Jenny Ní Ruiséil is a writer, yoga teacher and musician with a BA and MA in the Irish language.
She has worked with TGLurgan on the translation and production of Irish language YouTube videos, and has also worked with Conradh na Gaeilge and various other Irish organizations as a teacher and coordinator for events and festivals.
Unless you’ve grown up in Ireland and gone through the Irish schooling system, there is quite a large chance that you’ve never actually heard a local Irish (Gaeilge) speaker naturally converse in the language.
This is just a fact.
Even at that, many Irish adults of a certain generation today who have been schooled in the basics would unfortunately say the same.
This means that learning Gaeilge as an expatriate, adult or language enthusiast outside of ‘the system’, whether native to the country or not, can initially seem quite challenging.
There’s a lack of obvious community spaces in which to practice and a general apathy among older generations regarding the use of the language in everyday life.
So it’s not difficult to see why keen language enthusiasts and polyglots might lose heart on first researching An Ghaeilge and her ever-evasive (yet silently diligent) presence.
As with anything worth doing, however, it only takes a bit of patience, determination and curt nods in the right direction to help you find the place where your grasp of An Ghaeilge can begin to make positive steps towards fluency.
Here are some of the best centers, classes and resources in Ireland where An Ghaeilge is alive and kicking.
Places where the language is happy to welcome keen learners into the embrace of her ironic backwards structure and vague, dialectal, pint-slurred nuances.
Looking for quality Irish resources?
Take a look at the Irish resources page.
1. Conradh na Gaeilge
Dublin’s answer to all things Gaeilge has been firmly nestled atop Harcourt Street at number 6 since 1893.
As well as an Irish-language speaking pub, during the week there are classes and courses for all levels which run all year round and are open to learners of all ages.
The nature of Dublin City means that Conradh na Gaeilge’s teachers hail from all 3 major Gaeltacht areas, meaning that you’re likely to be exposed to all dialects of the language.
While you might not get to choose where your teacher comes from, you’ll definitely leave your language course with a firm grasp on the subtle differences in the inflections and colloquialisms of the different Gaeltacht dialects.
Another Dublin-based venue offering quality Irish language classes is Gael Linn, in the conveniently central location of Dame Street.
Teachers from a variety of backgrounds host courses such as a ‘refresher’s’ language course for rusty learners, to complete beginners and advanced too.
2. The Pop Up Gaeltacht
If formal lessons aren’t your thing and you’d prefer to get amongst the casual banter of a night out in Dublin, the ‘Pop Up Gaeltacht’ is the place to go to practice your ‘cúpla focail’.
It had humble beginnings as a casual get-together between Irish-speaking friends in 2017.
These days, the Pop Up Gaeltacht has grown into a hugely popular monthly event in Dublin and even further afield in Galway, Belfast and Cork.
It’s the perfect place to practice basic spoken language skills in a less-daunting setting than a classroom, and you’ll even make some like-minded friends while you’re at it!
The venue for each Pop Up Gaeltacht is announced via their social media pages each month, so make sure to give them a follow before you visit.
3. The Connemara Gaeltacht
Coláiste Naomh Éanna
This secondary school in Spiddal, Co. Galway runs a variety of Irish language courses for adults, graduates, trainee teachers and younger students alike.
The great thing about this college is that it’s located right in the heart of one of the most vibrant Gaeltacht towns in the country.
Spiddal is remote enough to feel removed from fast paced city life, and yet only 25 minutes down the coast road will take you into the heart of Galway.
You really can get the best of both worlds as you immerse yourself in Connemara Gaeltacht life and continue the journey towards fluency in Gaeilge.
4. The Donegal Gaeltacht
A summer rite of passage for many Irish teenagers is a 3-week trip to the various Irish language camps dotted around all 3 major Gaeltacht areas.
It’s a chance to become immersed in all things Gaeilge, meet other youngsters from around the country and ironically, learn more about their own culture than most are presented with in city schools.
