilge" to express the same thing?
The way you were taught was correct. Ability to speak a language is expressed by "Tá _ agam".
Yeah, like @smrch said, "Tá _ agam" stands for "I can speak " in this case, "Labhraím Gaeilge" lacks something, like "Labhraím Gaeilge ar maidin" (I speak irish in the morning)... but i'm not sure, i think it goes like that, like actually SAYING something
So if I understand correctly: "Tá Ghaeilge agam" is like saying "I can speak Irish", whilst "Labhtaím Gaeilge" is more like saying "I am speaking Irish" (in meaning, that is, not necessarily grammatically the same)
Táim ag labhairt (na) Gaeilge is "I am speaking Irish".
labhair is the verb "speak" and Labhraím Gaelige means that you actually open your mouth and say things in Irish, whereas "I speak Irish" is ambiguous in English - it can be used to indicate an ability, rather than an action. In Irish, the ability meaning is expressed with Tá Gaeilge agam.
That sounds like you're just saying what I said in an unnecessarily complicated manner...
I'm correcting the suggestion that
"Labhtaím Gaeilge" is more like saying "I am speaking Irish"
because it doesn't mean "I am speaking Irish". (I can't tell from your username, but if English isn't your first language, you might not appreciate the difference between the present progressive and the simple present - they aren't just grammatically different, the meaning is different too).
I added an explanation that you consider "unnecessarily complicated" because your explanation might be misleading for other readers - you clearly found the previous explanations sufficiently unclear that you needed further input.
I assume Gaeilge means only Irish the language. How would one say Irish the adjective?
This expression ticks me off so much. It should be, 'Tá Gaeilge agam,' - literally, 'I have Irish.'
Indeed. And there is a difference between Tá Gaeilge agam and Labhraím Gaeilge. The former means ability, whereas the latter means that you habitually speak Irish.
Because Irish is never called Gaelic. Only Scottish Gaelic is referred to as such to differentiate it from the Scots language. Irish is always called Irish in English.
The Irish in County Donegal call it Gaelic or Gaelg the Ulster dialect version of Gaeilge. The Scots pronouce Gaelic as Gallic.
Technically, you can in the US and Canada, as the Irish who came here called it that as time went on (Irish teachers from Ireland have also told me it's not incorrect here), and we have a rich tradition of calling it that throughout North America, but in Ireland when they say Gaelic they're either referring to Irish football or the Gaelic language of Scotland. Also, since there are three Gaelic languages: Gaeilge, Gàidhlig, and Gaelg, you're better off just calling it Irish, Irish Gaelic, or simply Gaeilge (the actual name).
I would add that people in Ireland sometimes find the name "Gaelic" for Irish to be slightly offensive. It's not that there's anything wrong with the word itself, more the fact that the word seems to have often been in the mouths of people who are not fans of the language.
So "Labhraím gaeilge" means the act of speaking Irish and "tá gaeilge agam" means the ability to speak Irish?