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Learning Irish will help you gain insight into a culture steeped in history, folklore, and artistic traditions that stretch back to the Gaels. The culture of Ireland includes long-standing customs and traditions, traditional Irish music, art, Literature, folklore, cuisine and, of course, the Irish language.
The Decline of Irish Language and a Revival
The Irish language was gradually replaced by English in many parts of Ireland between the 17th and 20th centuries. Famine and migration led to its further decline. When the Republic of Ireland was founded in 1922, Irish was adopted along with English as an official language, and the government and civil service became officially bilingual. Irish terms were also adopted for public figures and some organizations, for example, Garda (Police), Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Dáil (Parliament).
Irish is represented by several traditional dialects and by various urban Irish varieties. Differences between the dialects are audible in stress, intonation, word choice, and the structural arrangement of sentences. In Ireland there are three key dialects. These major dialects coincide roughly with the provinces of Munster (Cúige Mumhan) in the south, Connacht (Cúige Chonnacht) in the west, and Ulster (Cúige Uladh) in the north. Rosetta Stone teaches standard Irish (an Caighdeán Oifigiúil), which is often described as a mixture of all three dialects.
Recently the Irish language has experienced a revitalization. New Irish-only publications, a radio service, television station and the growth of fully immersive Irish schools—where all courses are taught in Irish—have reinvigorated the spread of the Irish language. With Rosetta Stone, you can help keep the Irish language alive and thriving. You’ll learn the foundations of Irish and develop vocabulary presented in an order that’s tried-and-tested to ensure better understanding of how to communicate confidently in Irish.
Is Learning to Speak Irish Difficult?
Irish has a reputation for being difficult to learn, but as an English speaker you will find that Irish uses the same Latin alphabet as English. Unfamiliar consonant combinations, like bhF or mB, might look confusing to Irish language learners at first, and the length of words (a function of Irish spelling rules that require the same vowel on either side of a consonant) can also seem intimidating. You’ll notice that because Irish is a much more phonetically consistent language than English, however, Irish is more consistent in terms of pronunciation. You can use this phonetic knowledge to pronounce long, compound words, that otherwise might seem unapproachable.
In Irish, s is pronounced “ss” next to back vowels and “sh” next to front vowels. Dh makes a guttural “g” sound. A feature of Gaelic languages is initial consonant mutation, which will make things interesting. Standard Irish also leaves letters in a word if one of the dialects pronounces them, even if other dialects don’t. This leads to a lot of seemingly silent letters. For example, a silent b in “mban” (maawn), woman; a silent s in “an tsráid” (awn trahd), the road; and a silent th in “liathróid” (lee-rood), ball.
While Irish words may look quite unfamiliar at first glance, once you’ve learned rules like these and had time to practice, you might find that learning Irish is more straightforward than many other languages. And, unlike English, where the grammar rules have many exceptions, Irish has more consistently adhered to rules of grammar.
Using Rosetta Stone’s award-winning mobile app and software, you can engage with Irish at your own pace, helping you to start speaking Irish from day one. Learning Irish with Rosetta Stone means you are leveraging a trusted language-learning software with over 25 years experience developing language programs that work.
We’re here to dispel the myth that learning Irish is too difficult to attempt, and to reassure language learners that with the right approach and a quality language-learning program from Rosetta Stone, you can build your confidence and begin speaking Irish from day one.
Learn the Irish Alphabet
Our first stop on the language-learning journey is understanding the Irish alphabet. The Irish alphabet is Latin based, just like the English alphabet. The basic alphabet consists of only 18 letters: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u. Variations of a, e, i, o and u written with an acute accent (Síneadh fada or simply fada in Irish) also exist in Irish.
The elongated forms of the vowels with acute accents are pronounced as follows:
á (pronounced ‘aw’ like “saw”)
é (pronounced ‘ay’ as in “pay”)
í (pronounced ‘ee’ as in “wee”)
ó (pronounced oh as in “no”)
ú (pronounced ‘oo’ as in “too”)
Learn to Speak Irish with Confidence
Now that we’ve got a handle on the Irish alphabet, we’ll dive into the approach for learning everyday phrases that’ll help you ease into real-world conversations.
1. Learn Irish phrases in context
Once you get started, it’s all about moving forward one step at a time with Rosetta Stone: a program that contextualizes your practice. Rosetta Stone’s Dynamic Immersion® method prepares you to adapt in new conversations by applying the context of what you already know to new words and phrases–so you’ll learn the language and build upon it with your own experiences.
