Reader, it’s time to let you in on a little secret – you already speak a little Irish (Gaeilge). It’s true. You see, before we even make our first visit to the Gaeltacht you have a head start: You’ll have heard of the word Sláinte (usage was probably followed by chinking glasses and a long gulp of Guinness), which means health. You may even have already used a little Ulster-Scots (but more about that later…)
Now, while Sláinte is indeed a wonderful and very useful word, we’re going to go on a little journey around the island with some more rather useful phrases for you to pull out of the bag whenever the need arises. First, we’re heading to the West Coast and County Donegal to say hello.
Donegal: Dia dhuit! Cad é mar atá tú?
Phonetically: Deeya-gwitch! Kajay mara-thaw too
Translation: Hello! How are you?
Right, before we dive into our first phrase you should know something – accents in Ireland can change in the distance between the local grocery shop and the pub. Or in the case of County Donegal fromto the beach at Malinbeg. Not sure if that goes for sheep, too. Now we’ll teach you the Mayo answer to Donegal’s kind greetings.
Mayo: Go maith. Bhí mé ag snámh inniu agus bhí an uisce go h-álainn!
Phonetically: Guh-maiy. Vee may egg snawv innew awgus vee on ish-ke guh-haulin
Translation: I’m well. I was swimming today and the water was gorgeous!
We’ll assume that if you make it along the West Coast to Achill Island in County Mayo that you’ll be heading for a dip, or at least a paddle, at the sandy wonder that is Keem beach, which manages to defy weather and keep at temperatures that won’t give you goosebumps!
So after our little dip and chat, we land in the green-tinted dream that is Connemara in County Galway.
Galway: Ar maith leat teacht ag siuil liom?
Phonetically: Air wai-lat chakt egg shool lum?
Translation: Would you like to come for a walk with me?
This question can be used in either a friendly or romantic setting and is best used when suggesting a stroll along the Connemara Way.
We won’t leave you unprepared should you find yourself in Kerry though:
Kerry: An mbeidh seisiún sa Daingean anocht?
Phonetically: On meg sayshoon sa dang in anukt?
Translation: Will there be a music session in Dingle tonight?
One foot in the county of Kerry (Dingle to be precise) and we’re making for the pub. You’re in the right place to look for a bit of traditional music. You can speak Irish, but can you dance Irish? There’s only one way to find out.
Ok, after all that work and travelling you’ve arrived in County Cork and you’re understandably a little peckish.
Cork: Ta ocras orm. An bhfuil bialann timpeall?
Phonetically: Thaw ukras urom. On will beeyalin teempall?
Translation: I’m hungry. Is there a restaurant nearby?
You now know how to ask where the nearest restaurant is and happily, you’re not too far from a full stomach at the Mills Inn in Ballyvourney.
Waterford: Is mar aisling an speir sin!
Phonetically: Iss mar ashling on spair shin!
Translation: That sky is like a dream!
Our Gaelic road trip has come to an end in County Meath.
Meath: Tá tuirse orm, ach táim breá sásta.
Phonetically: Thaw tear-sha urim, ach thaw-im bra sawsta.
Translation: I’m tired, but I’m happy.
As you bed down in Trim Castle Hotel, you can go to sleep with the happy realisation that you really do learn something new every day.
Coladh samh (sleep well)!
Wakey, wakey – we’re keeping you on your toes here. You’re in County Down and you’re right, this isn’t a Gaeltacht area and the locals aren’t speaking Gaeilge. This time you can wow the locals at your cosy guesthouse on Strangford Lough with an Ulster-Scots (Ullans) greeting.
Down: Fair Faa Yae tae Airlan. Whur dae yae come frae?
Translation: Welcome to Ireland! Where are you from, yourself?
Ullans is a lovely lyrical tongue based around the Ulster-Scots culture, and is even taught these days in universities! You’ve probably already used some Ulster-Scots words in the past – seriously! Perhaps the poetic words of Scotsman Robert Burns may ring a bell? He penned the lyrics of Auld Langsyne (heard EVERYWHERE on New Year’s Eve), which translates as The Good Old Days. See, there’s not many people out there who haven’t sung this out loud at some point in their life.
How’s that for a lovely linguistic tour of Ireland?
All that’s left to say now is: slán leat, fare ye weel and hope you come over to practise on us soon!
Oh, and if you fancy twisting your tongue around some of these phrases for real around the wonderful West of Ireland then there are some great deals to get you over here!