10 phrases you can use to spread the use of Irish

The growth of Irish starts with the smallest, most basic phrases.

Written by Katie Halpin-Hill


You can find this article as Gaeilge here

From first class until sixth year, most students in Ireland learn the language of our country – Irish. However, at the end of school, most students are not fluent. We learn Irish for twelve years; every single student should be fluent by the end of their final year in secondary school.

The reason that the Irish people do not speak Irish in their day-to-day lives is because it is not taught in a practical manner. People are not confident speaking it because Irish is taught as if it is a dead language. I think that the lack of emphasis on spoken Irish in English speaking schools is a big reason the language is being spoken less and less.

I went to an English-speaking primary school and an Irish-speaking secondary school. I can tell you first-hand that a lot of schools where English is the main language do not care about teaching Irish properly. Most do not understand the importance of it, or the rich history that is behind it. Irish is our country’s native language. We have to protect, encourage and grow it. We need to spread this love and this importance into the teaching of Irish. If Irish is going to survive, it’s so important that both teachers and students understand this.

As well as the weaknesses of the Irish education system, I think that a lot of people do not speak Irish in their daily lives because they think that their grammar must be perfect to speak it. The truth is that it is more important to have a love for it in your heart. You have to be proud of it, and speak it with that love. It doesn’t matter if your grammar isn’t great, if you speak it with that fondness; I promise you that it will improve naturally. Everyone makes mistakes, whether you are a beginner or a person who was raised through Irish. Mistakes are the only way you can learn after all!

The best way, in my opinion, to help with the revival of the Irish language is to bring  it into your everyday life. One way you can achieve this is to use simple phrases. Speak Irish to the people in the shop or supermarket when you do your shopping. The growth of Irish starts with the smallest, most basic phrases such as ‘go raibh maith agat.’ These phrases encourage people to speak more Irish.

To help you do this, I made a list of ten basic phrases that you can use to increases your use of Irish, and how you can use these phrases to do your bit to help the revival of our language.

1. Go raibh maith agat

‘Thank you’ (Guh rev mah ug-ut)

This is one of the most basic phrases in the Irish language, but the effect it can have on people is huge. Even words as simple as these can start a conversation in Irish.

2. Tá fáilte romhat

‘You are welcome.’ (Taw fawl-ta rowat)

You can use this phrase to reply to the previous sentence, and to encourage somebody else’s use of Irish.

3. Dún an doras

‘Close the door’ (Doon ahn dur-us)

As the winter months draw in, this phrase will be particularly helpful. Many people remember this from their school days, so it will also encourage older generations to make an effort with the Irish language.

4. An rud is annamh is iontach

‘The thing that is seldom is wonderful’ (Ahn rud is onn-av is oon-tuck)

You would be surprised as to how many times you can use this old Irish saying in normal conversation. It can be used in a serious conversation but it also can be used in a funny and entertaining way.

5. Conas atá tú?

‘How are you?’ (Kun-is a-taw to?)

This sentence is genuinely one of the most helpful phrases that you can use if you are trying to start a conversation in Irish. It can be used in an English-speaking setting as well however, if you want to introduce that little snippet of Irish.

6. Cá bhfuil an _______?

‘Where is the ______?’ (Caw vwil ahn ______?)

This sentence is pretty self-explanatory. You can fill the blank with any place or item. If you are unsure of what it is in Irish, a good online dictionary is: www.folcloir.ie

7. An teastaíonn tú/sibh bia a fháilt?

‘Would you/ye like to get food?’ (Ahn tast-ian to/shiv bee-a ah awlt?)

Anybody that knows me will know that this sentence will always be one of my personal favourites.

8. Tabhair dom an guthán

‘Pass me the phone.’ (To-wer dum ahn guh- awn)

You can replace the word ‘guthán’ with any item, such as ‘nuachtáin’ (newspaper) or ‘salann’ (salt).

9. Más é do thoil é

‘Please.’ (Mawsh ay duh hull ay)

The direct translation of this phrase is ‘if it is your will’, but it is more commonly used to say ‘please’.

10. An bhfuil Gaeilge agat?

‘Do you have Irish?’ (Ahn vwil Gway-ling ug-ut?)

Possibly the most important phrase on this list. If you use this, I can promise that the amount of people that will answer you in Irish will surprise you.

In the end, these phrases are just small things, but a lot of the time it is these small things that facilitate social change. We, as the people of Ireland, need to reclaim our language, and by using these ten simple sentences, you are really helping. Do not be afraid to speak Irish in everyday life. I know how scary the possibility of mistakes can be, but your Irish does not have to be perfect. Just remember – it is the small things that are the most important in terms of reviving the language of Ireland.

This article was written by a SpunOut.ie volunteer. Check out our volunteering opportunities here and get in touch if you’re interested in getting involved.

Our work is supported by