Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
CULTURE NOTE: The Irish Language
Visitors are often confused about the national language of Ireland. There are two: English
is a “secondary official language,” whereas the first official language is Irish . Many
people, especially in America, refer to the Irish language as “ Gaelic ,” which is not quite
correct since there are many other Gaelic languages such as Scottish Gaelic, Manx, and
Breton. However, if you tell an Irishman that you're learning to speak Gaelic, he'll as-
sume that you mean Irish and probably won't be confused. Still, it's best in general to
refer to the language as “Irish” (or gaeilge , as it's called in the language).
This map shows the percentage of people in Ireland who speak Irish fluently. As you can
see, that only accounts for about half of Ireland's population overall, and even those who
are fluent generally don't consider Irish their first language. The language has been in a
slow decline ever since the British began their conquest of Ireland over 700 years ago, and
today it is kept alive through vigorous government action, which makes Irish a mandatory
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