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Irish Language TV

tips for learning irish

Watching television in Irish is an absolutely excellent way to improve your Irish, and thanks to the Irish language broadcaster TG4 there is no shortage of great programmes to watch. Choose from a fantastically diverse mixture of TV programmes including music, sport, culture, drama and more.


How to watch TV in Irish

Surely no one needs to be told 'how' to watch a tv programme! Well, actually, it's good to keep a few things in mind if you want to get the most out of watching TV in Irish. If your goal is to improve your Irish then just switching on the TV and watching with English subtitles will not be quite as beneficial as you might think. There is a place for just watching for pure entertainment of course, but if you want to really improve your Irish a little more effort will be required. 


Intensive Viewing

If you want to improve your Irish then one of the best things that you can do is pick a TV programme that you like (see the suggestions below), and view it on the internet through the TG4 player ( See the screenshot below of the TG4 home page. Use the search box at the top of the screen to find the programme that you want to watch. Watching on the internet, rather than watching live tv means that you will be able to pause and replay segments.



Unfortunately, most of the programmes on TG4 programmes are only subtitled in English. However, there are some that are also subtitled in Irish, and these programmes are the best of all for intensive viewing. 

Pick a short 5 to 10 minute section of the programme you are watching and play this a couple of times. Two people chatting is ideal for this as you will be picking up everyday expressions (this is why Ros na Rún is such a great resource for learners).Depending on your level you might spend 15 minutes on a 5 minute segment: watch it through with subtitles; watch again; watch once more - hit pause if you want to write down any new words or phrases.

Intensive viewing doesn't have to take long; even 10 minutes of this a few times a week will really help you improve your Irish.

Below are some suggestions for great programmes to watch in Irish. To find any of these programmes just input the title into the searchbox on the TG4 website (see the screenshot above).


Ros na Rún

Ros na Rún is Ireland's longest-running soap opera and there have been over 2,000 episodes made since it first aired in 1996. 'Ros na Rún' means 'the headland of secrets' and there are no shortage of secrets and intrigue every episode! For anyone learning Irish Ros na Rún is a fantastic resource for a few reasons. First of all, it is subtitled in both English and Irish; secondly it is a great way to get exposed to each of the three main dialects. Finally, it's the ideal programme to use to learn real conversational Irish - the words and phrases, slang and shortened words that are used in natural conversational Irish.

One important piece of advice however: don't give up after just one episode! Ros na Rún is a soap, with ongoing storylines, so you will need to be consistent and watch 4 or 5 episodes before knowing if this is a programme for you or not. Highly recommended for anyone learning Irish.


An Klondike

The Klondike is a historical drama series set in the 1890s during Fuadar Óir an Klondike (the Klondike Gold Rush). It is based around the story of the Connolly brothers who emigrate from Ireland to seek their fortune in the Yukon Territory and is a mix of adventure, drama, and history. As there are no subtitles in Irish this series will be rather challenging for lower intermediate level learners, and I would recommend that it is used for entertainment rather than intensive viewing. Higher intermediate learners will be able to use this series for intensive viewing however, and will be able to focus on snippets of dialogue. The landscape of Connemara was used to represent the scenery of the Klondike. There are two series of 4 episodes each available on the TG4 player.


Rásaí na Gaillimhe

This is a farcical comedy series set during the renowned annual Galway Race week. Here's a better description of this series than I could manage:

"Framed by the lesser known seven virtues, each episode is an exciting, entertaining, and insightful exploration of modern Irish morality during the most hedonistic week of the year - Race Week."
Basically, tá sé thar a bheith greannmhar, it's hilarious. Watch it!

(Again, unfortunately, there are no fotheidil i nGaeilge / subtitles in Irish).



Presenter Síle Nic Chonaonaigh visits bailte fearainn / townlands all over Ireland in this series. She speaks to the local people and visits important sites on her tour. This is a really nice series and Síle is an engaging presenter, with very clear (Connacht) Irish. This series is also a good way to become a little more familiar with the different dialects as Síle visits townlands in different Gaeltacht areas. Again, ar an drochuair / unfortunately, no subtitles in Irish!


Programmes for Children

There are a lot of reasons to watch programmes for children: firstly they are short, usually under 10 minutes or so; and, most importantly, they are subtitled in Irish. Some suggestions are 'Nuair a bheidh mé mór'; 'Is Mise'; 'Saol Ella'; and 'Cúla4 ar scoil'.

The music jingles might drive you cracked, but, for beginner and lower intermediate learners these programmes are ideal.



Finally, 'Scúp' is a mockumentary-style comedy series set in a Belfast newspaper office. There's lots of dialogue, slang and good storylines to keep you watching. This series is available to watch on Youtube (not TG4).


Clár Ceoil / Staire / Spóirt

 And finally, there are so many music, history and sports programmes on TG4 that I will leave you to discover them for yourself! 


Focal Scoir / A Final Word

Watching TV programmes in Irish is one of the best, easiest and most enjoyable ways to learn Irish. And it's free, so make the most of the excellent resource that is the TG4 player! Watch Irish language television as often as you can, and be sure to do a little intensive viewing from time to time for the best results. Combine Irish language TV with an Irish language course from All About Irish and there'll be no stopping you ;-)

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