The Irish Language (Gaelic) for Tourists
Irish (Gaeilge) is a struggling language but a beautiful one, and one well worth learning. It is the national and first official language of Ireland, yet you’d be hard pressed to find someone who speaks it fluently on the street. It is a tough language to learn and abides by ancient, and often very complicated grammar rules. The best way to learn fluency is by immersion but this guide should help you get an idea of some of the basics!
There are certain words and phrases that most Irish people know and understand, and if you’re planning a trip to Ireland (Éire) it may be worth your while learning them. Irish people will be delighted to meet tourists who have ‘an cúpla focal’ (a couple of words), and you never know, somebody might just be so appreciative that they buy you a round in the pub.
At the Airport
Although not many people speak the language fluently you may be pleasantly surprised to find dual-language signs all over the country. You’ll first notice them on arrival at the airport. Here are a few you might come across there!
Fáilte- Welcome (Fawl-cheh)
Bealach amach- way out (Bal-och a-maw-k)
Paisneirí- passengers (Pash-nairy)
Scrudú Pasanna- Passport control (Screw-do pas-anna)
Halla an bhagáiste- Luggage reclaim hall (Holla on vag-aw-sh-te)
Custam- Customs Control (Cus-tam)
Greetings and Niceties
Dia dhuit- Hello (Dea dit)
-An interesting fact about this phrase is that is literally translates as ‘God to you’. Irish is a language long rooted in Catholicism.
Conas atá tú?- How are you? (Cun-ass a-taw two)
Aon Scéal? What’s up? (Ay-n Sh-kay-L)
Más é do thoill é- Please (Moss ay duh hull ay)
Go raibh maith agat – Thankyou (Guh rev mah awgut)
Slán- Bye (Slawn)
Food and Drink
Cupán Tae- A cup of tea (Cup-awn tay)
Cupán Caife- A cup of coffee (Cup-awn Caff-ay)
Bainne- Milk (Bon-ye)
Siúcra- Sugar (shoe-kra)
Bia- Food (Be-ah)
Sceallóga- Fries (Sh-k-yall-owg-ah)
Stéig- Steak (Stayg)
Prátaí - Potatoes (Praw-tea)
-In Ireland we actually call fries ‘chips’, and we call chips ‘crisps’.
At the pub
Pubs are a focal point of social life in Ireland, as they are in many countries. Heading to the local pub is a great way to meet people and have some fun. Most pubs in Ireland are English-speaking, although you can find a few in which Irish is the only language spoken. If your heading to Dublin, Club Conradh na Gaeilge is a great Irish-speaking pub, and the perfect place to practice the phrases below!
Sláinte- Cheers (Slawn-che, the literal translation means Health.)
Pionta Beor- A pint of beer (Pee-un-ta byor)
Gloine Uisce- A glass of water (Glin-eh ish-ke)
Gloine Fuisce- A glass of whiskey (Glin-eh f-wish-ke)
Airgead- money (ari-gid)
Leithreas – Toilet (Le-hris)
Cailíní- Girls (Coll-eenee)
Buachaillí- Boys (Boo-cally)
Some popular destinations
Baile Átha Cliath- Dublin (Bol-ye aw-ha clee-ah)
-An interesting fact about this word is that it describes Dublin’s original condition as a city. It translates directly as ‘Town of wattle and daub’. Wattle and daub is an ancient form of construction using a wooden frame (wattle) daubed with a sticky substance generally made up of a mixture of clay and wet soil.
Gailimh- Galway (Goll-yiv)
Corcaigh- Cork (Ker-key)
Na hOileán Árann- The Aran Islands (Nah hill-on aran)
Béal Feirste- Belfast (Bail Fer-ish-te)
If you really want to experience an Irish-speaking Ireland I suggest you visit one of the Gaeltacht areas of the country. These are areas in which the people use Irish as their first language and speak it on a daily basis. Don’t worry, they also speak English so you will still be able to get around! Here are just some of the places in Ireland where you can find Gaeltacht areas, with the most popular areas highlighted in bold:
Galway (An Spidéal (Spiddal), An Ceathrú Rua, Na hOiléan Árann (The Aran Islands), Connemara)
Donegal (Na Rosa (The Rosses), Gaoth Dobhair, Clock Cheannfhaola)
Mayo (Acaill (Achill Island), Iorrais,Tuar Mhic Éadaigh)
Kerry (An Daingean (Dingle), Corca Dhuibhne, Uibh Ráthach, Baile an Sceilg)
Enjoy your trip!
Quick poll about the Irish language
Do you think the Irish language should still be taught in all schools in Ireland?
Some Useful Links!
- Is Feidir Leat | Teaching | Learning | Irish language | Third Level | On Line | Free
The website www.isfeidirleat.ie is an educational site for both the teaching and learning of the Irish language. It is envisaged that the site will be a useful resource for both teachers and learners of Irish. The site is concentrating primarily on I
- focal.ie - Dictionary of Irish Terms - Foclóir Téarmaíochta
An Bunachar Náisiúnta Téarmaíochta don Ghaeilge. The National Terminology Database for Irish.
- Gaeltacht Travel in Ireland
A very informative site about traveling to Gaeltacht areas in Ireland.
- Baile | Nuacht as Gaeilge | News through the Irish Language
This link is one suited to those who are a little more serious about learning a little Irish. It is Ireland's Irish-language newspaper (Foinse means Source). The site includes learning resources found under 'Oideachas' (Education)
- Dublin Airport - Welcome to Dublin Airport
This is the official website of Dublin Airport.
- Wattle and daub - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This is a link to an informational article about the history and uses of wattle and daub.
These videos are a great start to learning Irish!
© 2012 Emer Kelly