The Irish language, called Gaeilge in Irish, is the native language of about 74,000 people in the Republic of Ireland, where it is the official language, and approximately 4,000 people in Northern Ireland, where it is recognized as a minority language. Additionally, nearly 1.8 million in Ireland and over 100 thousand people in Northern Ireland speak Irish as a second language. Irish is also an official language of the European Union.
Irish is a Goidelic language (Gaelic) and part of the Indo-European language family which originates from Ireland and dates back to the 4th century. Old Irish became Middle Irish by the 10th century, which then evolved into Modern Irish starting in the 12th century. After thriving for centuries, Irish was in full decline by the 18th century, when English became more prevalent. The decline continued until a national effort to revive Irish began in the 19th century. Today, Irish is divided into three main dialects Munster (County Cork), Connacht (County Mayo) and Ulster (County Donegal).
Ireland is one of the most strikingly beautiful and truly magical places on earth. The scenery, history, music, literature and above all the people of Ireland are like no other. Learning Irish provides a way for many of us to get in touch with our roots, and many others to experience Irish culture in a more meaningful way.
Free Resources to Learn Irish
Free Learning/Studying Apps
Duolingo – iTunes – Google Play – Duolingo has become a leader in the language learning world and for good reason. It’s fast, fun, well designed, suitable for all ages, and turns learning a foreign language into a challenging and pretty addictive game.
Tinycards – iTunes – Google Play – Tinycards is a free flashcards app, from the creators of Duolingo, which uses spaced repetition and nicely designed “decks” to help you learn anything, including foreign languages. Tinycards uses gamification, like Duolingo, which makes it fun and easy to use.
Memrise – iTunes – Google Play – Memrise is a really fast, fun and free language learning app/website that is sure to get you hooked. There is a visual flashcard component which also incorporates audio from a community of native speakers. Memrise uses spaced repetition and is really effective at drilling vocabulary and phrases into your memory.
Clozemaster – iTunes – Google Play – This popular app uses gamification and is a great addition to your language learning regimen, no matter what your level. It is very effective for vocabulary acquisition and billed as a great app to use after Duolingo.
Irish by Nemo – iTunes – Google Play – This app teaches Irish to absolute beginners by helping students learn the most essential words and phrases of the language, accompanied by audio recordings from native speakers. The app also includes a voice recording feature to help you perfect your accent and all audio is accessible offline.
Beginner Irish – Google Play – This app is based on the “learn a word a day” concept and uses a simple and direct approach to teaching Irish to beginners.
Start From Zero Irish – Google Play – This app will boost your vocabulary skills by helping you learn thousands of the most commonly used Irish words and phrases. It also offers quiz and flashcard functionality to test your progress.
Caoga Caoga Learn Irish – iTunes – Google Play – With this fun gaming app, users will learn Irish vocabulary associating words with descriptive images. Perfect for A1, A2 and B1 level learners. 24 topics and over 450 Irish vocabulary words are introduced.
Greann Gaeilge – iTunes – Greann Gaeilge helps users learn grammar, vocabulary, and the Irish alphabet.
Cúla Caint – iTunes – Google Play – Cúla4, TG4’s Irish language youth channel created this app to teach Irish to children. It features more than 100 fun Irish language words with images and audio in four categories: Weather, Animals, Vehicles, and Parts of the Body.
Cúla Caint 2 – iTunes – Google Play – Cúla4, TG4’s Irish language youth channel created this app to teach Irish to children. It features more than 100 fun Irish language words with images and audio in four categories: Alphabet, Numbers, Colours, Food, and Clothes.
Cúla Caint 3 – iTunes – Google Play – Cúla4, TG4’s Irish language youth channel created this app to teach Irish to children. It features more than 100 fun Irish language words with images and audio in four categories: by the Seaside, in the City, at the Farm, and in the Woods as well as a selection of plural words.
Cód na Gaeilge – iTunes – Google Play – This phonics app was created to supplement the Cód na Gaeilge phonics program by CCEA (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment, a division of the Department of Education in Ulster). There are 6 games, aimed at 2 to 7 year-olds, with 3 levels of difficulty which help with Irish spelling, pronunciation, and vocabulary.
