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Everyone on the island of Ireland speaks English, but such is our cosmopolitan way, in our cities and towns, you’re also likely to hear chatter in a variety of accents from Polish and Korean to Japanese and Brazilian – all you have to do is keep your ears open.
The Gaelic language in Ireland – Gaelige, or Irish as it’s known locally – is a Celtic language and one of “the oldest and most historic written languages in the world” according to Foras na Gaeilge. Its poetic flow can be heard in schools across the country and throughout the shops, pubs, streets, fairs and festivals of the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) regions.
Keep your eyes open because you’ll be introduced to Irish almost as soon as you arrive, with all street and road signs in the Republic of Ireland in both English and Irish.
In Northern Ireland, English is the first language. However, Ullans (Ulster-Scots) and Irish are both recognised as culturally significant, which is why you’ll find the arts and culture centre of Irish in Cultúrlann, and the Ulster-Scots language society (both in Belfast) showcasing Ulster-Scots writings.
And what is Ullans? Well, it’s a variant of Scots, the language brought to Ulster by Scottish settlers in the early 17th century. Scots is part of the West Germanic family of languages, a lovely lyrical tongue that’s taught these days in universities. In fact, you’ve probably already used some Ulster-Scots without even realizing it. Have you heard of Scotsman Robert Burns? He penned the lyrics of that New Year’s Eve favourite: Auld Lang Syne, which translates as The Good Old Days.
So welcome to Ireland or Fáilte go hÉireann or Fair Faa Yae tae Airlan.