Backpacker admiring the sunny Gaeltacht coast

Why Irish

If you're offering accommodation or other services in the tourism industry, you may be hiding your best asset in the campaign to attract more business. It's the Irish language or Gaeilge! Let us explain.

If you can speak the Irish language, you can speak the oldest living vernacular language in Europe and if you can read as Gaeilge, you can enjoy one of the continent's most ancient and rich literatures.

Irish is a Celtic language which is closely related to Scottish and Manx Gaelic. It is also related to Welsh, Cornish and Breton. The first speakers of Irish probably arrived on these shores from mainland Europe around two thousand years ago. One of the main factors which contributed to the decline of Irish was the potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century. Approximately one million people died in the Famine and another million emigrated. The majority of these were native Irish speakers.

The best thing about Irish in 21st Century Ireland is that it is growing ever more popular with a younger generation who are adapting it more and more in their daily lives on Facebook and other social media.

Last year Commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut based on the International Space Station, tweeted as Gaeilge from orbit while this year it was the turn of the British Monarchy to add their cúpla focal (a few words) to the social media conversation with Irish language tweets to mark the recent State Visit of President Higgins to the UK.

The growing popularity of Gaeilge is due to a number of factors - the growth in Irish medium education around Ireland, the transformed modern image of the language thanks to the work of the Irish language TV station, TG4, and festivals such as Seachtain Na Gaeilge (Irish language week) and the pioneering efforts of communities in urban areas such as Belfast to establish modern era Gaeltachtaí (Gaelic speaking communities).

Not unlike Scotland, some of Ireland's most beautiful scenic areas are located in the traditional Gaeltachtaí on the western seaboard. If you're looking for the real Ireland of magnificent mountains overlooking seaside scenes, you won't go astray in places like Donegal's Gleann Colmcille or by the iconic strand in Gaoth Dobhair.

People used to come to these areas for the scenery and stay for the culture but more and more they're coming also to learn Irish. Irish is taught in 200 universities all over the world for instance but it's only in the Gaeltacht you can get the true blas, or flavour, of the language.

So if you're in a tourism related business in the Gaeltacht or anywhere in Ireland, north or south, it's always worth investing a little of your time to brush up on your school Irish or learn the language anew as it is never a burden and could give visitors an extra reason to stay the extra night in your accommodation!

To quote an old Irish Gaelic saying:

"Is fearr Gaeilge bhriste ná Béarla cliste" (Better broken Irish that nimble English).