The Best Way to Learn Irish – our Top 5 Tips!

So, what’s the best way to learn Irish? Perhaps you want to learn, but you’re unsure where to get started. Maybe learning Irish is a long-term ambition, or a fun challenge before your vacation to Ireland. Whatever your reasons, you know you want to learn Irish as efficiently, as effectively and as easily as possible. Naturally, the question arises – what’s the best way to learn Irish? It’s a question asked by anyone ready to learn one of Europe’s oldest living languages!

The prospect of learning a new language can be overwhelming without some good advice and careful planning. It can be particularly difficult when focusing on an endangered or minority language such as Irish, where resources can be hard to find. What follows is a list of tips to guide you along on your Irish journey. We’ve considered the relevant research, as well as our teaching experience and student feedback since our first classes in 2009, to give your our guide to the Best Way to Learn Irish:

1. Identify Your Goals

Do you want to be able to have a basic conversation, prepare for a trip to Ireland or simply connect with your heritage? Perhaps you want to read more Irish literature or gain a qualification? Acquiring a language is not necessarily easy, so having clarity in this respect means your course of action will be more focused, and you’re better prepared for the road ahead, be that weeks, months or years.

When identifying your goals for learning Irish, we recommend setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Learning Irish the SMART way:

  1. We want specific goals that are attainable, meaningful and measurable – this gives us the clarity needed to keep motivated and focused. Your goal may be to complete a 7-week A0 Introductory Irish course, have a five-minute conversation ‘as Gaeilge’, or to take a test on the A1 Beginner curriculum. Whatever your goal, decide on it and write it down!
  2. Once you’ve identified your specific goal, you’ll want to ensure that you can measure it and know when you’ve actually reached it! Track your progress, perhaps by recording yourself saying the phrases that you learned in class each week, by checking off curriculum topics covered each term, or by keeping a journal of your studies – in fact, using simple Irish phrases to keep a consistent journal is a great way to both improve your word skills and also measure your progress over time.
  3. Thirdly, ask yourself if your goal is achievable: are sure you can do this, if you can make the effort, if you have access to the right resources. You will want to ensure that your goal is realistic and possible to complete or maintain within your set time frame.
  4. Next, consider the relevancy of your goal and why you’re learning – is it worthwhile, is this the right time in your life, and how will the result matter? This may even shift slightly as you begin to associate the Irish language as part of your identity – it’s who you are, it’s what you do, it’s your community.
  5. Finally, try to remember that every goal needs to be time-bound, so that means having a target date to focus on and something to work towards. Set a timeframe that’s realistic and motivating, be that one course of 7-weeks, or a full year of courses. As you pursue your goal, be patient – you may be starting at Level A0, and it will require time and dedication to make progress, but it will happen if you keep with it!

2. Join A Community

Once you know what you want, the next step is to join a language community! In a supportive community, you’re not alone on your language journey; for example, you’ll find likeminded learners to converse and learn from, teachers who’ll clarify grammar or correct your speech, and you’ll access additional resources you won’t find on your own. From fellow learners and mentors, we learn new words and phrases, find interesting books, explore engaging podcasts and discover exciting new language opportunities. Learning Irish can be an adventure, and once you find your tribe, you can learn both on your own and by connecting with others!

Map of Ireland surrounded by sea. Text states that Let's Learn Irish provides Irish courses, comhrá and workshops.The Let’s Learn Irish community utilises the 3C’s Model for Online Language Communities, a model we developed at the School of Education at University of Galway. Our framework was designed to support online Irish learners by structuring learning through ‘Connection, Communication & Collaboration’. This is what’s known as a sociolinguistic perspective, and it posits that Irish language development can be facilitated and enhanced within an interactive, communicate social community of learners, practitioners and experts. We do this by providing structured courses, weekly conversation sessions and community workshops. If attending a course is not right for you now, you can attend the monthly Free Workshop, weekly Comhrá sessions, monthly Workshops or watch videos on your own, all within a supportive community of learners, mentors and teachers.

