Why Learn Irish? Here’s 4 Less Obvious Reasons

A person deciding why to learn Irish

Considering the effort involved, you wouldn’t be the first person in the world to stare at a grammar book or online Irish course and think: “Why learn Irish?”

The naysayers often make the same case, suggesting that Irish is seldom necessary because nearly all Irish citizens speak English as well. Other than some road signs in Irish, learning the language may not be necessary in the strictest of senses. There are those who feel that Irish grammar can be fairly intimidating, being notably different than the romance languages more familiar to North Americans and Europeans. So, with all that being said…

Why learn Irish?

There are obvious reasons, of course, such as honoring your ancestral roots or preparing for a visit to Ireland. These are valid motivations for taking up the cause. However, here’s a few reasons for learning Irish that you might not have thought of.

1. To Gain Intellectual Benefits

intellectual development is why learn IrishLearning a second language in general is simply good for the brain. There are over 7 billion people in the world and approximately 15% of them are learning a second language. People strive to acquire new languages not simply for work, cultural or historical reasons, but also because the benefits of bilingualism have long been recognized (see Jim Cummins, Colin Baker, Noam Chomsky, etc.). Those who can speak two languages enjoy advantages in communication skills, analytical thinking, and a generally higher IQ.

2. To Be Part of Something Bigger

The survival of the Irish language has been hard won over the last eight hundred years. Learning it yourself is a great way to not only endear yourself to the Irish population, but take on an ongoing cause that is close to the hearts of many. Multiple organisations, groups, social media influencers are dedicated to promoting the language and encouraging others to learn, thus helping the language to maintain its relevance and vibrancy. For a minority language such as Irish, persistence and strength relies on enthusiastic learners throughout the world connecting and conversing as they seek to progress their learning.

3. To Enjoy a Cultural Connection

street in IrelandWhether you have Irish ancestry or not, you can still appreciate what the Irish have to offer. However, really getting to know a culture—especially if you want to become integrated into it—requires learning the language they use. By being able to speak this ancient and storied tongue, you’re authentically participating in the local culture, as opposed to observing it from the outside.

Learning the lyrics to Irish music will offer insight into the past that it comes from and trigger a deeper connection to the culture. Eventually, the meaning behind the names of places and people will become clear, as will the titles of ancient literature. You’ll gain a new understanding of how the language and the landscape are entwined, as well as where certain idioms spoken by Irish people in English get their roots.

4. To Join a New Community

For some people, learning Irish has proven to be a wonderful gateway into new friendships, experiences and interests related to Irish culture and beyond. Perhaps one doesn’t immediately associate language learning—especially if it occurs online—with finding new buds, but you may be surprised how often it occurs. After all, by learning Irish you already have at least one thing in common with the rest of the group. Joining a free Irish class and connecting with other members of the online Irish language community is a great way to make new friends with a shared interest. 

Why learn Irish? Maybe you have your own reasons, or maybe it’s one from the above list. Regardless, the Irish language is going through a significant renaissance now – just look at the public support behind An Dream Dearg, the continued success of TG4 or the unprecedented hit that is An Cailín Ciúin! More people are able to speak and write Irish today than have been able to for over 150 years…are you ready to join the fun?

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

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