“Thank you” is an important phrase in any language. Saying “thanks” for something someone has done for you is (or should be!) common courtesy.
Saying “thank you” in the language of the country you’re visiting is beyond common courtesy…it’s a bridge between two cultures!
Even if you don’t know how to say anything else in the language, the fact that you’ve made an effort to thank someone in his or her native tongue is sure to get you a smile and an “A” for effort!
“Thank you” in Irish
In some languages, “thank you” is a single word (“gracias” in Spanish, for example, or “merci” in French). In Irish, as in English, “thank you” is a phrase:
Go raibh maith agat
/guh rev mah a-gut/
This literally means “may good be at you” (idiomatically “may you have that which is good”), and is the way to say “thank you” to one person (we’ll talk about how to say “thank you” to multiple people in a bit).
YES, IT’S A MOUTHFUL!
I can hear your thoughts now: “Audrey…do I really have to use all those words just to say “thanks”?
Well, yes…pretty much. But, that said, it’s not usually pronounced as slowly and clearly as you hear it in the recording above (it’s recorded that way so you’ll get the sound of it, but it’s spoken much more quickly, and often run together).
In fact, it often goes flying by so quickly that it sounds more like “gura mad” or “gura mya gut” (slight differences in the way “raibh” and “maith” and the ending of “agat” are pronounced are dialectical, but the overall sound of the phrase is recognizable, regardless).
When you think about it, it’s no longer than saying “thank you very much,” which you probably say on a regular basis.
By the way, if you’re visiting an Irish language discussion forum you’ll often see this phrase abbreviated as “GRMA.”
Saying “thank you” to multiple people
To say “thank you” to more than one person, you change the last word a little bit:
Go raibh maith agaibh
/guh rev mah a-giv/
Like a lot of languages, Irish uses different forms of “you,” depending on whether you’re speaking to one or to multiple people:
agat = “at-you” (singular)
agaibh = “at-you” (plural)
See how easy it is?
Irish really is a much more approachable language than many give it credit for. Now that you know how to say “thank you” in Irish, perhaps you’ll be inspired to give learning the language a try!