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How much do we know about the Irish language?


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Irish, or Gaelic as it is more commonly known in the UK, is a Goidelic language and is recognised as an official language in Ireland and a minority language in the UK.

At present there are approximately 353,000 people in Ireland who use the language on a daily basis, and 1.43 million who have some knowledge of Irish.

As with most languages, an official standard has been set, which in Ireland is known as An Caighdeán Oifigiúil. This official standard was introduced in the 1950s, and in 2012 experienced its first major revision.

Similarly to the Welsh language, the Irish language has experienced a revival in recent decades due to increased interest in Irish medium education which has led to greater popularity of Irish language media.

There are three main dialects of Irish, coming from Munster, Connacht and Ulster. The Munster dialect is generally regarded as ‘standard Irish’.

As with many Latin languages, the Irish language has gender nouns, which can usually be recognised by the last two letters of the word. Nouns ending in -án and -ín usually tend to be masculine and nouns ending in –óg usually tend to be feminine.

An unusual characteristic of the Irish language is that there are no words for ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Rather than answering questions using these simple words, in Irish, questions are answered with either a negative or positive sentence. E.g. Q: Do you like chocolate? A: Like chocolate/Don’t like chocolate.

Another unusual characteristic is the three different ways of counting. In Irish, the words for numbers change, depending on whether you are just counting numbers, counting things or counting people!
Word order also differs from the typical English ‘subject verb object’. In Irish, the word order ‘verb subject object’ is more common. A simple English sentence like ‘Tom likes chips’ would be rearranged as ‘Likes Tom chips’ in Irish.

The Irish language may sound very complicated with its unusual way of answering questions, various ways of counting and different word order, however many language learners will rejoice in knowing that there are only 11 irregular verbs in the Irish language!

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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