Visiting Ireland


Eoin and Ben discussed where to use your Irish when visiting Ireland. They spoke about the expectations that you may have as a visitor, and how to experience the native culture during your stay.

Barra is an Irish emigrant who is returning to Galway City from living abroad for the past 6 years. he asked for tips to get out there and learn irish properly.

Eoin points out that Barra already has couple of advantages that he can play to: 

(1) He has a good foundation in Irish, assuming you learned the Irish language at school  (probably more than he realises).

(2) He has a deep motivation or curiosity, which is what brought him to Bitesize Irish

(3) Galway city, while not being a Gaeltacht, has a relatively strong presence of the Irish language, especially given the Gaeltacht areas that are further west from the city.

Ben encouraged Barra to visit Club Arus na nGael on Dominick Street, where he will find conversation groups and other Irish language activities taking place on a weekly basis. Ben also suggested visiting pubs where tradional music sessions take place -as where there is traditional music played you will often meet Irish speakers. Ben recommended a trip to The Crane Bar on Sea Road, or Tig Chóilí on Mainguard St.

Carol wondered if Irish speakers in Ireland delighted or annoyed when random tourists try to speak to them in Irish.

Ben answered that most Irish language speakers would be delighted should a random tourist speak to them in Irish, but that rarely happens! He says that older people, especially, may have difficulty understanding Irish that is different to what they are accustomed to but that, as Eoin, agrees, it is no reason not to persevere!

Carol also for suggestions of places where in dublin where beginners would be welcome to drop in and speak a little Irish.

Ben recommended Club Chonradh na Gaeilge, and suggested that Carol keep an eye out for Pop-Up Gaeltachts on A Pop-Up Gaeltacht is an informal gathering of Irish speakers of various abilities (often in a bar) where they can meet and talk in a convivial atmosphere. 

Máire asked Where the best places in Ireland to practice cúpla focal are, especially in Clare and Mayo.

Eoin explained that County Clare doesn’t have a Gaeltacht area (these days, anyway) but that the language is still stronger than in some other counties. He says that there’s quite a good knowledge of the Irish language around Doolin and up along the coast. Eoin suggests that Máire throws in some Irish words, without expecting people to respond in Irish. The first suggestion he gives is to say “Slán” when leaving a shop, because there’s not much pressure on the person to respond in Irish, and there’s still a good chance that they will.

Mayo, Eoin explains, does have Gaeltacht regions – on Achill island and the north-west of the county. Eoin doesn’t possess local knowledge of Mayo, but says that are probably key pubs and shops that Máire can be directed to once she is there. Even then, people will most likely use English with her, but Eoin is sure they’ll love hearing Máire’s genuine love for Gaeilge.

Ben suggests that Máire attends the ciorcal cainte (conversation circle) that takes place regularly in Ennis town. Ben also suggests that Máire calls  to The Cheese Press café in Ennistymon, where the proprietor Sinéad is always keen to converse in Irish with her customers!

Patricia ask Which immersive Irish learning experience is the most convenient to attend and if there an immersive program that includes transportation?

As Ben explains, by their nature Gaeltacht areas are remote but if you can make it as far as the Gaeltacht in West Kerry, Corca Dhuibhne, the local link bus service is excellent. It allows you to stay in the town of An Daingean or anywhere on the peninsula to the west of the town, and make it conveniently and inexpensively to and from the campus in Baile an Fheirtéaraigh where Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne runs its excellent Irish language courses.  

Ben and Eoin also recommend the superb courses run by Oideas Gael in Co. Donegal – especially if you have an interest in the Ulster dialect of Irish.

Lars asks what he can do to pass the time, and learn some Irish, in Belmullet when the weather is wet.

Ben tells Lars that Tonn Nua Surf School offer surf lessons in Irish! It is at Clogher on Achill Island – about 15 km from Belmullet. Ben also recommends getting in touch with the local Gaelic Athletics Association club as if there are games on Lars will probably bump into some Irish speakers at them.

Tee asks what ‘Cop On!’ means.

Eoin and Ben explain that ‘cop on’ is Hiberno-English rather than Irish. The expression is used to tell someone to behave themselves or to stop behaving stupidly. “Cop on and stop annoying your sister’, for instance.

A second way ‘cop on’ is used relates to realising something – ‘He drove for a mile before he copped on to the fact that he had a flat tyre’. Is this context it is similar to the expression in English, ‘cotton on.

Anastheisia asked How to say ‘Lord, have mercy’ in Irish.

As Ben tells us, the expression is ‘A Thiarna, déan trócaire.’

Kristin was in touch to ask if there is a specific name for a “Gaeilgeoir” in the diaspora. For example, are there different names for (1) A person born in Ireland who grew up speaking Irish (2) A person born in Ireland who is actively learning Irish outside of school (3) An Irish person who now lives in the diaspora, and (4) A person who was born outside of Ireland who is becoming an Irish speaker?

Eoin say that’s a great question, because it’s close to the discussions we have on the Bitesize Irish team, understanding the different groups of people learning to speak the Irish language.

As a simple answer, no we don’t have specific names for the groups of learners!

We’ve been thinking of our own audience in terms of Culture Enthusiasts, and Dedicated Learners.

We’ve certainly seen people in all the groups you mentioned, and we take care to help people depending on their own contexts to learn to speak Irish.

Norma asked what the best book for learning Irish Grammar is.

Ben’s thinks that the best book for learning Irish grammar is ‘Gramadach Gan Stró’ by Eamonn Ó Dónaill. However, as the book itself is written in Irish it does require a prior knowledge of the language.

If you need a book that is written in English Ben recommends Teach Yourself Irish Grammar by the same author, Eamonn Ó Dónaill.  Another good option is Nancy Stenson’s ‘Basic Irish.’

Jen & Emily were in touch to say that they were having difficulty understanding the difference between ‘Ba mhaith liom’ and ‘Is maith liom.’

As Ben explains, ‘ba mhaith liom’ is the conditional mood. It means ‘I would like’.

‘Is maith liom’ is simply the present tense statement ‘I like’.

So, for example, ‘ba mhaith liom prátaí’ means ‘I would like potatoes.’

‘Is maith liom prátaí’ means ‘I like potatoes’.

If you’d like to learn more about the conditional mood then download our free shareable cheetsheet!

Elizabeth got in touch to say that she was stuck on writing and speaking in past tense, and talking in irish about ancestors from Ireland.

Ben tells Elizabeth that broadly speaking she needs to need to learn to form verbs in the past tense. Happily, as Bitesize Grow member, Elizabeth has a lesson on just that at her fingertips! Ben reminds Elizabeth that Bitesize Grow members can practice talking about their Irish ancestors in one of the Bitesize Beo conversation practice scripts – ‘Comhrá 06: You and Ireland.’ 

Does Bitesize Irish have a membership plan that matches your Irish language journey?

Colleen had some questions about the name version of the word ‘cailín’ (meaning girl).  Do people use the name in Ireland? Is spelling it like cailín acceptable for a name? 

Ben says that the name Colleen is of Irish origin, from the Irish cailín ‘girl/woman’, the diminutive of caile ‘woman, countrywoman’. Although it originates in the Irish language, Colleen as a given name is rare in the Republic of Ireland, but far more popular in Irish-descended communities in America, Britain and Australia.

Eoin and Ben agree that spelling a person’s name as ‘Cailín’ would be unusual, and might cause some confusion!

P.S. What did you learn from this Q&A? Leave a comment below!

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