Tomhas na Teanga

by Jim Norton / le Séamas Ó Neachtain

Meán Fómhair / Deireadh Fómhair 2002


‘Tis the season for classes to begin.  Irish language classes are available many places throughout the country.  To find out about classes near you, first check whether your own division has classes – I know of some in New York and Connecticut (please tell me about yours), and I’m sure many halls are being used to spread the language.   Next, get to a computer with internet access (at home or at your library) and look up where you live at or, or just do your own searching.  If you are going to be in Ireland and want to study there, check out, where you can find links to courses in Ireland.


If you don’t have time for classes, or can’t travel to them, or want to go at your own pace, there are many self study courses available.  There are computer based courses available, such as are found at   And there are several good book/tape sets available now.  Most big book stores carry some of these nowadays.  You can order them through the mail or on the internet, or over the phone, if the stores by you don’t have them.  I myself started with Teach Yourself Irish.  It is a very good course, teaching conversational Irish, leaning slightly towards Munster pronunciation.  Other popular courses are Irish on Your Own (Now You’re Talking), an Ulster course.  Learning Irish is very popular, and is based on a specific Conamara dialect.  There are others, too.   There’s a really great new one that has just come out, called Gaeilge agus Fáilte.  You can hear parts of the first lesson on the WFUV archives for the show Míle Fáilte ( for 8/31/02.


Everything you do, whether classes or self study, should be supplemented with music, reading, radio, and especially internet exposure to the language whenever possible, to really get comfortable with it.  Opportunities abound.  You might start by looking at our links page at  It’s no longer difficult to get CD’s with Irish language songs, such as those from groups like Clannad or Altan, and many others.  Irish singing is very often the reason people get interested in the language.


Here are a few words to learn, if you are just getting started.  To say goodbye, say ‘slán.’  This rhymes with Seán (the name).  A potato is either práta (standard) or fata (in dialects).  The plural is prátaí – rhymes with body (or fataí – rhymes with potty).  Of course, there are all kinds of potatoes....but we won’t go there.  A flower is ‘bláth’ (blah – don’t forget that ‘th’ in Irish is silent or like an ‘h’).  The plural is bláthanna.   So you see there is more than one way to make a plural in Irish.  Michael Collins was killed in a place called Béal na Bláth (mouth of the flower, literally – pronounced ‘bale nuh blah’).  Now you’ve seen the genitive case of bláth!  Irish only uses 3 cases today, the nominative (also used for accusative, dative), the genitive and the vocative.  So that part of the grammar isn’t so bad!  Well, the truth is, place names go back to older forms or dialect forms sometimes.  The standard Irish for that name would be Béal an Bhlátha, but this is what keeps life interesting.    If you need to know, some words are masculine and some are feminine, and long ago, some were neuter.  Often words which were originally neuter turn out to be masculine in one dialect, and feminine in another.  It doesn’t matter to standard modern Irish, but it can explain some place names and Gaeltacht Irish.  If you know some grammar, even with this wrinkle, there is only one thing that that name could mean, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.


And how about:  Ord Ársaidh na nÉireannach – Ancient Order of Hibernians (ancient order of Irishmen).   Pronounced ord arr suh nuh nair un ok (really like the german ‘ach’).  Ársaidh is actually the old spelling for ársa (the modern standard), but why not use an ancient spelling for ancient?


And now, here’s a story for na Gaeilgeoirí.  If you are a new learner, look for any words or phrases you might know (hint – everyone who’s read the above article should know at least one).  And save it for later!


Chuir mé prátaí Mí na Bealtaine, díreach mar a chuir mo shinsir fadó. Bhuel, is féidir nach raibh sé go díreach mar a rinne siad... Fuair mé na síolta ó Cholorado sa phost - agus fuair mé an comhlacht as ar tháinig siad ar an idirlíon. Agus bhris mé an ithir le "roto-tiller." Chuir mé dhá shaghas prátaí, buí agus gorm - gorm lasmuigh is laistigh! 'Sé seo an dara huair a chuir mé prátaí sa ghairdín, ach ní dhearna mé mórán oibre an chéad uair. Cheap mé go bhfuair siad go léir bás an uair sin, ach ag deireadh an tsamhraidh, fuair mé prátaí faoin talamh! Tá súil agam go bhfaighfidh mé mórán prátaí an uair seo, beannacht Dé orthu!  Tá na plandaí fásta go maith agus bláthanna orthu.  Tá bláthanna gorma ar chuid acu, agus bláthanna bána ar chuid eile.  Is dóche go bhfuil siad mar sin de réir dath na bprátaí.  Ach ní cuimhin liom cé acu a chuir mé cén áit.  Feicfimid, b’fhéidir, roimh léamh an ailt seo duit.  Ní feirmeoir mé in aon chor, dar ndóigh.  Táim i mo chónaí i mbruachbhaile.