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?
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.
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.
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).
Well... Irish (or any other language) doesn't use English spelling rules. A basic part of learning a language is to learn how it use written symbols to represent sounds.
Irish spelling is complex but mostly gives a good guide to how to say the word - unlike English or French.
I haven't been studying Irish long, but I have heard both "Ta Gaeilge agam" and "Labhraím Gaeilge". That said, so far my understanding of the difference is that "Ta Gaeilge agam" (or in my case "Ta cupla focal Gaeilge agam") may be the more precise way to say that you speak Irish (or a few words of Irish), while "Labhraím..." may be the more precise way to describe HOW you speak, and is often followed by an adverb, as in: "I speak slowly, quickly, softly, etc."
Nothing official about that, it's just what I've found in studying. Hope it helps.
It is somewhat analogous to the idea in English that you "have a skill/ability".
Tá léamh agam - "I can read" (I have the ability of reading)
Tá snamh agam - "I can swim" (I have the skill of swimming)
Tá cócaráil agam - "I can cook" (I have the skill of cooking)
Tá Gaeilge agam - "I can speak Irish" (I have the ability to use the Irish language)
The issue is that, unlike "I can swim" vs "I swim", English speakers often say "I speak (language)" when they mean that they have the ability, even if they don't use it, but they usually don't say "I swim" if they haven't been in a swimming pool in 20 years, even though they still have the skill.
This ambiguity doesn't occur in Irish. Tá Gaeilge agam means that "I have the ability to use Irish (reading, writing, speaking or listening) ", Labhraím Gaeilge means that I actually speak the language, not that I read it or write it or passively listen to it.
The word, 'Gaeilge' refers to the Irish language, or anything connected to it - Irish class, Irish dictionary, Irish teacher, etc. When referring to other aspects of Irish life you usually use various derivatives of the word, 'Éireann'. 'Is Éireannach mé' - 'I am Irish', 'muintír na hÉireann' - 'the Irish people'.