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Visitor question: How long do you think it takes to be able to start to speak and write Irish Gaelic?

“Hello, Seán!”, “Hello!”

Ryan asked me this week, while considering to take Bitesize Irish Gaelic (thanks for joining today, Ryan!), how long it would take to learn to speak a new language.

The short answer: a long time. Much longer than you might expect. But keep at it.

If this puts you off already, please step slowly away from the idea that you can magically learn a language.

In his guest post here, Rubén spoke about aiming for a very specific type of ‘fluency’.

My niece learned English in what seemed to me to be very little time. Here’s the story.

Our different language journeys

I first met my niece-in-law when she was about nine years old. Being from Slovenia, she of course didn’t speak English from the start. At the age of nine, she still hadn’t started English in school.

At that same time, I started to try to learn to speak Slovene. Each time we visit Slovenia (where my wife Saša is from), I really enjoy picking up a new set of words to add to what I already knew.

Seeing my niece again every few months, I could tell how quickly she was learning. Fast-forward some years, and my niece is now 15 and fluent in English. I mean, nothing can phase her just because of it being in English.

I’m left saying to myself, “how is that fair?!“. I’m still learning how to express the very simplest of things in Slovene. So what does that tell me?

The Lessons: Practice, immersion, practice, practice

My niece can now fully interact in English. I struggle through learning some basic words of Slovene. Here are a couple of things we can learn from her:

Study for many hours over the year

Meeting my niece every few months made it look simple to me – I’d show up, and she was suddenly spoke better than the last time. But I had to keep in mind that she had English in school. That means she was spending a few hours on learning the language every single week. I, on the other hand, hardly ever make myself sit down to learn more Slovene.

At Bitesize Irish Gaelic language course, we recommend you to spend some time on learning Irish Gaelic. Some time, or any time. But don’t let that time drop to zero hours a week. Do try to mix it up, make it fun, and learn from a variety of sources such as Raidió na Gaeltachta (click on “RnaG Beo”) and TG4 TV.

Scheduled learning

This is another lesson from school – have pre-defined times where you are going to learn, no matter what. Whether it be for only 30 minutes a week, or much more than that, you’ll succeed by scheduling. Pre-planning your time basically means that you will start to really accumulate hours learned. It’s a bit like setting up a regular savings account!


Life in Slovenia is completely through Slovene, or course. But living there, you get some visibility of the English language quite often. For example, lots of songs on the radio are in English. Most web sites you need are in Slovene, but you end up using some in English. American movies are often simply sub-titled. The lesson here is to immerse yourself in your target language. Let it soak in. Learn the natural rhythm of the language. Take language games on TalkIrish.com. Put post-its around your home with the Irish Gaelic word for things.

Dedication pays off.

Are you interested in learning to speak Irish Gaelic? Do it online in bitesize chunks.

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1 thought on “Visitor question: How long do you think it takes to be able to start to speak and write Irish Gaelic?”

  1. Even five minutes a day pay off in a year, as they add up to around 30 hours. I think that given enough time daily (let’s say, 15 minutes each day), in around 2 months you should be able to “do something” in Gaelic, given that you are really advancing, and not repeating the same day after day. I don’t have all this wealth of time, and as such I set my sights on three months… and after the first month realised it was still too little time given my schedule. Just learn at your own pace, and the results will come.

    Slán leat,


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