Tandem Language Exchange – iTunes – Google Play – This app matches you with language exchange partners from all over the world, providing the opportunity to practice those essential conversation skills that are necessary to take your language skills to the next level.
HelloTalk – iTunes – Google Play – HelloTalk is a global language learning social network that connects you with native speakers of other languages so that you can practice your speaking and listening skills with native speakers via text/audio messages and free audio and video calls. The free version allows you to choose one native language and one target language.
Free Irish Dictionary/Translation Apps
Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla Dictionary – iTunes – Google Play – This is a searchable electronic version of Ó Dónaill’s Irish-English Dictionary which was first published in 1977. It provides the most comprehensive coverage of Irish words and grammar.
Foras na Gaeilge’s New English-Irish Dictionary – iTunes – Google Play – The comprehensive English-Irish dictionary works offline and features 32,000 headwords with over 100,000 example sentences and phrases. Users have access to grammar and sound files, favorites list and recent search history. For help with navigating the website and exploring the functionality, refer to the YouTube channel.
Teanglann – iTunes – Google Play – This online Dictionary was developed by Foras na Gaeilge, an organization devoted to promoting the Irish language. Users will find definitions, grammatical information and sound files for any individual word.
Google Translate – iTunes – Google Play – Google Translate offers online text translation between 103 languages by typing, offline translation for 59 languages, camera translation for 38 languages, image translation for 37 languages, conversation translation in 32 languages, and translation of handwritten characters in 93 languages. The app also has a phrasebook which allows you to save translated words and phrases for future reference in all languages.
iTranslate – iTunes – Google Play – iTranslate is a leading free translator and dictionary app that provides translations for text in over 100 languages. Other functionality includes transliteration, sharing, favorites, history, and audio in both male and female voices. Voice to voice translations and the use of offline mode is not available with the free version.
Cú Chulainn – YouTube – This BBC video program consists of 5 episodes which are about five minutes long featuring the mythical character from Ulster. The program is tailored towards teaching Irish to children.
Irish On Your Own / Now You’re Talking Irish – YouTube – This popular learning series was introduced in the 1990’s and provides a thorough introduction to the Irish language with video, audio, and transcripts.
VIFAX – This program by Maynooth University provides free Irish-language lessons based on TG4 news stories which range in difficulty from beginner to advanced. New episodes are introduced every Thursday from October through April. Episodes for the 2017-2018 year can be found here.
Ag Foghlaim Gaeilge YouTube Channel – This YouTube channel provides yearly playlists with links to transcripts on Google drive and study aids on Quizlet which aim to help students study for the Irish Leaving Certificate (required for high school graduation.)
Bitesize Irish Gaelic – YouTube – This channel offers some handy introductory Irish language learning videos. The How You Say playlist goes over the pronunciation of the most common Irish words and phrases.
Learn Irish with Spotify – This is a nice, comprehensive and free playlist of lessons, songs, and poems put together by Spotify which teaches Irish to beginners.
Colloquial Irish: The Complete Course for Beginners Book – This collection of audio files, each a few minutes in length, provides concise and clear Irish language instruction for beginners. These free audio lessons were made to accompany the Colloquial Irish: The Complete Course for Beginners textbook, which is aimed at teaching Irish to beginners in a practical way to prepare them to effectively communicate with confidence in everyday situations.
Bitesize Irish Gaelic Podcast – iTunes – Spotify – This popular podcast is hosted by Eoin Ó Conchúir, an Irish speaker from Ireland. This podcast discusses various aspects of learning Irish Gaelic and also focuses on Irish culture and travel but does not use a lesson format.
Easy Irish Podcast – iTunes – YouTube – The show is hosted by Antaine (an Irish teacher) and Jarlath (an Irish language student). EasyIrish.com offers free podcasts and information for Irish students worldwide.
Cultúrlann Beginner Irish Podcast – This podcast course consists of 23 lessons that provide a great introduction to Irish.
Motherfocloir – iTunes – Spotify – Darach O’Séaghdha, the guy behind the twitter handle @theirishfor, hosts this podcast. There is no focus on grammar or traditional lessons, but he uses humor and wit to captivate listeners while sharing his love of the Irish language.