3. Attend A Course

One of the best ways to make tangible progress in language learning is to consistently attend a structured course. With a teacher, you can learn in realtime and receive immediate feedback. You will practise your oral skills, as structured by the teacher, and also through communication with other students. A range of differentiated courses means you can build on what you already know by joining at an appropriate language level. Mobile apps, videos and books can be very beneficial, especially for vocabulary-building, but there are few substitutes to spending time with a knowledgeable teacher.

Yellow square. Text states A2 Elementary Irish classes with LetsLearnIrish.comAn expert language teacher will employ a range of interesting and authentic learning materials, while also combining the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Teachers can explain how the language works and answer long-standing questions that learners may have. Your Irish teacher will select and sequence meaningful vocabulary and grammar depending on the needs of the class group, so that you are not overloaded with too much language at once. They will focus on high frequency, connected language, and this work will also integrate with the weekly topic in Comhrá (conversation) sessions. Students learn dialectal variations, grammar points, regional phrases and cultural awareness from a teacher, which in turn increases learner motivation and broadens their outlook. A supportive teacher also helps us to develop our self-efficacy in Irish, giving us the confidence in our ability to stay motivated and believe that we can be successful at learning the language.

Of course, attending a live class is not always possible, which is why the option of watching class video recordings is so useful. These recordings give all students the opportunity to learn and revise at their own convenience.

4. Complement Your Learning

This part is about taking responsibility for your learning outside of class time – it means reading over your class notes, watching class videos, reading Irish books and finding additional ways to implement and reinforce your learning.

Green circle with the words RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, the best way to learn Irish from the radio.All teachers will promote independent learning outside of classes. Self-learning through articles, books, videos, radio, podcasts and TV streaming all complement our learning and make our future interactions with teachers and fellow learners more substantive and beneficial. Rote learning on our own, from singing songs and reading stories to quoting proverbs and repeating prayers, can play an invaluable part in our language progress too. Study in short, frequent sessions. Test yourself regularly, to find out what you’ve learned and what areas still need development. Perhaps change your device settings or label items in your home ‘trí Ghaeilge’? Display useful phrases and words in your study or workplace. Explore new sources of information that you can then share with your classmates and teacher. Revise, repeat and recycle the language that you read and hear as much as possible. Taking this time beyond your weekly class or study session will further complement your Irish learning!

You’ve identified your goals, you’ve joined a community, you’re attending a course and you’re practising your skills on your own. The final recommendation in our ‘Top 5 Tips for Learning Irish’ is to find opportunities to engage with others through the language, and put your learning into practise! This means getting out of your comfort zone and speaking with those who are better than you. It may also mean speaking Irish to those less advanced than you. Be consistent – keep turning up, engaging, interacting.

Young lady working on laptop. Text states Free Workshop on the first Sunday of every month with LetsLearnIrish.comAs is often said of language learning, “use it or lose it”. Enhancing your own communicative proficiency – the ability to independently use the language prompts in real situations – will emerge from input, interaction and enjoyment. Attend a weekly comhrá session to chat with others, participate in daily tasks on Instagram, or go to our Free Workshop on the first Sunday of every month to teach newcomers – a sure way to see if you really understand the content yourself! The key here is to make language usage a part of your routine. As you challenge yourself to engage with other learners and with mentors, gather feedback for yourself. Indeed, engaging with others through Irish may also mean visiting the Gaeltacht in Ireland one day, which may in fact be your original goal for learning Irish!

And there you have it, The Best Way to Learn Irish: identify your goals, join a community, attend a class, complement your learning and engage with others. Feel free to send us your thoughts, questions and suggestions as you continue on your road to becoming a dedicated student of the language. There are so many interesting aspects to Irish, so many wonderful people to meet, so many fascinating stories to discover. Learning Irish is an enjoyable adventure, and we wish you every success on your language journey – bain sult as an aistear, a chara!

Image showing The Best Way to Learn Irish. Text states Identify your goals, join a community, attend a course, complement your learning and engage with others.

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

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