Irish language

Telling people what you are doing and build up your Irish vocabulary

TÁ MÉ AG SNÁMH: There still are activities such as walking, cycling, reading, craft-work and others being run through the medium of Irish or bilingually. Gaels are good at multi-tasking!
Robert McMillen

Go mbeannaí Dia daoibh agus bhur gcéad fáilte isteach chuig The Bluffer's Guide to Irish.

So, after the past two weeks learning Irish, you'll know how to greet people, say who you are and talk a bit about the weather.

The Bluffer can feel the confidence race through your veins as he writes this!

So you find yourself sitting in a bar/cafe/shop in Donegal and – horror of horrors! – a babe or a hunk straight out of Baywatch speaks to you in Irish. Ignore the cold sweat, stop shaking, ignore your dry mouth and slowly say: “Cad é mar atá tú?” - how are you?

We've learned tá mé, tá tú etc - I am, you are and níl mé, níl tú - I am not, you aren't etc.

We've learned how to ask questions with an bhfuil ... so if you are asked an bhfuil tú anseo ar saoire - are you here on holidays, you simply reply tá or níl.

Famously there is no Irish for “yes” or “no”, you have to answer with the verb that's in the question.

So if a strangers asks “an bhfuil tú go maith?” - are you well? again the answer is just tá or níl.

(Ok, clever clogs it could be b'fhéidir - maybe but we'll come to that later).

An bhfuil tú ag obair? - Are you working? is another common question in Irish, in the pub or in the dole office.

Now, with tá, níl, an bhfuil and nach bhfuil + a pronoun (mé, tú, sé, sí etc) + a verbal noun, you can make up all kinds of sentences.

Verbal nouns are, amongst other things, what you are doing.

Ag ithe - eating, ag dul - going, ag snámh - swimming, ag teacht - coming, ag ól - drinking, ag foghlaim - learning.

So when you build your vocabulary up a bit more you will find yourself able to say thinks like tá mé ag foghlaim Gaeilge - I am learning Irish. Tá mé ag ól Guinness.

- I am drinking Guinness.

You can ask people questions like An bhfuil tú ag dul abhaile? - are you going home? or An bhfuil tú ag teacht amárach - are you coming tomorrow?

There are lots of opportunities to hear, read and learn Irish on an t-idirlíon - the internet.

You can listen to Blas on Radio Ulster online, to Raidió na Gaeltachta. You might understand very little but it is important to get to hear how the language sounds as it is spoken by native speakers or by people like you and me, ordinary people who are learning Irish as a second language and who have found it to be such great fun - despite the hard labour involved.

Listen to some simple songs in Irish - there are loads on Spotify if you have it or better still buy some CDs from your local music shop.

Take a holistic approach. Listen to the news and watch TG4 - the subtitles will be a great help to you.

Eat out at Bia in Cultúrlann McAdam O Fiaich on the Falls Road or at the Cultúrlann in Great James Street in Derry or anywhere else where Irish speakers gather.

Go to talks that are being organised in Irish language centres all over the country, meet people and most of all, peeps, have fun!


Cad é mar atá tú? (cadge ay mar ataa too) - how are you

an bhfuil tú anseo ar saoire? (un wil too anshaw er seera) - are you here on holiday?

an bhfuil tú go maith? (un wil too gaw my) - are you well

b'fhéidir (baydger) - maybe

An bhfuil tú ag obair? (un wil too eg ubber) - Are you working?

Ag ithe (eg eeha) - eating

ag dul (eg gul) - going

ag snámh (eg snaow) - swimming

ag teacht (eg chakht) - coming

ag ól (eg awl) - drinking

ag foghlaim (eg foelim) - learning

tá mé ag foghlaim Gaeilge (taa may eg foelim gaylicka)- I am learning Irish

Tá mé ag ól Guinness (taa may eg awl guiness)

- I am drinking Guinness

An bhfuil tú ag dul abhaile? (un wil too eg gul awalla) - are you going home?

An bhfuil tú ag teacht amárach (un wil too eg chakht amaarakh) - are you coming tomorrow?

an t-idirlíon (un tiderleen) - the internet

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Irish language