One Minute Irish – iTunes – Yep, that’s right, each lesson includes just over a minute of language instruction, so it’s a breeze to fit this into your busy schedule! In this podcast, you will learn Irish (Gaeilge) from Eoin who will teach you the basics. Although you won’t become fluent with the One Minute Irish program, it is the perfect way to boost your confidence and to help you make a good impression when communicating on a trip to Ireland.
Hello Fada Irish Language – iTunes – This podcast by Michael O’Laughlin discusses the Irish language and culture which can be used as a primer for beginners.
Gaeilge Bhriste Podcast – iTunes – This podcast follows the journey of two beginner Irish language learners and promotes Irish language and culture.
BBC Irish Language Learning Series – This BBC audio series features three levels of Irish audio lessons and vocabulary.
- Giota Beag: Irish Level 1 – Giota Beag (small bit)
- Giota Beag Eile: Irish Level 2 – Giota Beag Eile (another little bit)
- Giota Níos Mó: Irish Level 3 – Giota Níos Mó (meaning A Bit More)
An Fháinleog – This BBC drama series consists of 20 chapters and is geared towards intermediate level Irish language learners.
FutureLearn Irish – Dublin City University offers these MOOCs (massive open online course) on the FutureLearn platform. Each four-week course provides the basics of the Irish language and an introduction to Irish culture.
- Irish 101 – Learn about Ireland’s culture by learning the basics of the Irish language.
- Irish 102 – Learn to speak and write basic words, phrases, and dialogues in Irish.
- Irish 103 – Learn vocabulary and phrases about jobs, daily life, and personal skills.
- Irish 104 – Learn Irish conversation skills as well as discovering Irish myths and legends.
Introduction to the Irish Language Courses – This course is offered by Alison (Advanced Learning Interactive Systems Online), an Ireland based e-learning portal that offers MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) from various Universities from around the world. Students will learn basic Irish language pronunciation and vocabulary.
Easy Irish Mini Course – This introductory Irish course teaches students to speak and understand the most commonly used Irish vocabulary and phrases. The course consists of six units and each unit contains three dialogues featuring natural language and everyday vocabulary. Transcripts of the dialogues, English translations and learning activities are also available.
Learn Irish with Liam O Maonlai – YouTube – This Irish taster course is offered by Irish Independent and is divided into two parts: 1) Learn Irish and 2) Everyday Irish. Both sections teach beginners simple words, phrases, and expressions for practical everyday conversations.
Irish Page – This simple website offers a phrasebook of basic vocabulary with audio so users can learn pronunciation.
The Philo Celtic Society School – This group is devoted to the worldwide promotion and teaching of the Irish language and the re-establishment of the Irish language as a living and spoken language in Ireland. They offer free Irish language courses online, which users can access simply by joining their free group here and an overview of the curriculum is here. Starting To Learn is their introductory program covered in the first semester. Semesters 2-6 cover 72 separate lessons, and the audio files and lesson answer keys are also available. Semester 7 is for review. As a precursor to all courses, check out the Guide to Irish Pronunciation.
Is Féidir Liom Irish Course – The lessons and activities featured on this website were developed by Irish teacher Seamus O’Neill to teach Irish to absolute beginners. The introductory course features 10 Irish lessons.
The University of Texas at Austin Linguistics Research Center Old Irish Lessons – These high-quality and thorough Old Irish lessons from UT Austin College of Liberal Arts are a phenomenal free online resource for students. They are offered by the Early Indo-European OnLine (EIEOL) division of the Linguistics Research Center (LRC). This course teaches students to read classical Old Irish texts. Other resources include a Table of Contents an Old Irish Master Glossary, an Old Irish Base Form Dictionary, and English Meanings Index, as well as a Printable Version of the Course.
BBC Languages: Irish – The BBC Irish Language website provides information about the Irish language through beginner and advanced grammar lessons, and games for various age groups that focus on teaching and reinforcing vocabulary and grammar skills. All BBC language learning pages were “archived” a few years back due to cost-cutting measures, which means they are no longer adding new information or updating the pages. However, you should have no problem accessing the existing information.
