I have always taken the view that if you want to understand the worldview, and therefore the culture of a country or people, you need to learn their language. "Language is also immensely important on an ideological level because it can fundamentally alter a person's view of the world, or at least how to express that view." (1) And this happens to be the reason I am a forever student of the Irish language. It is part of my spiritual regime since it helps me be close to my deities, and the Irish worldview.
Over the years I've accumulated a lot of books and web resources that have helped me with my struggles. So I thought that if this is something I've struggled with then perhaps it is something that others have struggled with too. This post is going to present some of the resources that I am currently using to study Old and Modern Irish.
One of the first things I did when learning Modern Irish was to buy some reading books. I started with children's books and moved on to harder things. Studying from books meant to teach you Modern Irish is great but reading supplements your vocabulary and presents you with sentence structures that you may not have seen in your learning materials. I'm going to share my favorite books to study from. As to reading books just go on Litríocht and look on their children's books section and take your pick. Of course nothing beats a conversation with an Irish speaker, or at least a teacher who can teach you face to face, but that is not always possible.
1. Progress in Irish: A Graded Course for Beginners. This is one of the most famous books for learners of Irish. It is tiny and compact but it makes for a good start. It deals mostly with vocabulary and small sentences and builds on that, with exercises. It keeps grammar to minimum and in some cases it is quite absent. You can find the answer key to the exercises in the book here (Progress in Irish Answer Key) See Philo-Celtic Society below for mp3 files of the vocabulary and sentences in this book.
2. Buntús Cainte: The First Steps in Spoken Irish. This is another famous set of books (there are three parts to this series) It comes with CDs so that you can listen to a native speaker say the words. Again there is no grammar here and it depends on conversation to teach you the language.
3. Learning Irish: A book that comes with CDs for pronunciation. It does have some grammar like the Progress in Irish book, but again it mainly depends on the CDs and the exercises to help you get to where you are going.
4. Tús Maith: This is a course specifically aimed at the adult learner, it is a series of three binders with exercises, and CDs. It depends on conversations mostly with almost no grammar, but it does have a lot of trivial information on the Irish culture and different sites in Ireland. You can find it on Litríocht.
5. Complete Irish - A Teach Yourself Guide: This book comes with CDs and it uses real live situations to teach you Irish.
6. Collins Easy Learning Irish Grammar: This is a great book to use if you are studying alone or as part of a course. Very easy to use.
7. Irish Grammar - A Basic Handbook: This is the book that most courses will recommend when it comes to grammar.
8. Essential Irish Grammar: This is best used with the book Complete Irish: A Teach Yourself Guide
9. Briathra Na Gaeilge - Regular and Irregular Verbs: A tiny booklet but gives you a very hand guide to Irish Verbs
10. Leabhar Mór Briathra Na Gaeilge - The Great Irish Verb Book: A great resource for Irish Verbs and an expansion on the above. It also gives the verbs from the stand point of all the dialects and Standard Irish.
11. Collins Easy Learning Irish Verbs: It is the ideal resource for independent study or as part of a course. It includes over 100 full verb tables and a comprehensive index of more than 3000 verbs.
12. Collins Easy Learning Irish Dictionary: Everyone needs a good one!
1. The Philo-Celtic Society: These people have classes that run all year long online using yahoo groups. They use Progress in Irish and Buntús Cainte.
2. An Foclóir Beag: This is a great place to check your verb conjugation.
3. Gramadach na Gaeilge: This is a great site for grammar study.
4. Abair: This is a great site to put in words that you don't know how to say and it will synthesize the phonetics for you and provide you with a recording.
These are just my favorite books, there are tons others on the the Litríocht website.
As I started reading Irish literature, I'd come across parts of it that have not been translated from Irish so that meant I needed to at least have a working knowledge of Old Irish. The following are all the resources that I have come across and have used in my studies.
I must admit this is my favourite mode of study, there is just something about having a book in your hand...
1. Sengoídelc: Old Irish for Beginners by David Stifter. A book written for the beginner and contains 58 lessons with grammar and exercises (and their solutions).
2. A Student's Companion to Old Irish Grammar by Ranke de Vries.
3. A Grammar of Old Irish by R. Thurneysen. This was first printed in 1946...so yeah, old but gold.
4. Old-Irish Paradigms and Selections from the Old-Irish Glosses by John Strachan
5. Old-Irish Workbook by E.G. Quin. 40 lessons, exercises and their solutions. This workbook can be used along side Thurneysen's A Grammar of Old Irish but it needs to be read along side Old-Irish Paradigms and Selections from the Old-Irish Glosses by John Strachan
6. Focaloir Gaoidhilge-Sax-Bhearla; Or, an Irish-English Dictionary By J. O'Brien
7. An Irish-English Dictionary by Edward O' Reilly
I don't have a lot of these yet, so if you know of any please let me know.
1. Old Irish Online: This is from the University of Texas at Austin and it contains readings and lessons on Old Irish as well as a nice overview of why they chose to have lessons on it.
2. Táin Bó Cúalgne - The Cattle-Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúalnge) is the central epic of the Ulster cycle. Queen Medb of Connaught gathers an army in order to gain possession of the most famous bull in Ireland, which is the property of Daire, a chieftain of Ulster. Because the men of Ulster are afflicted by a debilitating curse, the seventeen-year-old Cuchulain must defend Ulster single-handedly. This contains the Irish along side the English.
3. eDil: The electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language (eDIL) is a digital edition of the complete contents of the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of the Irish Language based mainly on Old and Middle Irish materials. The text of eDIL is identical to that of the Academy’s Dictionary, except that obvious errors have been corrected where possible and that the published Additions and Corrections for the letters A-C and F have been incorporated.
I hope these things help you the way they help me everyday. Have fun!
(1) Henderson, Jon C. The Atlantic Iron Age: Settlement and Identity in the First Millennium BCE. Routledge: New York. 2007 p.90