Irish/Getting started

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Some useful resources for beginners

Different people have different learning styles, but most learners of Irish want to follow some kind of course. You can start with one of the following:

The full list of resources has additional alternatives in case you find you don't like these, or you're interested in a specific other dialect.

If you're new to the Gaelic languages, the Irish spelling might look a bit intimidating at first. It's not inherently hard, and in fact more regular than English spelling, but probably different from what you're used to (and for good reasons - Irish has a lot more consonant sounds than the alphabet has letters, so it had to come up with some solution). So it's a good idea to explicitly learn something about Irish spelling first. You may want to watch this video about the basics of Irish spelling.

Finally, you'll often need a dictionary. Teanglann is generally considered the best online dictionary, which actually contains a digitised version of three different dictionaries. It also has recordings for the pronunciation of many words in the three major dialects.

Using the language

The best way for learning a language is not just getting input, but actively using it, because this forces you to think about how to express things and to look up unknown words. Feel free to join the Celtic Languages Discord server and just start chatting with whatever Irish you have. Of course, you can also ask questions about Irish there.

The status of the Irish language

Something to be aware of when starting to learn Irish is that despite officially being the first language of Ireland and almost half of the Irish population reporting to speak Irish in the census, it really is a small minority language. Most people reporting in the census that they speak Irish aren't proficient speakers, but just learnt it to some level at school, where it is a mandatory subject. This leads to the rather unusual situation that learners outnumber native speakers by far.

What this means for you is that you'll encounter content made by other learners who might not have good Irish themselves. If you're interested in learning good Irish, don't trust random videos about Irish on Youtube. They probably contain errors.

Dialects and Standard Irish

Irish is only a weakly standardised language. In particular, there is only a written standard (called An Caighdeán Oifigiúil), but no standard pronunciation. So you'll always use the pronunciation of a particular dialect, even if you're keeping to the written standard otherwise.

Dialects are often discussed with Irish (especially on the Celtic Languages Discord server), and picking one will make sure that you learn a consistent form of the language. However, if you don't know yet which one to pick, don't worry. It's still one language and the dialects are close enough to each other so that people understand each other. So in this case, it's best to start with the standard and use any pronunciation (as long as it is valid in at least one dialect) - you can always switch to a specific dialect later.