Learning Irish as a second language: 'I'm making friends all over the world'

Rusty and David, who are both originally from the United States, are sitting exams after studying Irish as a second language
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

19.23 7 Jun 2024

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Learning Irish as a second lan...

Learning Irish as a second language: 'I'm making friends all over the world'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

19.23 7 Jun 2024

Share this article

Two American men who are learning Irish as a second language say they are making friends all over Ireland and the US.

Rusty, who has lived in Galway for almost nine years, did an Irish course called Couch to Comhrá last Christmas.

He has since started another course, All About Irish, and has a test tomorrow.


Rusty told The Hard Shoulder he naively thought it would be easier.

"I actually did move to Galway thinking as an American, 'It's Galway, I'd learn Irish because I'm totally immersed in it'," he said.

"I've learned somewhat otherwise but I've found my way".

A sign in the Gaeltacht A Ghaeltacht sign on Achill Island, 6-10-10. Image: David Robertson / Alamy

Asked why he's taking the exam, Rusty said he has an ulterior motive.

"Rumour has it that if you have an A2 level profificiainly in Irish it helps grease the skids a bit for buying a house in the Gaeltacht area," he said.

"I had some Italian and I had some French and I thought, 'Ah sure it's just another Germanic language'.

"Boy was I wrong so I've been learning the hard way since.

"But really you've kind of got to dive into it."

He said he has "really loved" learning the language.

'Learning a cúpla focal'

David who is from Minnesota has traveled to Galway for his exam.

"I retired a few years ago from university teaching in Minnesota," he said.

"I didn't have a lot going on and we had planned a trip to Ireland and I thought, 'I'll learn a cúpla focal before we go'.

"We didn't go on that trip because of COVID but I kept on learning because I really enjoyed learning the language."

David said learning a new language is something he always wanted to do.

"I'd always wanted to learn a language to a certain level of fluency; I've never done that before in my life," he said.

"I thought, 'I'm retired now, this can be my hobby' - and it's turned into exactly that and much more so.

"I've made a lot of friends in All About Irish and then I met more friends last week, I was at an immersion camp and that was just great too".

David said he's now making friends "all over the world" but especially in Ireland and the United States.

A DNA test has also revealed David has some 20% Irish ancestry.

Almost 1.9 million people can speak Irish, according to the 2022 Census, an increase of more than 112,500 people since 2016.

One-in-10 people who spoke Irish could speak it 'very well', while a further 32% spoke it 'well'.

There were over 6,600 more people living in Gaeltacht areas in April 2022 compared with April 2016, bringing the Gaeltacht population to more than 106,000 people.

Irish became a full official language of the European Union in 2022, having been a working language since 2007.

Listen back here:

Main image: Irish language signs in the Gaeltacht, 24-8-15. Image: Bernard Golden / Alamy

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All About Irish Couch To Comhrá Cúpla Focal David European Union Gaeilge Gaeltacht Galway Irish As A Second Language Learning Irish Minnesota Rusty The Hard Shoulder USA

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