5 Ways To Improve Your Irish Listening Skills

Aon scéal, a chara?!

Two people chatting.No matter how many times you practice saying a sentence out loud or in your head, any conversation will come to an abrupt end if you can’t understand the response. Have you ever been in a situation where you prepared a perfect Irish sentence and said it with confidence, only for the person you’re addressing to respond with a long, complex sentence that you simply cannot understand? If this is the case, then you might need some more Irish listening practice.

Understanding spoken Irish is without a doubt one of the hardest parts of learning the language. Sometimes it seems like Irish people speak so quickly they barely pause for breath! Words often blend together, making it hard to know when one word stops and another word starts. This is something that you can get used to, once your ears learn to pick out certain words. Here are 5 Ways To Improve Your Irish Listening Skills that we’re confident will assist you when interacting with the online Irish community

1. Music

Do you like to listen to music on your commute to work? What about while doing chores at home? Or working out in the gym? If so, you need to switch up your playlist and start listening to some Irish tunes. While this isn’t a surefire way to understand the spoken language, it’s a good way to introduce your brain to the rhythm of the language and new vocabulary. This technique isn’t recommended for those who don’t already listen to music on a daily basis, as there are other, more active ways to practice your listening skills. However, if you’re a music-lover who already listens to music regularly, then this is the perfect way to get in a little extra practice. You can easily find Irish language singers to suit your taste, from established acts like Clannad, Altan and Liam Ó Maonlaí to newer performers like KNEECAP, Róisín Seoighe, Seo Linn, Colm Mac Con Iomaire and The Bonnymen. If you don’t know where to start looking for new artists, search for a pre-made playlist of Irish songs on YouTube or Spotify.

2. Podcasts and Radio

The most obvious way to get your ears used to hearing the Irish language is to listen to people speaking, such as weekly Comhrá sessions. But what do you do if you miss a session?

Best Irish podcastsIrish radio shows and podcasts are a superb way to hear native speakers talk about a range of different subjects. While doing this may be difficult at first, after a short amount of time you will notice that you start picking up on certain words or phrases. Radio programmes have the advantage of combining conversation among the presenters with music, which may be less intense for early-stage language learners. On the other hand, podcasts are based on specific subjects, which gives you the opportunity to listen to the hosts discussing a topic that you find personally interesting. Podcasts cover every topic imaginable, from politics to sports, technology to economics. You’ll easily find an Irish podcast that appeals to you.

Check out our article, The Top 12 Irish Podcasts in 2023. You’ll find many podcasts via Irish radio stations, such as Raidió na Gaeltachta, Raidió na Life and Raidió Fáilte. Some of our favourites include:

Beo Ar Éigean 
Top banter and ‘scoth na Gaeilge’ with Siún, Áine and Sinéad.

Entertaining blend of news, interviews, music and sport from Donegal.

The Language Question
Informative interviews with an array of individuals who are working with the Irish language.

What the Focal?!
Ciara Ní É interviews guests from the Irish language world.

3. Apps

Virtually everybody has a smartphone now and most of us are inseparable from them. Instead of wasting time scrolling through social media, put your time to good use by using language learning apps for some Irish listening practice! Apps are a great way to start off learning a language while having fun, and most language students have already heard of Duolingo. Maybe it’s the first app you used when starting out learning Irish. Duolingo uses games to help you learn different vocabulary and grammar. Similar apps include Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone, Caoga Caoga and Mango. We’ve found that many of our community members start off accessing Irish through Duolingo, although in most cases, they end up seeking to meet fellow learners for actual language practice. Language interaction and application is where our online community excels. 

We have a page with Learning Resources, including Apps – see LetsLearnIrish.com/links

If you don’t know any Irish-speakers to practice with, then putting the language into practice can certainly be a challenge! After all, a living language needs to be spoken. To get around this, you can attend a language class, hire a tutor or join a Comhrá session. Doing this will help you to immerse yourself in the language, and your ears will thank you for it! Regular ‘comhrá’ not only allows you to practice your listening skills, but you can also ask others to correct your pronunciation. For comhrá opportunities, see LetsLearnIrish.com/comhra

5. Audiobooks

Despite audiobooks being around for decades, they have become increasingly popular over recent years. If you’re a book-lover, this could be the perfect way to hone your Irish listening skills. Download an Irish book to get in a few extra minutes, or hours, of Irish listening practice every day. If that sounds difficult, choose a book that you already know and love, but listen to it in Irish instead. This way, you’re familiar with the storyline and can follow along more easily, but you can also pick up some new vocabulary!

There are many audiobook resources to be found online. Check out the following:

Cois Life – Closleabhair / Audiobooks

Cló Iar-Chonnacht – Closleabhair / Audiobooks

An Gúm – Closleabhair / Audiobooks

Walker Éireann – Children’s books read aloud

Cad a cheapann tú anois?

Hopefully you’ll find the listed resources to be a helpful guide as you continue on your Irish language journey. Use the many radio stations, podcasts, apps and audiobooks to support your learning, and then go and use the language! Find a comhrá session or language class, and complement the strategies you’ve been using to improve your listening skills. Also, you might like to look at our 12 Best Free Resources for Learning IrishÁdh mór, a chairde!

Join the online Irish community for cúrsaí, comhrá & ceardlanna, and follow along on social media @LetsLearnIrish – beidh fáilte romhat!

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