Recently, I took a trip to Ireland. While driving around the country, I noticed that road signs are bilingual. Place names are listed in Irish (in mixed case) and English underneath (in all capital letters). This piqued my curiosity about Irish language, so I decided to ask around a bit more while in Ireland. I delved a little deeper upon my return as well.
The name of the Irish language is actually “Irish.” Gaeilge (Gaelic) refers to the name of the language in Irish. Irish is the name in English.
Regions in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland where Irish is recognized as language of the home are known as Gaeltacht. In the Republic of Ireland, there are areas in seven of 26 counties: Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Kerry, Cork, Meath, and Waterford. Within the Gaeltacht, you’ll notice a difference in road signs; the English disappears!
A lot of major city names are Anglicized versions of their Irish names. For example: Cork = Corcaigh, Galway = Gaillimh, Limerick = Luimneach.
RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta (RnaG) is the only national Irish-language radio station that broadcasts in Ireland, and they have been broadcasting for over forty years.
Irish is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union.
According to UNESCO, Irish is an endangered language. Only about three percent of Ireland’s total population speaks it as a first language. Many people I spoke with learned it in school and were able to speak it fairly proficiently. However, English is used more frequently in conversation. Irish is one of the core subjects of Ireland’s curriculum. Good news for the Irish language, however, is that there is a “mini-revival” occurring at third-level institutions (college and universities) according to this article from Irish Times.
When applying to An Garda Síochána (the Irish National Police Service) one must be proficient in one of two languages – English or Irish. A member of the police force needs to be able to arrest someone in Irish.
According to a 2015 study by The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), a lot of Irish people think of Irish language as a marker of identity.