Seachtain na Gaeilge – Useful Hacks

You gotta love Seachtain na Gaeilge – only in Ireland can a week last longer than a fortnight (coicís)! It runs every year from 1-17 of March. So if you want to use (or start learning) your cúpla focal, read our useful hacks.

#1 You have more Gaeilge than you think!

You’re just out of practice.  You read my opening two sentences and you understood them, even though part of them were in Irish.  You did Irish in school, it’s there.  Our brain holds on to everything it has ever learned, it just needs practice.  You have Irish, you’re just out of practice – “Tá tú as cleachtadh”. It will all come with some practice.

#2 Your Irish doesn’t have to be perfect.

Irish is a language and the purpose of language is communication.  I once bought a beautiful handwoven rug in a craft shop in Spain.  I had no Spanish & the owner had no English, yet we were able to communicate because I wanted to buy the rug and she wanted to sell it!  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Just start talking in Irish & if you need to put in an English word – put it in!  If you go to the Gaeltacht areas, you’ll find this happening all the time!

#3 Take advantage of free stuff

What did we do before the internet?  Want to learn Irish – or any other language for that matter?  YouTube is great, just be sure to get the dialect correct.  If you’re from Munster, then learn Munster Irish! Find native speakers online & skype with them. Why not commit to watching TG4 during Seachtain na Gaeilge – there are some fantastic documentaries on it.

There is an excellent free app called Duolingo, which could a great place to start your Irish language renaissance.

#4 Grammar helps but it’s not the be-all and end-all

Make mistakes, make loads of mistakes. Nobody is going to think less of you. You’re (re)learning a language, you’re going to make mistakes. Think about it when you a tourist asks you for information in broken English. Do you ignore them because they are not speaking the Queen’s English? Of course not.  The grammar will come and once you are speaking in Irish it will become easier to correct those little butúns – see you understood that!!

#5 Think like Yoda

Irish is a unique language in that it follows a sentence structure that only 9% of the world’s languages follow.  Its structure is Verb-Subject-Object.  When directly translated into English I always think that it sounds like Yoda speaking in Star Wars.  No wonder the birthplace of the Force is in Kerry!

#6 Gaeilge has very few irregular verbs.

Unlike English which has over 100 irregular verbs, Irish only has 11.  Once you know them (and you do already), you’re good to go.

#7 There is no Yes or No in Irish.

Ever wonder which you can never get a straight yes or no from an Irish person – it’s because it’s not in our psyche.  Think about it, listen to people around you.  Even in English, we continue with the Irish structure – We’d ask – ‘was John sick yesterday?’  We’d never say yes, we’d say ‘he was / he wasn’t’, An raibh Seán tinn inné?  Bhí sé /Ní raibh sé

#8 Don’t expect phonics to work

This is going to sound obvious, but Irish is not English! By that, I mean that the sounds of letters differ between English & Irish. Some do overlap but many don’t. Unless you know the sounds of Irish letters & words, sounding out the letters is not going to work. This is why so many students struggle with Irish spellings – they are attempting to apply English sounds to Irish words & its never going to work!

#9 Learn the Irish words that matter

A new (or forgotten) language means learning lots of new words, which can be very off-putting. But, here’s the big secret, you do NOT need to know all the words of a language to be able to speak it. The reality is that, although you are fluent in it, you don’t know all the words in the English language either. Use the 80/20 principle here and realise that 20% of the effort you spend on acquiring new vocabulary could ultimately give you 80% comprehension in Irish—for instance, in English just 300 words make up 65% of all written material. We use those words a lot, and that’s the case in every other language, including Irish as well. So invest your time well and learn those words that you are going to get maximum use out of.  You can always learn the rest in the future.

Native speakers are often happy to throw in the cúpla focal Béarla, so during Seachtain na Gaeilge feel free to do the same. Is fearr Gaeilge briste na Béarla clíste!

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