What Language Do They Speak in Ireland?[2023 Update]

Many years back, when I first moved to Ireland, I wondered “What language do they speak in Ireland?” or possibly what language do they speak in Dublin, Ireland in particular?

English and Irish (Gaeilge) are the official languages of the Republic of Ireland. 

My name is Ger ! I am from Ireland and I grew up learning the Irish language since I was young. 

It’s been quite a heartwarming experience to see my soda-bread-loving fiance, Aisha who is half-English half Malaysian, doing her absolute best in trying to learn a language so foreign to her.

 I get to experience learning new nuances about a language I’m so familiar with, through her experience. 

What languages do they speak in Northern Ireland? 

In Northern Ireland, you will hear soft strains of Ullans (Ulster-Scots). 

If you are an aspiring linguist, you are in for a treat! In this article, you will learn about the origin and I’ve thrown in some examples for you to practice and makes it clear what language do they speak in Ireland.

Let’s dig into some Irish language words and Irish language examples!

What Languages Do They Speak In Ireland?

1. Republic Of Ireland & Northern Ireland
2. Origins Of The Gaelic Language
3. Areas Where Irish Is Spoken – The Gaeltacht Areas
4. Dialects
5. Orthography
6. Phonology
7. Fun Facts About The Languages In Ireland

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When you visit Ireland you want to be prepared because it can get COLD! And it also rains a lot O_O If you want to enjoy this charming country in comfort, make sure you pack some essentials that we ALWAYS pack:

Republic Of Ireland & Northern Ireland

In my option, this photo best represents Ireland – the turf roofs, the farm life, and the lush green countryside. When you reside in a place like this, your entire being is grounded and surrounded by nature. Life’s pleasures!

Ireland consists of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is a sovereign country meaning it is independent and not under the authority of any other country. Whereas Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. 

The island of Ireland was ruled by Great Britain since the 13th century and the Republic of Ireland. In the year 1919, Sinn Féin, an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party, proclaimed the Irish republic. 

In 1920, with a civil war on the brink, Great Britain had partitioned the island, whereby there were predominantly Protestants in the northeast and Catholics in the northwest and southern parts of the island. There were even separate parliaments on both sides. 

The republicans were not thrilled with this and two years later, the Irish Free State was formed which was made up of 26 of the 32 counties of the island. At this point, Northern Ireland withdrew herself and was governed by the United Kingdom. 

From my experience and Aisha’s experience, I see some similarities and differences. 

Similarities in the sense, Northern Ireland is still a part of Ireland as a whole and regardless of any politics, it will always belong to our united nation. 

The core difference is I grew up in Galway and I wasn’t as exposed to the brutal divide going on between the North and the Republic.

 Not exposed as I was too young at that time. A lot of what had happened in the divide blew out in my parent’s generation.

Aisha, who is also half-Malaysian, grew up exposed to the political or religious divide in Malaysia. 

She witnessed it from quite a young age and it is still so apparent to this day. She immediately grasped the situation and recognized similarities. 

I’m not sure if we sometimes grow up in our bubbles but I recall her telling me she didn’t think this happened as apparently and brutally in European states, and I could see she was in shock but mostly troubled by it. We always think the grass is greener on the other side. 

Origins of the Gaelic language

Having grown up learning two languages, I found myself drawn to bilingual people. As in many countries, especially English-speaking countries, English tends to triumph over and be the main speaking language. As such, you rarely get to practice!

So every once in a while, when I meet someone who speaks Irish, I beamed with pride for my nation and it gave me such joy! Sometimes we would get words wrong (who am I kidding – MOST OF THE TIME! Lol!). But there was such joy in being able to speak Irish. 

I wasn’t even sure of how many languages are spoken in Ireland, apart from the Irish language – sometimes I confused it with speaking Gaelic in Ireland. 

The Gaelic language is spoken by the Gaels, a group of settlers who arrived in Scotland from Ireland around the 5th century.

 But what is the Irish language called? 

In Ireland, the official language is called Irish, whereas, in Scotland, the language is called Gaelic. 

Sometimes, Irish can also be referred to as Irish Gaelic. 

Although both languages are rooted in the same ancestor, they both are different languages. Both languages are derived from Ogham, which is an ancient Irish alphabet that spread around Ireland and Scotland through trade and farming.

After the Gaels moved to Scotland, the languages began to evolve to become Irish and Gaelic. 

There have been multiple attempts to destroy the language but bless the hearts of the countless revival movements who fought the good fight to keep the language alive. 

A little fun fact about Irish – the county with the most number of Irish speakers resides in Galway. Ah…wait till I introduce you to Galway – prepare to be blown away! 

Areas where Irish is spoken – the Gaeltacht areas

I’m sure this takes you back to history class in school, learning about the origins of people and languages, how they evolved and what they are today. 

Well here are more fun facts and history lessons that may serve you well as an ice-breaker conversation piece. Don’t worry, I heard that mind voice – you will remember these facts. Trust in yourself! 

Okay, maybe a little less pep talk and more facts! Lol.

The Gaeltacht is the county in Ireland that speaks the Irish language. 

