How did you learn?

This site is all about learning to speak Irish Gaelic (or “Irish” as we call it in Ireland).

If you have been learning the language:

  • How did you learn?
  • What resources did you use?
  • What are your top 3 tips for learning the language?

Leave a comment below with your answers!

Categorized as Learn

By Eoin

Native Irish Gaelic speaker, from County Clare, and living in Limerick.


  1. I live on the California Central Coast, and when I first started learning Irish, there were no teachers available here…thus, to a great extent, I’m self-taught. I started with the book “Teach Yourself Irish (the modern Ó Sé version, which is more or less dialect-neutral, not the original Munster version) and the computer program “TeachMe Irish.” What helped the most, though, was hanging out on the translation forum at…reading translations and explanations, asking questions and, as I became more confident, offering simple translations of my own. I also spent a lot of time listening to Raidió na Gaeltachta and TG4 on-line (still do, actually!) and to the Turas Teanga DVDs.

    After I’d been learning in this way for about two years, I finally hooked up with a teacher, and was surprised to discover that I was already reading and understanding on an intermediate level. Speaking has come much more slowly, which is why I strongly recommend hooking up with a teacher from the start, if at all possible…conversational practice from the beginning would have, I think, made conversing now much easier for me.

    My top three tips for learning the language are:

    1) Take every opportunity to hear the language spoken naturally. This is fairly easy to do nowadays, with both RnaG and TG4 available on-line.

    2) Don’t neglect grammar. Audio-only programs that claim to teach you in the same way that children learn their native language really aren’t suitable for the way adults learn, unless all you want is the raw basics. Get a good text-book and work your way through it methodically, so you learn how the language works.

    3) Find ways to practice whenever you can. Start a blog in Irish, even if at first it’s relatively simple. Hang out on Irish discussion forums and participate when you can. Get some simple books in Irish (such as the childrens’ and adult learners books available at and practice reading every day. If at all possible, participate in a conversation group, either on-line or locally.

  2. I began learning Irish while living in Los Angeles, mostly from books and tapes. When I moved to Ireland, I was able to attend classes. And now that I live in the Gaeltacht, a short drive from Oideas Gael, well… let’s just say they know me pretty well. A few years ago I completed the two-year Dioplóma sa Ghaeilge, which was very rewarding.

    Here are my top 3(ish) tips:

    * If you’re learning on your own, think about your own learning style and find the book & CD that suits you.

    * Choose a dozen objects around your house, and label them with the corresponding Irish word. Post-its are handy for this. Every time you see the object, the post-it will remind you to say (or at least think) the word. This helps you bypass the mental English-to-Irish translation step by making a direct association between the object and its Irish word. When you’ve learned those words, remove those post-its and label some more objects.

    * Take advantage of the Internet! Join a forum and ask questions. (If you find a friendly wombat, say hi!) You’ll also find lots of information online. If you don’t understand something your teacher (or book) tells you, reading a second (or third…) explanation can usually clarify things. And even if you do understand it, reading a different explanation will often give you a deeper understanding.

    * Start a blog in Irish. Maybe all you’ll be able to do at first is write a sentence about the weather. Eventually you will be able to write about what you did that day. It might not be the most exciting prose, but using the language is what’s important. Over time you’ll be amazed at the progress you’re making.

  3. A Redwolf agus a Wombat, go raibh maith agaibh as ucht bhur fhreagraí.

    What I take from both of your suggestions is that the single best way to kick start your learning is to be face-to-face with a teacher (assuming you’re not near a Gaeltacht – Irish speaking area).

    Wombat, you have some nice suggestions on post-its and blogging.

    There’s some Gaeilge on Twitter these days. Search for “#gaeilge”.

  4. Dia dhuit,

    We just spoke it at home on the farm. It was an all Irish farming community with our own church, St. Mary’s. We also spoke Bearla, but in our community it was mostly Irish. When I went to college at DePaul, I took up a class in Irish Gaelic. What a rude awakening it was to see it in it’s written form!!! This gave me a few problems. I got an A in the class, but it took some work with the written words. I still have relatives in Ireland and I have been there six times now. I like going to the Irish speaking areas, find a humble pub to eat and have a Guiness and talk to the local farmers. The Irish are curious and extremely friendly. They are usually quite stunned to hear a Yank speak the Irish with them. By the time I leave, I had made friends with everyone in that little town. Everyone said that I had a Donnegal accent. My family came from Lisgoold, Co. Cork. I think it is just an older accent, but I have no problems at all talking with them. I still say the Lord’s prayer in Irish at Mass every Sunday out at St. Mary’s. Confused the Czech and German people who now attend there. I just chuckle. The cemetery at St. Mary’s is pretty much all Irish. I think I am related to about 98% of those laid to rest there. About learning Irish, you haven’t learned the language until you start to have dreams with people speaking in Irish. Otherwise you are just memorizing. That is not learning.

  5. I was lucky enough to get a job learning it with some new software. It’s immersion-centered, so it’s easy for me to see a word and be able to identify what it is. It’s like growing up learning a language though…. it takes a while to get the hang of writing! I’m on 3/4 the way done with their level 1.

    My best suggestion I can offer, and probably my only one I will, is find a way to put Irish Gaelic into your life. I make it a point to shop and, as I see fruits and veggies, I name them off, and count how many apples you pick up (I’ll be walking by the fruits and people always give me the weird looks when I say, “háon, a dó, a trí..” etc). Write in your daily planner in Irish and rewrite the time accordingly. It all just depends on your level.. but make an effort to use your words in your day to day life!

  6. To learn a new language one must keep certain things in mind such as hard work,curiosity to learn new things everyday,perseverance & never to give up.

  7. This is how I learn a new language the fastest: first i try to learn the basics and get to know and understand the language.Then I watch tv-series and movies in that language without subtitles. Travelling is also a great way to maintain and improve your language skills!

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