Try your hand at pronouncing a few Irish sentences using the pronunciation provided in parentheses.
Cá bhfuil do mháthair? (Kaw veel doh waa-her) / Where’s your mother?
Oíche mhaith! (ee-huh wah) / Good night!
Is maith leis an mbuachaill sacar (Iss maw lesh an muck-ull soccer) / The boy likes soccer.
2. Practice Irish pronunciation daily
To feel confident in a learned language, you need to practice speaking daily so you become comfortable with pronunciation and confident when speaking aloud. With Rosetta Stone’s bite-sized lessons and award-winning mobile app, you have it all at your fingertips. Rosetta Stone allows you to fine-tune your pronunciation by instantly comparing your voice to thousands of native speakers, so you know what you’re saying is the correct.
3. Learn Irish idioms
Irish has lots of idioms or phrases that have a literal meaning and a figurative one. Like English, some of these are fairly common usage in the language and can make speaking and understanding Irish more difficult for a beginner. Even though you might not speak the language yet, you can get ahead by familiarizing yourself with a few of these colorful Irish idioms.
Is cuid den mhuc a drioball / Literally: the pig’s tail is part of the pig. In English we might say: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Cuireadh fáilte Uí Cheallaigh romhainn. / Literally: we got the O’Kelly welcome. It is meant as a way of saying that you’ve had a very nice welcome.
Ola ar a chroí. / Literally: oil on his heart. In English we might say: music to his ears.
Dhéanfadh sé nead i do chluais. / Literally: he would make a nest/web in your ear. While no idiomatic equivalent in English exists, this is said about a person who takes advantage of you while you are oblivious. The word nead in Irish, is the word for a bird’s nest as well as the word for a spider’s web.
How to Accelerate Learning Irish
Irish is a language that may take you some time to get the hang of, but once you have a handle on the pronunciation and basic structure, it’s much like any other language: practice makes perfect
Learn Irish pronunciation with Live Tutoring
When learning a new language like Irish, it can feel intimidating to speak confidently in public. We know that confidence comes from practice. That’s why Rosetta Stone has Live Tutoring sessions with native-speaking tutors to help along the way.
For difficult pronunciations and to help you study in the time that you do have to devote to learning Irish, make good use of Live Tutoring. A big part of building confidence is having real conversations, and the best place to do that is in a comfortable environment where you can receive constructive, insightful feedback. Our native-speaking tutors are also fluent in your native language, so there won’t be any communication gaps.
Immerse yourself in Irish
Between Rosetta Stone practice sessions, you’ll want to immerse yourself in the Irish language. Ireland is a relatively small country in Europe, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in heart. And the Irish certainly put a lot of passion into their incredible food and drink.
Guinness, Ireland’s dry stout beer is no exception and has become synonymous with its country of origin. A pint of the black stuff (in Irish “pionta Guinness”) was originally conceptualized and brewed in Ireland by Arthur Guinness. He was so sure of himself, in fact, that when he started brewing ales in 1759, he signed a 9000-year lease on St. James’ Gate Brewery, where Guinness is still brewed today.
Ireland’s watering holes are friendly, open spaces where the community gathers not just to drink, but to socialize and share with their neighbors. Learn more about Irish pub etiquette, or if you’ve worked up an appetite, you might want to tuck in to read more about traditional Irish soda bread, aka brown bread.
Speak and practice Irish daily
Practice makes perfect when learning some of the less intuitive aspects of speaking Irish. We go beyond standard lessons to let you practice whichever way works best for you–whether that’s studying common phrases, reading interesting stories, or talking to our native-speaking tutors. And don’t forget to train your ears. Rosetta Stone includes Audio Companion that let you take a break from the screen by listening to your lessons.
Your confidence with Irish vocabulary and proper pronunciation will grow and fears of difficulty learning Irish with fade into the distance with a daily practice that fits your on-the-go lifestyle. Use Rosetta Stone to learn Irish here, there, and everywhere–from your desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Everything we do has one very specific goal: to get you speaking Irish confidently and from day one.
Try Our Award-Winning App
Surround yourself with Irish whenever, wherever with the Rosetta Stone app.
Download a unit and knock it out on the train or a flight. Select a 5-10 minute lesson and sneak it in while you wait in line or for your ride to show up. And explore dynamic features, like Seek and Speak, where you can point at an object in the real world and get a translation.
The best part? You don’t have to choose between app or desktop. Both come with your subscription and sync, so you can switch between devices seamlessly.