The Gaeltacht counties are, in order of highest percentage of Irish speakers, Galway, Clare, Cork, Mayo, Kerry, Meath, and Waterford.


Three major dialects survive to this very day – Munster, Connacht, and Ulster. Munster is spoken in Cork, Kerry, and Waterford.

 There is a slight distinction in the Munster dialect in these three counties, whereby Waterford is the most distinct. 

Connacht is spoken mainly in Connemara (the west of Ireland within the country of Galway) and the Aran Islands (a group of three islands at the mouth of Galway Bay). 

Ulster is a dialect spoken mostly in Belfast (Northern Ireland) and the Gaeltacht regions of Donegal. 

Oh – you must visit Donegal! I digress… Ulster sounds the most different from the other two dialects. It has some similarities to the southern dialects of Scottish Gaelic. 

There used to be a 4th dialect, Leinster Irish which was spoken in the eastern part of the nation but over time, the dialect had vanished. 


If you grew up as a bilingual or trilingual speaker (quadrilingual folks need not shout out – showoffs! LOL!), you will remember the pain and agony of memorizing letters, and basic words and understanding accented vowels. 

Sometimes it is not so much about remembering, it is about knowing how to use these letters. Understanding the logic behind it.

The traditional Irish alphabet has 18 letters altogether.

It starts with “a” and ends with “u”, without the following letter – j, k, q, v, w, x, y, z. Vowels are accented with an acute accent (⟨á, é, í, ó, ú). 

Just to understand this part – accented vowels are pronounced, however, unaccented vowels are usually silent. I see you squinting your eye there, feeling a little confused and having to read this line again haha. Everything takes time – be patient with yourself.


The phonology varies from dialect to dialect, unfortunately in Irish language dialects, there is no standard pronunciation. 

As mentioned before, the three core dialects are Munster, Connacht, and Ulster. Let’s break this down a little bit more. 

Connacht consist of counties on the western coast, it is home to some mind-blowing scenery and many have retained their strong Gaelic traditions here, specifically the Aran Islands. 

Munster is home to two of Ireland’s largest counties – Cork and Kerry. Apart from what language do they speak in Ireland, this is a side note about Kerry – it has won the most number of GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championships than any other county. 

Ulster has a myriad of influences from different cultures – you have the Ulster Scots, the Gaels, the Normans, and the Anglo-Normans. Ulster consists of counties as far as Antrim, Armagh, Donegal, Londonderry, Monaghan, and Tyrone amongst others. 

Fun Facts about the languages in Ireland

  • There are presently about 1.77 million people who speak Irish in Ireland 
  • The Irish language has about 9,000 speakers in Great Britain and a small Gaeltacht-speaking community in Ontario, Canada. It was one of the main languages in Newfoundland Canada
  • Can you believe it if I told you the Irish language has been used in space (by Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield)
  • Did you know Irish is one of the official languages of the EU? This happened in January 2007 
  • Here is a very interesting distinction between English and Irish. Irish is more of a verb-subject-object language. This requires a more lengthy explanation with an example. 

What does this mean, Ger?! For example, if someone had hit you – you would say “He hit me” whereas, in Irish, they would say Bhuail which translates to “Hit he me”. Such a quirky and endearing language!

  • According to UNESCO, Irish has been classified as an endangered language and people worry, it will soon cease to exist. The stats say that 43% of languages currently spoken in the world are likely to become extinct!
  • The Irish language remains to be the oldest in Europe. Farmers who arrived in Ireland first started speaking the language in 4500BC.
  • Irish surnames are easier when you know the Irish language. For example, let’s take the infamous O’Connell Street in Dublin. The O’ means descendant of and is only used by males. The females use Ní, which means daughter of.

FAQs On What Language Do They Speak in Ireland

What language is mostly spoken in Ireland?

The language that is mostly spoken in Ireland remains to be English, followed by Irish, and a small percentage of French speakers too. Being located in Europe, it is normal to hear Spanish, German, Polish, and Italian – however, to a much lesser extent. 

What are the 3 main languages spoken in Ireland?

Ireland’s 3 main languages are English, Irish and Polish.

Is Irish the same as Gaelic?

No, Irish is not the same as Gaelic. Irish is spoken in Ireland, whereas Gaelic is spoken in Scotland. Both languages are derived from the same ancestors but are different languages. Sometimes, people refer to the Irish language as Irish Gaelic. 

Is Irish the same as English?

No, Irish is not the same as English. The Irish language is completely separate from the English language. Irish is predominantly spoken in the Gaeltacht areas (the counties that speak Irish in Ireland).

The incredible attraction of Ireland, regardless of which city you find yourself in, is the people. The hospitality, the warmth, the kindness, and the ease they make you feel as soon as you say “Hello”, is like no other. 

To learn more about the language or to familiarize yourself with it, tune into TG4 which is an Irish-language television station and you can watch programs with English subtitles. 

Now you know what language do they speak in Ireland. In the entire time I have been in Ireland, I feel the entire country and people march to the slogan Craic agus Ceol (meaning fun and music). It is a very humbling experience when a person wakes up every day and chooses to be light and easy. I find it here 🙂 

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