BBC Bitesize Irish – The BBC offers Irish lessons through text, audio, and quizzes to help learners of Gaeilge. The site is divided into Understanding Language and Using Language sections, both of which feature listening and reading sections.
Learn Irish with Colin and Cumberland – YouTube – Colin & Cumberland is an animated video program which teaches the Irish language to beginners, including vocabulary and phrases. Learners can also have fun learning with games, word bank, and other resources.
Learn101 – This website features free beginner lessons to guide you through learning Irish, step by step, starting with the Alphabet, moving on to grammar, vocabulary, and phrases, and finally offering simple quizzes to test your progress. These lessons are a basic introduction to the language and have images, text, and audio.
Ilanguages – This site is designed to teach Irish with free vocabulary, phrases, grammar, and flashcards while focusing on highly used words and phrases necessary for everyday living.
Omniglot – This site specializes in providing information about languages and their alphabets and writing systems.
Digital Dialects – This website makes learning vocabulary fun with interactive games.
Verbix – Online Irish verb conjugator.
I Love Languages Irish Lessons – This site provides 17 beginner Irish lessons designed to help you improve your speaking, reading, and writing skills. Supplementary resources include vocabulary, grammar tips, and phrases.
Study Stack Flashcards – This website hosts plenty of flashcard sets for studying Irish.
Abair.ie – This Irish language synthesizer pronounces words with an Irish accent. This project was initiated by Professor Ailbhe Ní Chasaide from the Phonetics and Speech Laboratory at Trinity College, Dublin and is now funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Daltaí na Gaeilge – This website is dedicated to promoting and teaching the Irish language and features many learning resources through sections like the Irish Pronunciation guide, Irish Phrases, Irish Grammar, Irish Games and more.
Gramadach na Gaeilge Irish Grammar – This interactive website features 17 in-depth chapters which thoroughly explain Irish grammar.
Learning Irish Lessons – Irish language students can download exercises (and answer keys) created University of Minnesota professor Nancy Stenson to accompany the Learning Irish by Michael O Siadhail.
Fuaimeanna na Gaeilge Sounds of Irish – This website was made to accompany the book of the same name and features the sounds of the vowels and consonants of three dialects: of the Irish of Gaoth Dobhair, the Irish of An Cheathrú Rua and the Irish of Corca Dhuibhne.
First Steps in Irish by the Christian Brothers Study Resources – This site offers lesson-by-lesson answer keys and audio recordings by Lughaidh Ó hEacháin for First Steps in Irish sponsored by the Conradh na Gaeilge Shasana Nua (The Gaelic League of New England).
Recordings of the Sounds of Irish by Lughaidh Ó hEacháin – Here you will find recordings of all the vowel and consonants sounds in Irish.
Lang-8 – This free network is a nice tool to support your language learning. Native speakers are available to make corrections to your text and provide feedback. In return, you provide help to others.
HiNative – iTunes – Google Play – HiNative is an app brought to you by the creators of Lang-8 that allows you to ask questions to native speakers from around the world using your smartphone. HiNative was created to be used alongside Lang-8, and is different from Lang-8 in that it focuses on a Q&A type of learning while Lang-8 is a journal writing experience.
RhinoSpike – RhinoSpike is an interesting website that connects language learners from all over the world allowing them to exchange audio files to help improve pronunciation skills. It allows you to submit text that you would like to hear read aloud by a native speaker, and in turn, you receive the audio file. In exchange, and to speed up the process you can, in turn, provide audio files in your native language for other learners.
MyLanguageExchange.com – This online language learning community connects you with other learners so that you can practice speaking in your second language with a native speaker and vice-versa.
Italki – A community of over 2 million language learners that facilitates free language practice with native speakers. You simply exchange time teaching your native language for time learning a foreign language, making it mutually beneficial and free.
Radio na Gaeltachta – RnaG is the Irish Language Radio station offered by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTE), Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster. Listeners can listen to streaming radio shows and download podcasts.
TG4 – TG4 is the National Irish language Public Service Broadcaster which creates well rounded and high-quality Irish language programming.
BBC Gaeilge – This BBC website features Irish language programming.
Raidió Fáilte – This Irish language radio service is based in Belfast and broadcasts locally on 107.1FM and globally via their website.
