Irish (or Gaeilge) is one of two official languages of Ireland. Here are our top ten facts about the Irish language you never knew.
Ireland is in quite a unique position as it has two official languages, which are English and Irish (Gaeilge). The Irish language is officially regarded as being the “national and first” language of Ireland.
The Irish language is very different from English or other languages that are taught at school, which makes it quite interesting.
The Irish language has experienced a revival in recent years as it has been promoted through festivals such as Seachtain na Gaeilge and other government initiatives.
Despite being around for thousands of years, there are still many facts about the language that most people are unaware of. So, in this article, we will list ten interesting facts about the Irish language you never knew.
10. The official name of the language is Irish – Ireland’s spoken tongue
The name of the Irish language in English is Irish, and the name of the language in Irish is Gaeilge.
The language can also be referred to at times as Irish Gaelic.
9. Irish is regarded as one of many Celtic languages – an ancient Celtic language
The Irish language is one of many Celtic languages alongside Cornish, Scottish Gaelic, and Welsh.
Irish is classified as Irish Gaelic.
8. The number of people using the Irish language regularly is very low – an underused language
While the majority of people in Ireland speak English, approximately 30-40% of Irish people can also speak Irish with around 82,000 people speaking it daily.
7. The Gaeltacht is a predominantly Irish speaking area – an Irish speaking haven
The Gaeltacht is the name that is given to small communities where the Irish language is still used as the most common means of communication.
Most of these Gaeltacht areas are located along the west coast in areas such as Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Cork, Kerry, Meath, and Waterford where over 100,000 people live.
Much like any other language, many of these Gaeltachts have their own unique dialects and tend to pronounce certain words in different ways depending on the area.
6. Outside influences – the Irish language has been heavily influenced by other languages
The Irish language that we know today has been greatly influenced by many different languages. Some of the main influences include the Vikings, the rise of Christianity, and the Normans.
These outside forces caused many new words to be added and incorporated into the Irish language, which helped shape it into the Irish language we speak today.
5. The Gaeltacht has become popular for schoolchildren to visit – an Irish tradition
It has become a modern Irish tradition for schoolchildren to visit the Gaeltacht areas during the summer holidays to take Irish language courses.
Approximately 28,000 students visit the Gaeltacht every year to improve their Irish language skills.
4. The Irish language is officially regarded as an endangered language – a language under threat
The Irish language, while being an official language of Ireland and one that is ancient with a rich history, is considered to be under threat as it’s considered to be endangered according to UNESCO.
3. 1.77 million people can speak it – Irish language speakers today
According to a census taken in 2011, while 1.77 million people know how to speak Irish, only around 82,000 use it outside of a school setting.
2. It has spread further than Ireland – a far-reaching language
The Irish language wasn’t always confined to the island of Ireland. By 500 AD, the Irish language was being spoken in Scotland, the Isle of Man, and even in parts of the west coast of Britain.
The Gaelic that is still spoken in Scotland today directly descends from the original Irish language.
1. Irish is one of the oldest living languages in Europe – an ancient language
Number one on our list of facts about the Irish language is that the Irish language is regarded as initially being an Indo-European language, which means that it evolved from the earliest forms of human languages that were first spoken in the Middle East region.
It is believed that it was early farmers who arrived in Ireland around 4500 BC who were the first speakers of the language in Ireland. They mixed with the Irish natives, and from there modern-day Irish gradually developed.
That concludes our list of ten facts about the Irish language that you never knew, are there any more we should have included on this list?