The Irish Language

Irish, one of the Celtic languages, pre-dates Greek & Latin and along with the other Celtic languages (Scotts, Manx, Breton, Cornish & Welsh) is the oldest vernacular in Europe.  As one of the only Celtic Nations not to be conquered and “Latinized” by the Roman Empire, the Irish culture (language, music, dance, art, philosophy, belief systems) was well preserved on our little island.  In addition, our traditional culture has remained strong, deep & authentic while surviving Christian, Viking, Gallo-Norman, Anglo-Norman & Anglo-Saxon incursions and occupations. Today, Irish remains the last link to pre-Greco-Roman Europe, and the last portal to early European thinking & lifestyle.

The Irish can still connect with the wisdom of the ancients through the knowledge & use of Gaeilge (Gwayl’guh), the living language that continues to flourish & has been spoken on our island for thousands of years. Till 1600 AD, Gaeilge was the dominant language of the land across all classes.  However, beginning in the late 16th century, socio-political events began undermining the status of Irish as the primary language of the land.  Conquests, plantations and the enactment of the Penal Laws, had the cumulative effect of eliminating the Irish speaking ruling classes and destroying the majority of their cultural institutes. The Irish speaking nobility was replaced by a new ruling class whose language was English. By law, English became the sole language of government & public institutions while Gaeilge became the language of poverty & economic deprivation.  However, arguably, the greatest blow to Gaelige was the famine and the resulting exodus  of the mid 1800’s.  Census figures show that native Irish speakers living in Ireland declined from 4,000,000 in 1845, before decimation by An Gorta  Mór (The Great Hunger), to less than 1,000,000 by 1891, a period of less than 50 years.

In the early 1900’s, Ireland finally achieved independence, after 700 years of occupation.  The first President was  Dubhghlas de híde (Douglas Hyde), a founding member of Conradh na Gaeilge / The Gaelic League, whose mission was the preservation of the Irish language & whose motto was “Sinn Féin” (“We Ourselves”).  Today, there are more than 200 branches of Conradh na Gaeilge, worldwide, along with many other institutions and groups, including Comhaltas, promoting and preserving the Irish Language.

Over the past century, Gaeilge has come back with a flourish and today is one of the four  “minority languages” on the planet that are growing in demand.  It’s an official language of the EEC, is alive & well in schools and homes and on the television, radio, print media & the internet.   Comhaltas is sponsoring a free & complete “step by step course to complete fluency in Irish (beginner to advanced)” available at   &, of course Claddagh na nGael offers family friendly Irish Language classes every week from September – December and from March through June.

Irish Language classes are held each Thursday at 6.00pm

St. Mary’s Church Hall, 26 Leonardville Rd., Middletown, N.J.  07748

Classes are $10/person per lesson.

For more information contact Micheal O’Maille

Here’s a conversation in Irish & English (with phonetics) to get you going!

Irish (as Gaeilge) English (as Béarla) Pronunciation
Dia dhuit.  Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú? Hello.  How are you? Gee ah gwitch. Kay he will thu
Tá mé go maith, go raibh maith agat.  Agus tusa? I’m well, thanks. And yourself? Thaw may guh my, gurrah my ogguth.  Oggus thussah?
Tá mé go breá, go raibh maith agat! I’m fine, thank you! Thaw may guh bra, gurrah my ogguth!
Is mise Micheal, tú fhein? I’m Micheal, and yourself? Iss misshe Mee-hawl, thu hayne?
Séamus is ainm dom. My name is James. Shaymus iss anam dhumb.
Cé as tú a Séamus? Where are you from James? Kay oss thu ah Shaymus?
Is as An Searsai Núa mé.  Tusa? I’m from New Jersey.  And you? Iss oss ahn Share-se Noo-ah may.  Thussah?
As Conamara na Gaillimhe mé.  Oiche maith I’m from Connemara in Galway.  Good night. Oss Connemara na Gah-leev may.  Ee-ha whyk.
Slán leat a Micheal. Slán abhaile. So long Micheal.  Safe home. Shlawn lath ah Mee-hawl. Shlawn awoillya.
Lá le Pádraig shone dhuit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Law leh Faw-rick honnah gwitch!
Go mba hé duit! The same to you! Gummah hay gwitch!