Unless you’re of secondary school age however, these courses won’t be suitable, so it’s good to know there are other options for older learners too.
Oideas Gael facilitates language and cultural courses for adults in Gleann Cholm Cille, Gleann Fhinne and Toraigh in Southwest Donegal.
All levels are catered for, with some courses focusing primarily on the language skills while others include cultural aspects and outdoor pursuits too.
It’s a great place to become familiar with the Donegal northern dialect of Gaeilge, often considered the most challenging to master.
5. The Munster Gaeltacht
Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne
The Munster Gaeltacht is best experienced in the beautiful surroundings of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.
Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne is a subsidiary company of Comharchumann Forbartha Corca Dhuibhne, formed to promote all aspects of Irish culture, language and heritage in the area.
They boast a complete program of language and heritage courses for adults, with a wide range of courses to suit the complete beginner to an advanced speaker, all taught through the Munster dialect.
Once you’ve taken a class or two, it’s great to get out into the surrounding areas to practice what you’ve learned.
6. The Gaeltacht Quarter, Belfast
The Gaeltacht Quarter of Belfast in Northern Ireland is an unusual and yet impressive addition to the city’s cultural offerings.
It’s located directly near the infamous Falls Road (where a great deal of conflict took place during the ‘Troubles’).
The goal of the center located here is to promote and share the traditional Irish heritage and culture, meaning that a great deal of Irish language events and workshops are regularly on offer.
It’s a great place to meet other language enthusiasts too and have a coffee while you contemplate the technical aspects of being a Gaeilgeoir in Northern Ireland.
7. The Local Irish Pub
Tigh Chúláin & Tigh Mholly
The decision to visit an Irish-speaking area to perfect your language skills sounds great, but might actually prove difficult unless you know where to go.
That’s where knowledge of the unspoken tradition of trying a pint (or several) in each major local establishment in Irish towns will come in handy!
Tigh Chúláin and Tigh Mholly in Indreabhán, County Galway are located just 30 minutes drive from Galway City in the Connemara Gaeltacht and are definitely the liveliest places around after dark.
With live trad music most nights of the week, they are perfect spots to get chatting to locals and maybe even get some tips on where to go further out West.
All Gaeltacht areas will have their favored ‘local’ pub, and it’s usually here where the best trad sessions and ‘lock-ins’ take place.
A drink or two definitely soothes the nerves surrounding using beginners’ or imperfect language skills, but as the famous Irish saying goes:
“Is fearr Gaeilge briste ná Béarla cliste”
– (broken Irish is better than clever English)
So give it a shot – you might be surprised how much you know!
8. Online and the Media
Although there aren’t an abundance of Irish-language learning centers in the country, the ones I’ve listed offer quality classes from passionate and knowledgeable teachers.
It’s only natural however that you’ll want to do your own research, and as any keen language-learner will know, the Internet has become a valuable tool in the acquisition of new communication skills all over the world.
Gaeilge is no different.
Using mediums like music, radio and TV, Irish-speakers have creatively woven their way back into mainstream media and used the widespread availability and virality of the Internet to the language’s advantages.
Channels like TGLurgan produce high-quality translations of pop-songs into Irish.
They’re consistently producing quality, engaging content which viewers from all over the world have used to help develop their Irish comprehension skills.
Teachers in Irish schools also use the content on a regular basis as an alternative way to teach the language to kids.
There’s also a large amount (over 1 million) of Duolingo users currently using the app to learn Irish, which at the very least proves that the interest in there to continue bringing Gaeilge back into modern everyday life in Ireland.
Ráidió na Gaeltachta and TG4, the country’s national Irish-language broadcasting channels, are also always available.
Depending on your favored learning modality can also become invaluable resources in your quest to become fluent as Gaeilge.
Have you studied Irish (Gaeilge) in Ireland?
Share your suggestions below!