Learning Irish is a goal for many people of Irish ancestry, most are fascinated by this ancient Celtic language and the myth and romance associated with it. But you do not need to be of Irish descent to learn this beautiful language; it is for everyone and needs as many new speakers as it can get to keep it alive. Irish is still a living language in the remote Gaeltacht (Irish speaking areas) regions of Mayo, Donegal, Kerry and Galway and has official status in Ireland. However the language is in decline and has been for the last 200 years. Its very survival depends on the Gaeltacht surviving and new learners of Irish keeping the language alive.
Many people claim Irish ancestry and many people search for their Irish roots. The Irish Diaspora spread to many continents especially during the Great Famine in the 19th century. The Irish set sail for the North American continent in vast numbers to the USA and Canada, fleeing starvation and persecution in their native land. Although North America saw the largest Irish immigration, the nearest port of call was Britain. Today cities like Liverpool, Glasgow and Manchester have significant Irish populations. A significant proportion of the immigrants, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries spoke Irish and brought their language to their new countries, although in order to integrate many abandoned the language to speak English.
People continue to fight to save the language, in areas outside the Gaeltacht many parents send their children to Irish speaking schools e.g. Dublin, where all the lessons and interaction are in the medium of Irish. This is undoubtedly the most effective way to learn Irish as the child becomes immersed in the language and it becomes second nature.
This method is the best way to go if you wish to progress in your Irish learning. The immersion method allows the learner to absorb the language and learn the language in the same way they learned their native tongue. In order to reach a level of fluency in Irish, immersion allows the student to learn Irish by speaking and understanding the language. This emphasis on speaking and understanding the language allows the student to learn through trial and error. I mentioned the Gaeltacht above, if you get the chance to visit the Gaeltacht then this would be the ideal place to immerse yourself in the language. Unfortunately most people will be unable to take time off to go to Ireland and do this. However there is an alternative, find a fluent Irish speaker in your area and see if you can persuade them to form a learning group where all interaction and learning is done purely in Irish. Finding fluent Irish speakers is not that hard to do, if you live in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia or New Zealand. All of these countries have fluent Irish speakers, it is just a case of locating them and asking the question about forming an immersion group. If you are serious about taking your Irish learning to the next level give the immersion method a go.
Learning Irish through the medium of Irish might sound difficult at first, but you will be amazed how quickly you pick the odd phrase or word. Soon you will be begin to understand small sentences and respond and think in Irish. You can consolidate your immersion learning by using more traditional methods, there are plenty of interactive courses that will compliment your Irish learning. I really believe in this method and unlike the way you learned languages in school, you will enjoy the experience without having to learn grammar as you learn the Irish grammar naturally.
So make an effort and find your local Irish speaker and set up your immersion group and before you know you will have made new friends and be on your way to speaking Irish.
About the Author
Sean offers tips and advice on how to learn Irish.