- Learning English
If you would like to attend an English language course there are a number of different options available:
- Education and Training Boards Ireland usually offer courses in English as a second language: www.etbi.ie
- You can also check for private courses with the Advisory Council for English Language Schools: www.acels.ie
- Attend your local Failte Isteach centre. The Fáilte Isteach project involves older people volunteering their time to teach conversational English classes to migrants who have come to Ireland from all over the world. The student-centred approach adopted by the programme provides basic language support in a practical, welcoming and inclusive manner: www.thirdageireland.ie/failte-isteach
- Local community groups sometimes offer free English language classes
You can also:
- Attend a conversation exchange at your local library: www.askaboutireland.ie
- Place your own advertisement looking for someone to take part in a language exchange. A good place to put the ad is in the local library or on university or college notice boards.
The Irish language influences how English is spoken in Ireland. Hiberno-English or Irish-English is similar to the English spoken in the United Kingdom but has its own unique features. Within Irish-English there are regional variations and accents. Below are the most common examples (with meanings) which you will hear in everyday conversations:
Common Words and Expressions
- Sorry is used to say I’m sorry and also to say Excuse me. For example people would say, ‘Sorry do you have the time’ instead of ‘Excuse me do you have the time?’
- I’m after doing my homework means ‘I have done my homework’
- Come here means ‘listen to this’ or ‘I have something to tell you’
- Amn’t means ‘am not’, for example, ‘Amn’t I right?’
- Yer man or yer wan/one means ‘your man’ or ‘your woman’. Used to refer to someone whose name you do not know, for example, ‘Yer man in the shop said it would cost €20’.
- Ye, Yis, Yous – you (plural), for example, ‘What are yous doing?’
- Yoke – ‘a thing’ for example, ‘what did you do with that yoke?’
- Class/classic – excellent, for example, ‘That book is class’
- Deadly – brilliant, for example, ‘The party was deadly’
- Eejit – idiot, for example, ‘You’re an awful eejit’
- Fair play – well done, for example, ‘Fair play to you’
- Gas – funny, for example, ‘That’s gas’
- Minerals – soft drink, fizzy drink, soda, for example ‘would you like a mineral?’
- Scoop – used to describe an alcoholic drink, for example, ‘are you going for a few scoops?’
- Thanks a million – common way of saying thank you.
- Grand – fine, well, for example, ‘how are you? – I’m grand’.
- Do – Event or party, for example, ‘We are having a do on Friday you should come along’.
- Brilliant -– great, fantastic
- What’s the story? – How are things? What’s going on?
- Fag – cigarette, for example ‘I need a fag’
- Gosh – to express surprise, for example, ‘Gosh, I didn’t know that’
- Feck – to throw, go away, for example, ‘Feck that in the bin’ or ‘Feck off!’
- Scumbag – used to describe a nasty person, for example, ‘He is a total scumbag’
- Tipple, poison – alcoholic drink, for example, ‘What’s your poison/tipple?’
- Jesus, Mary and Joseph – common phrase to express surprise or frustration
- Jaysus – Jesus, also used to express surprise or frustration
- To give out – to tell someone off, for example, ‘She gave out to him for not cleaning the house’
- Janey mac! – used to express surprise or amazement
- Banger – slang word used to describe an old car, for example, ‘Are you still driving that banger?’
- Loo – toilet, for example, ‘Where’s the loo?’
- Leg it – to run away, for example ‘Let’s get out of here, leg it!’
- Grub – food, for example ‘Is there any grub in the house?’
Th at the start of a word is not always pronounced clearly, for example, the can sound like de
- The Irish Language
Irish (Gaeilge) is one of the official languages in Ireland. While most Irish people do not speak the language on a daily basis, it is still an important part of Irish identity. You will see and hear Irish words and sayings in many different places, for example, most road and street signs are bilingual.
