Connemara Irish Language

 It is estimated that 1.66 million (39%) people in the Republic of Ireland can speak some Irish and in Northern Ireland 10.4% claim to have some knowledge of Irish.

The Irish language along with English is one of two official languages in Ireland. It is the main language of the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) regions. Irish is also one of the 24 official languages of the European Union.

Irish is one of the last 6 surviving Celtic Languages in Europe. Celtic languages (Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx Gaelic (Manx), Welsh, Breton and Cornish).  Their origins are believed to be from Common Celtic, which is an Indo-European in origin.

Irish the oldest written native language north of the Alps. Ogham, from the 5th and 6th centuries, is the oldest written form of Irish that exists. This is generally found inscribed on stones. By the 7th century the Roman alphabet had replaced Ogham as the main alphabet use in writing Irish.

It is believed that Irish came to Ireland over 2,500 years ago and by the beginning of the Christian period Irish had replaced all other languages spoken in Ireland. The Irish language was heavily influenced by the already existing prehistoric languages, and contained a number of borrowings, particularly those relating to personal and tribal names.

The development of the Irish language, from its earliest recorded days to the present, is divided by scholars into four distinct periods:

1. Old Irish:  600-900 CE
2. Middle Irish: 900-1200
3. Early Modern Irish or Classical Irish: 1200-1650
4. Modern Irish: 1650-present day

The forms of the language known as Old Irish and Middle Irish are accessible only to those with a specialised scholarly training. Although it has a standardised spelling and grammar, Modern Irish as spoken today has three main dialects: Munster Irish, Western or Connemara Irish, and Ulster or Donegal Irish.

Irish adopted words from other cultures such as Scandinavian in the Middle Irish period (900-1200 AD) and with the arrival of the Anglo Normans in the 12th century introduced multilingualism into Ireland. This also marked the beginning of the decline in the use of Irish.

Although the majority of the people spoke Irish, English, became necessary for administrative and legal purposes. Irish, was never again the main administrative language in Ireland but remained it the main daily language of rural inhabitants and working class urban dwellers.

The language was heavily discriminated against under the 16th century Penal Laws. The last of these laws were finally rescinded by the Government of Ireland Act 1920. These laws severely undermined Irish as did the increasing adoption of an anglicised lifestyle and the population loss of the Great Famine of 1845 – 1847 when rural populations of the west collapsed.

Of the five million people estimated to be living in Ireland at the end of the eighteenth century, two million were monoglot Irish speakers, one and a half million were bilingual in Irish and English with a further one and a half million English speakers. Predominant among the monolingual Irish speakers were the rural poor, in particular those concentrated in peripheral areas of the South, West and North West of the country. This class were especially vulnerable to changing circumstances: they were repeatedly reduced during the nineteenth century by famine, epidemic and emigration, and were almost totally wiped out by the Great Famine of 1846-9.

The nineteenth century was, by any standards, a calamitous one for the language. According to the 1851 census the total number of Irish speakers had declined by then to just over one and a half million. By the end of the century, the number of Irish speakers had declined to 600,000. An even more telling figure was the fall in the percentage of Irish speakers among the under-10 population, which had declined to 3.5% of the total.

The Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, which was established in 1876, managed to gain recognition for Irish at every level of the education system from primary school level to university. In 1893 Gaeilge, or the Gaelic League was formed and managed to create a mass movement of support for the Irish language.

Irish was fully documented and the first Official Standard Irish published in 1958.

Irish is available as an option on Google Translate.