Irish (or Gaelic as it is commonly referred to) is one of two official languages of the Republic of Ireland. The languages position as an official language of the Republic of Ireland is enshrined in the Irish constitution. Irish is also officially recognised as a minority language in Northern Ireland.
While the language has experienced a decline in speakers over the centuries Irish holds great importance in Ireland for cultural, historic and linguistic reasons.
While readers may be familiar with some of the commonly spoken Irish phrases such as fáilte (welcome), dia dhuit (hello), conas atá tú (how are you) and so on what they may not be familiar with are some of the fascinating facts about this deep and historic language.
1) Irish is one of Europe’s oldest living languages – Irish is an Indo-European language. This means that the Irish language takes its roots from the earliest human languages spoken in the Middle East
2) Irish has a massive 1.77 million speakers in Ireland – the Republic of Ireland has a population in the region of 4.7 million people. According to the 2011 census almost one in three people in Ireland speak the language.
3) The Gaeltacht; Irish speaking region - this is the name given to the Irish speaking regions in Ireland which are mainly located on Irelands west coast. Here you will find road signs and other public information in Irish. This is a must visit for any language lovers coming to Ireland.
4) It’s spoken in Ontario, Canada – Ontario has historical links to Ireland and the Irish language through the Fenian’s in the 19th Century so it is somewhat unsurprising that it is now home to Gaeltacht Thuaisceart an Oileáin Úir (or the North American Gaeltacht); the only Gaeltacht that exists outside Ireland.
5) Official European Union language – in 2007 Irish became an official language of the European Union and they are often on the lookout for Irish language translators and interpreters.
6) There is no word for “yes’” in Irish – Commonly “sé” is used for this word but it directly translates as “it is”
7) Boycott, brogues, galore, gob and hooligan – just a selection of the commonly used English words that can trace their origins to Irish
8) Irregular verbs or lack of them – Irish only has 11 irregular verbs (while English has over 80!)
9) Numbers – the words for numbers are different depending on if you are counting humans or non-humans.
10) An Coimisinéir Teanga – similarly to the Maori Language Commission An Coimisinéir Teanga are tasked with promoting and safeguarding the Irish language.
11) Latin alphabet – while Irish uses the Latin alphabet it leaves out j,k,q,v,w,x,y
12) Endangered – while Irish is widely respected and celebrated in Ireland and beyond according to UNESCO the language unfortunately is “definitely endangered”