In March every year, Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish week) takes place. It highlights and promotes the importance of the Irish language. For more information in English and Irish see: www.snag.ie
Family names in Irish
A man’s surname generally takes the form of Ó or Mac and a woman’s surname generally take the form of Ní or Nic, for example:
- Patrick Byrne = Padraig Ó’Broin
- Mary Byrne = Máire Ní Broin
- John Fitzgerald = Seán Mac Gearailt
- Anne Fitzgerald = Áine Nic Gearailt
Traditionally in Irish families, one son was generally given the same first name as his father. To differentiate between father and son the word óg (young) is sometimes used, for example, Seán would be the father and Seán Óg would be the son.
Here are some common greetings in Irish:
- Dia duit, dia daoibh! – God be with you, hello (to one person, to more than one person)
- Conas atá tú? – How are you?
- Tá mé go maith, go raibh maith agat – I’m good, thank you
- Más é do thoil é – please
- Tá fáilte romhat – You’re welcome
- Céad míle fáilte – a hundred thousand welcomes
- Slán leat, slán libh – good-bye (to one person, to more than one person)
Common Irish language words and expressions
The following are words from the Irish language which are used instead of the English version:
- Bualadh bos – applause, to clap hands, for example, ‘Bualadh bos for Mary’
- Craic – fun, a good time, chat, for example, ‘That was great craic’, ‘what’s the craic?’
- Garda – police officer (Gardaí – plural)
- Garda Síochána – police service (literally: guardians of the peace)
- Sláinte – Irish word for health. Used as a toast when drinking. It has a similar meaning to ‘cheers’
- Mná – women
- Fir – Men
- Nuacht – news
- Taoiseach – leader, ruler, prime minister
- Tánaiste – deputy prime minister
- Uachtarán na hÉireann – President of Ireland
- Áras an Uachtaráin – the official residence of the President of Ireland
- LUAS – speed (and also the name of the light rail service in Dublin)
- Slán – goodbye
- Dublin – Baile Átha Cliath – black pool/hole city
- Galway – Gaillimh – stony river
- Cork – Corcaigh – marshy place
- Limerick – Luimneach – open ground
- Belfast – Béal Feirste – mouth of the river Farset
I would like to start learning Irish. Where can I get information on this?
The following organisations provide Irish language classes:
- Conradh na Gaeilge: www.cnag.ie
- Gael Linn: www.gael-linn.ie
- Your local library: www.askaboutireland.ie
- Online Irish classes: www.ranganna.com
- History of the Irish Language
While English is the language most spoken by the majority of Irish people, Irish or Gaeilge is the First Official Language of the Republic of Ireland and it is an official language of the European Union. Although once spoken commonly across the island of Ireland, nowadays it is generally spoken in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking areas).
Irish originally stems from Celtic language and so is likely to have been introduced to Ireland at the time of the arrival of Celts in Ireland. Following conquests and plantations from Britain in the 16th and 17th century the status of Irish was seriously undermined. However, through the 1700s and into the 1800s Irish was the language of the majority of the rural population.
The Great Famine and the introduction of a primary education system where Irish was banned further weakened the status of Irish. The language appeared to be on the point of extinction, but a vigorous restoration movement helped to prevent such a fate.
The Gaelic League, or in Irish, Conradh na Gaeilge, established in 1893, successfully turned support for Irish into a mass movement. With the establishment of the Free State in 1922 some attempts were made to re-establish Irish as the dominant language. However, English was widely used at this time and state institutions continued to operate through English so Irish remained a secondary language.
Support for the Irish language has grown again in more recent years. There is an Irish radio station (Radio na Gaeltachta) which was established in 1972 and an Irish language television station (TG4 – TG ceathair) which was established in 1994. For more information on the Irish language go to the bi-lingual website: www.gaeilge.ie
What is the Gaeltacht?
Gaeltacht is the Irish word meaning ‘Irish speaking region’. The Gaeltacht consists of areas in Ireland where Irish is still spoken as the community language. The Gaeltacht covers large parts of counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry and also parts of counties Cork, Meath and Waterford.
Where can I get more information about the Gaeltacht?
Údarás na Gaeltachta was established in 1980 and is the regional authority responsible for the economic, social and cultural development of the Gaeltacht: http://www.udaras.ie