My fiancée and I will be traveling to various places in Ireland for our honeymoon. Mostly mid-southern Ireland (Dublin, Galway, Limerick, etc.).

Is there any reason to learn any basic phrases in Irish just in case, or is English the widely used language in these areas?

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    You can always learn it to endear the locals, even if there's zero practical use.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 21:20
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    As far as I know, it's technically incorrect (the best kind of incorrect :-P) to call the language "Gaelic", as that word refers to a language family containing Irish, Scottish, and Manx. There are a significant number of people out there who will assume you mean the Scottish language when you say "Gaelic" without further clarification.
    – David Z
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 0:59
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    @DavidZ Is correct. I dated a Dubliner for a while who was finishing her doctorate in linguistics. She didn't discuss Manx at all, but we talked about the differences between two languages: Irish and Scots Gaelic or Scottish Gaelic. Ireland has two official languages: English and Irish. There isn't a language properly called Gaelic, and you'll most likely cause Irish people to roll their eyes if you use that word as a noun. See also: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaelic Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 3:18
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    This is not an opinion question, there is a fact based question. (Is English spoken widely in Ireland.)
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 16:38
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    Most Irish speak English natively, and Irish as a second language, if at all
    – Crazydre
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 21:04

5 Answers 5


You'll get along fine with just English. According to Wikipedia:

There are a number of languages used in Ireland. Since the late nineteenth century, English has been the predominant first language, displacing Irish.

According to the sidebar on the right, 99% of the population speaks English. As a tourist, you're not likely to encounter the other 1%.

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    I think that's a wrong-headed way to see things. Yes, you can get along fine with English, but there's also 36% of the population that's likely to respond differently if you say "good morning" or "thank you" in Gaelic.
    – E.P.
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 23:22
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    One everyday use of Irish in Ireland is for some official government terms. For example, they call their equivalent of a Prime Minister the Taoiseach (sounds sorta like "tass-itch"), so visitors are likely to hear and read those words as part of the daily news. But that's possibly the only situation where one is likely to encounter some Irish on a visit. Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 3:25
  • @E.P. I considered that (I actually learned a couple of words in Finnish for my visit to Helsinki last year for the same purpose). However, 1) I would only recommend that from personal experience, and sadly I've never been to Ireland 2) 64% of the population indicates not to speak Irish. That doesn't mean they don't know how to respond to maidin mhaith, but I could imagine that would lead to a little embarrassment.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 7:45
  • "According to the sidebar on the right, 99% of the population speaks English. As a tourist, you're not likely to encounter the other 1%." - and I guess much of the 1% speaks Polish (no disrespect to the Polish meant). Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 13:35
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    @RadovanGarabík As I mentioned in my answer, on a recent trip I heard more Tagalog and Polish than Irish.
    – badjohn
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 13:43

As others have said, don't call the language Gaelic, call it Irish. If you must say Gaelic then note that the Irish and Scots pronounce it differently.

If you want to specifically refer to the bit of the island which is not Northern Ireland then say The Republic (of Ireland) rather than Southern (Ireland). Better still, don't.

Learning Irish is hard, way harder than French, Spanish, or German. For a start the spelling is very complex.

If you are unlucky you may encounter the occasional Irish only sign. I got stuck in a small road once because the sign which said: "Road suitable only for horses", was in Irish only. However, you will be a remarkable linguist if you learn Irish well enough to understand that during a short holiday.

As Todd says, you will hear a few Irish words, e.g.Taoiseach, though I think tea shock is a closer approximation. Gardaí is police and you will commonly hear them called "The Guards".

Relax, have a Guinness or three and a couple of whiskeys (note the spelling) and concentrate on having some fun.

During a recent trip, the languages that I heard, in order of frequency, were: English, Tagalog (Filipino), Polish, and Irish. Apart from the TV, the only Irish was my mum talking to the band in the pub after a couple of glasses of Jameson.


As others answers say, English is by far the dominant language, but one use of Gaelic is reading signs in Gaeltacht regions, which are officially Gaelic speaking. While the people there speak English as first or second language, most signs are in Gaelic, including traffic signs.

Gaeltacht regions are scattered over Ireland. Much of the rural area around Galway, including Connemara and the Aran Islands, is Gaeltacht.

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    In a week of bicycling (not all in the Gaeltacht) we heard two old men speaking Gaelic to each other in a pub once. Otherwise, only on TV. Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 23:07
  • @Andrew, I also heard then once in a pub in Spiddal.
    – ugoren
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 7:33

I've lived in Ireland all my life (now in my 40's). I've never met any Irish person who could not speak English fluently. Thats including several holidays in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area).

As a resident of Ireland, the only time I hear Irish spoken in conversation is when on one of the small west coast Islands, and even there it is uncommon.

99.5% of the media (TV, newspapers, cinema, books, etc) are in English.


I learned a little Irish-Gaelic at my local Irish Club where we had lessons. I taught my son a few phrases and when he said 'Conas ta tu?' (How are you), to his Italian friend Eduardo, he understood it and answered in Italian, as the Italian translation is Com e sta (I'm not sure of the spelling). There aren't many similarities, but I love the fact that many European languages use similar words, for example; the Irish word; Seomara,(room) doesn't look much like the French word Chambre, but the pronunciation is similar. Learning a bit of Irish-Gaelic, made me realize why Irish and Scots people often use a different word order to the English, even when they are speaking English. There are lots of little differences in the way they word things in Ireland, such as on road signs, instead of 'Give Way' they say 'Yield'.

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    That does not seem to answer the OP who wondered how many monoglot Irish speakers there were.
    – mdewey
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 10:18

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