Insider tricks to successfully learn Irish!

Insider tricks to successfully learn Irish!

So you know how to say ‘Conas atá tú?’ – what next?

I recently moved from Ireland to Missoula, Montana. On my first day in Missoula snow fell (no surprise there) and I welcomed the distraction of the splash of my boots along the pavement. Everyone around me took cover under black umbrellas and I stood exposed, searching for a way to leave the airport and begin my adventure. I found a seat on the bus and settled in. I was struck by the warmth of the bus driver and the inquisitive lad who sat across from me. I’m not sure if it was my clothes or my green eyes but somehow he knew I was from Ireland and instantly struck up a conversation with me. My cover now blown, I admitted that I was indeed Irish and he smiled.

“Conas atá tú ?” he said, the words cocooned in the fog of his American accent were unmistakably Irish.

“How do you know Irish?” I asked.

“Oh I used to live with two Irish guys” he replied, “and my family originally come from Ireland. That’s the only Gaelic I know. I wish I knew more though, it sounds awesome.”

I have had many encounters similar to this in Missoula. Encounters where I have found myself drenched, and no, not from the endless snow and rain (I eventually did purchase an umbrella), but drenched in the love that Montana has for it’s Irish heritage.

He was right, Irish is pretty awesome. I could see that like many he was interested in learning Irish but wasn’t quite sure where to start.

Here are some really easy ways to start learning cúpla focal.

1. Ceol – music 

As a langauge learning strategy music is excellent/ar fheabhas ar fad. If you start listening to songs as Gaeilge without realising it you are learning pronounciation, how to pace your sentences and becoming familiar with new words. If you are looking for a CD to buy I would recommend CEOL 2017 le hEoghan McDermott. This album is full of mostly Irish musicians such as Seo Linn, the Heathers and the Coronas singing their hit songs as Gaeilge- in Irish. There are also a few international artists on the album, one of the singers, Matt Simmons, is in fact American.

You can listen to some of the tracks on YouTube, click the link below to listen to Picture This singing Take my Hand (As Gaeilge).

#CEOL2017 Picture This – Take My Hand (As Gaeilge)

2. Pop Up Gaeltacht

In order to improve their Irish alot of students go to Irish speaking districts in Ireland in the Summertime. They live with people who speak Irish in the home, within a community that speaks Irish as their first language. These little gaeltacht pockets exist in places such as Dingle/ an Daingean, Connemara or Gweedore to name a few. The beauty of the Gaeltacht is that you are learning Irish in a vibrant setting that is all about embracing Irish culture and the craic. If going to the Gaeltacht in Ireland is not a possibility for you then fear not, a new phenomenon has begun in Ireland and it is making it’s way accross the pond. The humble idea of a monthly Pop Up Gaeltacht. I attended the first ever Pop up Gaeltacht in Dublin last year. There was something quite special about the idea and it’s simplicty that I loved. I am planning on organising a Pop Up Gaeltacht in Missoula next month. It will be a great opportunity to embrace the language, so be ready to pencil the date into your diary.


3. Duolingo– Íoslódáil é anois, download it now!

So, you want to learn Irish but you’re using a lack of time and money as your excuse?  Well, Duolingo is a FREE language learning App and you only need to use it for 10 minutes a day to learn cúpla focal. It is very easy to use.  My Dad grew up in Ireland and belongs to that generation who fear the Irish language. He insisted that he could not speak a word of Irish in spite of the many years he was taught Irish in school. He relunctantly downloaded the app and surprised himself. For the first time he was actually enjoying learning the language. He is in fact one of 2.1m who are using Duolingo as a medium to either start learning from scratch or improve their level of Irish.

4. Radio & Podcasts

The great thing about online radio is that you can listen live to Irish radio stations anywhere in the world, yes, even in the wild west that is Montana. It’s such a simple thing to switch on the radio in the background as you cook your dinner. Of course there is the classic, Radio na Gaeltachta but Ireland also has other more regional stations that are an-mhaith as well. The Galway based  Raidió na dTreabh, the Ulster based Raidió Fáilte or my personal favourite the Dubliner’s Raidió na Life. These stations have a catalogue of podchraoltaí/podcasts on their websites which you should definitely check out.

5. Online Newspapers and Magazines

There is an online newspaper, which will cover your hard hitting news and politics as Gaeilge. For some lighter topics try the magazine Nó which ticks boxes such as popular culture, music and lifestyle.

6. Books, books, books

If you are a fan of fiction,  you could try your hand at Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone or the first Game of Thrones book which have both been translated into Irish. If you are up for a challenge Dúil by Liam Ó Flaitheartha is a popular book, first published in 1953 and is Ó Flaithearta’s only collection of stories in Irish.

7. Spórt/ Sport
Montana Hurling

The Montana Grizzlies vs the Thomas Meagher Hurling Club at the Missoula Hurling Cup 11th March 2017, photographed by Bob O’ Boyle

I am a Kerry woman and Gaelic football is my game. I was, however, persuaded to pick up a hurl here in Missoula. We all make an effort to speak cúpla focal during practice. The hurling team is always encouraging new members to join no matter what your level of skill is. Learning Irish through the medium of a sport, such as football or hurling, you are guaranteed at the very least to have brilliant craic!

If you don’t have the time to commit to a language class these are really simple and fun things you can fit into your daily routine. Do Duolingo on your commute to work, sing an Irish song in the shower and read an online article before you go to sleep. You will be fluent before you know it!


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