"It is a traditional meal."
Translation:Is béile traidisiúnta é.
If you want the long version, see http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Irish/Basic_Sentence_Structure.
It's kinda hard to explain, but I'll give it a try. With practice you'll eventually get used to it.
You use Tá when you're describing something e.g.
Tá carr nua agam. Tá sí dearg - I have a new car. It is red.
You use Is (An chopail) when you're saying what something is. e.g.
Tá carr nua agam. Is carr dearg é - I have a new car. It is a red car.
I think you have it right. Tá is also used when saying where you are or what you're doing. e.g.
Tá mé in Éirinn - I'm in Ireland.
Tá mé ag ithe mo dhinnéir - I'm eating my dinner.
For more advanced and complicated sentences where you want to put emphasis on something, "is" can be used along with another verb. e.g.
Is in Éirinn a bhfuil mé - I'm in Ireland (In Ireland I am).
Someone with better Irish might be able to give a better explanation.
galaxyrocker thanks for your patience. I've made up my mind to get to the bottom of this and I appreciate an expert like you staying with me on this.
According to this source: http://www.eirefirst.com/lesson6.html, the sentence - "It is a traditional meal." should be a "Ta" sentence because it links a noun to an adjective - the noun, "meal," is linked to the adjective, "traditional."
(Unless one wants to emphasize the predicate as in:
Is traidisiúnta an béile.)
Or am I wrong that meal and traditional are being linked. Actually, "It," and "meal" are being linked. "Traditional" modifies meal and comes along for the ride. So this sentence, and all sentences linking pronouns in this way, are actually linking a noun and a pronoun which is a type of noun.
You got it there at the end! It's linking 'it' and 'meal'. It just happens to further describe 'meal' with the adjective 'traditional'. It's the difference between predicative adjectives and attributive adjectives.
In predicative adjectives, it's the adjective and the noun being linked. However, here it's used attributively - describing the type of meal - so it's the pronoun and the noun phrase ('traditional meal') being linked.