Reading Irish Gaelic When You Can’t

Reading Irish Gaelic When You Can't

When’s the best time to read a book in the Irish language? Possibly when you can’t read the Irish language.

Mike O’Regan is a fluent Irish Gaelic speaker. At our live online event in 2017, Bitesize Beo, he described reading is a good tool for learners. You take an article or book, and read it.

I had lots of questions unanswered. What text should I read? What level? What do you actually mean, read, when I can’t really understand the text?

As I’m learning Slovenian in the long-run (my wife’s language), I’ve been trying out reading. Here’s my impressions of the technique so far. This is just my personal experience.

What’s the benefit of trying to read the Irish language?

You’ll learn words. You’ll get more familiar with spelling. You’ll see phrases popping up over and over again.

In other words, you’ll be helping yourself to learn patterns. Over time, this means that you’re progressing in your language learning journey.

I don’t understand the Irish language, so how could I read it?

This is similar to listening to the radio to learn tone and listen for words. Read through each word. You’re getting yourself familiar with the written language. Again, you’ll be learning patterns over time.

Should I read blogs or books?

You might find useful online texts. But personally I recommend investing a bit of money to buy a couple of books.

Should I use a dictionary when I’m reading Irish Gaelic?

I wasn’t sure about this one. Should I sit down and translate each word? Or just let it flow, and see what words I recognise?

I’ve found benefit in both ways: translate each sentence, and the other approach of basically not reaching for a dictionary.

When I was translating each sentence, I got to know a couple of new verbs. Those were words I had heard before, but hadn’t learned their meaning. Once I saw a certain verb (“to meet someone”), I soon saw it popping up in conversations I heard, and I was able to use it once. Without reaching for the dictionary, it would probably have taken me much longer to start to figure out what the word meant.

But I’ve also benefited from just reading without a dictionary. Right now I’m reading through a kids’ book like that. Maybe after I go through the book the first time, I can come back again armed with a dictionary, to understand more.

How long should I read for?

Reading a new language is hard on the brain. I didn’t survive long: perhaps 15 or 20 minutes. And I was fine with that.

What type of book should I read?

At the risk of feeling overwhelmed, I think it’s good to push yourself a little. It should feel difficult.

Kids’ books are a general recommendation I’ve heard. That’s the best solution I’ve found, but it’s still a bit risky.

First of all, you can be reading a book that looks like it’s supposed to be read to two year olds. It can feel disappointing to not understand any word that’s meant to be for a two year old! These very basic texts can be boring for an adult, too.

It all depends on your personal circumstances. I’ve found it helpful to read a story book rather than a picture book. What I mean by that is that there’s plenty more text than pictures. That just means, for me, that the story is a little more interesting.

A word of warning, too. I’ve read a couple of Irish Gaelic books for my kids that use convoluted and advanced language. So you’re not safe from advanced language. And it’s hard to tell anyway before reading the book.

OK, how do I go about reading the Irish language?

I suggest www.litriocht.com which carries the most extensive range of Irish language books. They say that they offer every in-print book in Irish Gaelic.

That site has a Childrens section. Even then it’s a bit hard to see what book might be suitable for you.

My tip is a book that I’ve read to my kids: An Gabhar A Raibh An-Ocras Go Deo Air. It’s a picture book, but with at least a couple of sentences per page. It’s a bit funny too.

Do you have suggestions on nice books to pick up?

Please leave a reply on this blog post to share with other learners. Tell us what books might be suitable for learners.

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7 thoughts on “Reading Irish Gaelic When You Can’t”

  1. An additional and good source for reading is the Irish newspaper “Tuairisc.ie” By clicking on the associated Focloir in the upper left corn and then clicking on any word you do not recognize you get an immediate translation. Another good source is Nuacht1.com for a daily input on various news items.

  2. I dove in head first and I’m reading An Hobad (The Hobbit). It is tough but it makes me smile when I figure something out. I also know the English text so it helps.

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