Raidio na Life – This Irish language radio service is based in Dublin and broadcasts locally on 106.4FM and globally via their website.
RTE News – Find local and international news in Irish through this online news site.
Gaelport.com – Gaelport is the leading Irish language news and information website which is funded by Foras na Gaeilge, an organization devoted to the promotion of the Irish language.
Meon Eile – This Irish language online news site is based in Northern Ireland.
Nuacht1 – This online news aggregation website features numerous Irish language news sources.
Beo – Beo is an out of print monthly magazine published from 2001 through 2014. A full archive still exists online, including interviews and articles with glossary, learners’ section, and other interactive features.
Nuact24 – This website featured news and videos in the Irish language. Although it is no longer updated, it may still provide value for learners.
Tuairisc.ie – This online Irish language newspaper is funded by Foras na Gaeilge, the public organization responsible for the promotion of the Irish language.
Forvo – This crowd-sourced site is a great tool to help with pronunciation as it allows you to listen to words and phrases spoken by native speakers.
Tatoeba – Tatoeba is a large, crowdsourced database of sentences and translations. This free resource allows you to search for a word and get results showing that word in sentences with translations.
Lexilogos – This is a unique concept: just type an Irish word into the search field and then choose from one of several dictionaries.
Talkify – This free, multilingual website is a very interesting and valuable resource that allows you to listen to text in foreign languages. Simply insert a URL into the search field on Talkify and it will automatically detect the language and read the text of that website aloud in a natural sounding voice.
PotaFocal – This is a popular online Irish language dictionary.
Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla Online – This is a searchable electronic version of Ó Dónaill’s Irish-English Dictionary which was first published in 1977 and offers the most comprehensive coverage of Irish grammar and Irish words.
De Bhaldraithe’s English-Irish Dictionary – This is a searchable electronic version of de Bhaldraithe’s English-Irish Dictionary, first published in 1959, with its appendix in 1978.
Tearma.ie – This the national lexical database for Irish.
Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language – eDIL is an online dictionary that focuses on medieval Irish from the years 700 to 1700 using information from the Dictionary of the Irish Language by the Royal Irish Academy.
Irish-English Dictionary by Irishionary – This free online collaborative dictionary is written, edited and moderated by the online Irish language community and can be downloaded as a PDF.
Irish Vocabulary Cheat Sheet – This compilation of Irish words and phrases was put assembled by Celtic Harpist Dennis Doyle.
Linguanaut: Irish Vocabulary – This free website offers a very basic introduction to Irish vocabulary and phrases. Although it does not provide audio to accompany the vocabulary, it can be a handy resource list.
Gaois – Corpus of Contemporary Irish The Corpus of Contemporary Irish is a collection of Irish-language texts from the beginning of the 21st century onwards containing over 21 million words.
English-Irish Phrase Dictionary – This book was written by Lambert Andrew Joseph McKenna in 1870.
Mion-ċaint: An Easy Irish Phrase Book – This book was written by Peter O’Leary in 1899.
Irish Phrase Book: Illustrating The Various Meanings And Uses Of Verbs And Prepositions Combined – This book was written by Edmund Hogan in 1899
Teach Yourself Irish – This book by Myles Dillon and Donnacha O Croinin (1961 edition) was updated by David R Smith using corrections from the 1987 edition. Sound recordings made for the book by Gael-Linn are included.
Cainnt Scoile (School talk) – This is an Irish-English conversation book for use in elementary schools and Gaelic League classes which was written in 1906.
Simple Lessons in Irish Book Series – This series of books was written in the late 1890’s by Eugene O’Growney, the late vice-president of the Gaelic League, Dublin. Parts 1- 3 and Part 4 are also available separately.
Graiméar Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí – This comprehensive Irish grammar book written in 1960 by the Christian Brothers is entirely in Irish.
Conjugating Regular Irish Verbs – This 10 part booklet covers the basics of conjugating regular Irish verbs.
What Are Your Favorite Free Irish Language Learning Resources?
We have done a lot of research to bring you the best, free resources that the internet has to offer and we want to make sure our list is always comprehensive. Please share your favorites in the comments below.