Studying Gaeilge: Thinking Like a Native Speaker

Let’s face it, studying any language gets boring after a while even if the language itself is fun. To resolve this problem, we need to examine the nature of language and how to use that to our advantage. The most basic need for language is to communicate ideas, of course, and this I believe is one reason why it is fun. So far in the blog series, we have covered studying methods which for the most part have involved reading and writing. However, as effective as these techniques are, it’s always good to try other approaches.  

One effective means of gaining knowledge in Irish is through a combination of reading and speaking. This may seem simple and it is on one level, but much can be achieved this way. Let’s examine one particular method of reading Gaeilge books that can yield greater results. First, choose a book appropriate for your level of Irish so you don’t get discouraged. As you start to read chapter one of that book, read it to yourself making notes as needed on what words mean what. After a page is complete, and you feel confident about understanding it on paper read aloud the whole page.

This is the stage where things really get interesting. Not only is your pronunciation and confidence level tested, you also get a feel for how you think in Gaeilge. To speak any language, it is essential that you think as a native speaker would when speaking their native tongue and Gaeilge is no exception. Why is this important, you may be asking? Irish is a Celtic branch language and is extremely different from English in most cases. For example:

Gaeilge Sentence:                                          English Sentence:                            Literal Translation:

Bhí tuirseach.                                             I was tired.                                          Was I Tired.

As you see, the word order is different in both cases. To truly become skilled in Irish you must think like a native speaker, and using the above method will help put you on this path. 

Read David's other blogs with tips for learning the Irish language here.

Views: 840

Tags: Gaeilge, Irish Language

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on October 1, 2014 at 2:06pm

Great tip, David.  The syntax of the Irish language is most definitely one of the biggest challenges for English speakers.

Comment by David Joyce on October 1, 2014 at 3:23pm

Thanks for the comment! You're 100% correct. On the bright side, once you learn the patterns they're pretty much the same everywhere. In some regards, I think it's easier to understand the grammatical concepts of Irish than English.

Comment by David Joyce on October 1, 2014 at 10:25pm

A friendly update :}. One could say that you're tired with:

Bhí Tuirse orm = Was fatigue on me. 

A special thanks to Robert Campbell for reminding me of this. I was focused on the Verb+Pronoun+Adjective aspect, however, the "Bhí + Tuirse (noun/fatigue) + Orm (on me) works just as well :}.

Comment by Bernie Joyce on October 8, 2014 at 7:26pm

I am a fluent Irish speaker and was educated mostly in Connemara through Irish. When I moved to London for 15 I still continued to speak  Gaelige but had no opportunity to continue reading the language. As a result my reading and writhing in Irish was poor. I have only come back to it in the past two years and have a few methods that I found successful. 

I read Irish books written by local authors or authors that live(ed) in Connemara. This helps to get a easy flowing feel for the language in my own dialect.  I try and read at least one book of poetry a year in which I take my time with and go over it constantly through out the year. It is ideal to build up vocabulary because every word counts and using a dictionary on a short text is not a chore. While I am alone reading I read out loud to build my confidence which has made me an even better fluent Irish speaker. I will never be as confident writhing in Irish as I am speaking it but I hope to continue this method because I have improved. Here are three books written by Jackie Mac Donncha a local author with a very high standard of the Irish language. 

Aileach - A novel about a young unmarried girl forced into imagration  by her family and the local priest.

Gaineamh Seidte -  A collection of poems

Bróga Johnny Thomáis - A collection of short stories. One story of interest called Cogarnail is ideal to get the real feel of a everyday conversation through Irish and is funny and slightly dark at the same time. Very much like an agallamh beirte.

I have read all three and would recommend them to readers of a moderate ability who wish to become more advanced.



Comment by Bernie Joyce on October 8, 2014 at 7:31pm

Sorry for the mistakes, I should have proof read the above text before I shared it.

Comment by David Joyce on October 8, 2014 at 7:55pm

Very good suggestions! After I finish my current Irish book, I'll take a look. I've been meaning to find a book of Irish poetry anyway :}. Its interesting that you're better at speaking Irish than writing. Its funny how certain circumstances affect our individual language skills. I"m better at writing and listening myself. 

Comment by Kathleen Acker on January 1, 2015 at 6:26pm

I really, REALLY wish that I could learn to speak the language of my grandparents.  I've studied other languages, but Irish is so hard.  I wonder if it's because I'm a lot older now than I was when I first studied a foreign language. Don't know what it will take but it is a dream of mine.

Comment by David Joyce on February 2, 2015 at 2:35pm

Greetings Kathleen, I deeply apologize about my late reply. Don't feel bad! It is possible. Since Irish is a Celtic branch language it is different from English. The best method of learning for an adult I have found is to be determined and constantly practice it. If it is through writing, speaking, or listening it doesn't matter. All are great ways to use the language depending all on your goals. Depending on where you live may determine your individual goal or goals as well. Most importantly, if you are learning it as an American have fun with it :}.

I hope this helped!



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