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Tips for reading in Irish / Roald Dahl i nGaeilge

irish literature tips for learning irish

One of the best ways to learn a language is through reading. Did you know that four of Roald Dahl's books have been translated into Irish?


Why is reading such a good way to learn Irish?

Reading is an excellent way to learn Irish for lots of reasons. In the first place, it is a way to learn new words and to build vocabulary. It allows you to take your time, to look up new words, and to learn without any pressure (unlike the pressure that one can feel when trying to speak Irish or any new language). It is a way to build up the repetition that is required so that new words and phrases become familiar and can be used automatically. It also allows you start developing a 'feel' for the language; and to improve your understanding of the syntax (word order/how sentences are constructed).

On top of all of that reading is a relaxing activity which is pretty cheap, and can be done anywhere!


What should I read?

Start with children's books. There are lots of fantastic children's books available in Irish. Check out any of the books published by Irish language publishers Futa Fata and Leabhar Breac. Both of these publishing houses are located in the Connemara Gaeltacht, and offer an excellent selection of books in Irish. (Their books can be purchased through their websites or through any of the usual online bookstores).


Books for Beginners

Any of the beautiful picture books for 6 -9 year olds on the FutaFata website would be a great place to start. (Ná Gabh ar Scoil; Geansaí Otto; Cáca don Rí etc.) An Feileachán agus an Rí and Cluasa Capall ar an Rí are adaptations of two ancient Irish myths. These are both really beautiful books, but are a little bit more challenging than the picturebooks. 


Books for Beyond Beginners

At this stage it's time to move past the picture books...but don't pick a book that is too long, or too challenging! The goal is to finish the book. Otherwise, it will become like an unused gym membership, reproaching you from the bookshelf. No one needs that! The 'independent reader' section of the Futa Fata website is a great place to look. Check out the Máire-Treasa Mí Abha collection about a feisty cat (translated by myself). These books have some pictures which make understanding the story a little easier. The Lísín series is good too, as is my own Tónaí agus Trixie series (currently out of print, but hopefully due to be reprinted soon).


Books for Intermediate Level

At this stage it's time to move away from the picture books and onto books with more text. But keep it short! Again, you want to be sure that you will finish the book. At this level I recommend anything in the fiction 8-12 section from FutaFata. 'Ar Strae' by Patricia Ford is a good recommendation in this section. Another option for this level is the book Short Stories in Irish for Beginners.  (Available from all of the usual online bookstores). Along with Dr. Eilís Ní Dhúill I translated and co-edited this book, which is part of a series and is available in many other languages. The Irish stories have been localised as much as possible to Ireland of course! Despite the title I think that this book is more appropriate for a fairly solid intermediate level learner. One of the great benefits of this book is that it is possible to buy an audio version and so listen and read at the same time.


And finally, to Roald Dahl

Surely one of the best reasons to learn Irish is that it is a great excuse to revisit some Roald Dahl classics! At present four Dahl classics have been translated into Irish....Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie agus Monarcha na Seacláide); The Witches (Na Cailleacha); The Twits (Na Gamail); and Danny Champion of the World (Danny Seaimpín an Domhain). Click on the video at the top of this post to get a little taste of these translations. Apparently there are two more ar na bacáin / on the way... Mathilda and The Enormous Crocodile. These books are fabulous translations and are published by Leabhar Breac. 

A great advantage of these books is that you can read the English version first. Knowing the plot already will make reading the Irish language version so much easier. Sometimes the translations are even better than the originals...doesn't 'Giobacháin Ghruagacha' sound so much better than 'Hairy Slobs'!



Tips for Reading in Irish

  • Don't get a book that is too difficult for you! Start with a book that's too easy, rather than too difficult. Finish that book!
  • Write new words into the book as you come across them. You might want to reread the book in a few months and this will save you having to look them up again if you haven't committed them to memory just yet.
  • Have the online dictionary open so that you can check new words easily. You can also use to input passages into google and get a translation if necessary. 
  • Commit to finishing the book by a certain date! Work out how many pages or paragraphs you need to read per day in order to complete the book by the deadline.
  • Make sure to have at least one book in Irish lying around, so that you can pick it up and just read a paragraph or maybe two whenever you have a few minutes to spare.


There are so many amazing books available in the Irish language these days that there is no reason at all not to find one that suits you! Having a book to hand means that you can always get a little bit of Irish into your day. Attending one of my Irish language courses is a great way to get back to learning Irish, and starting to read independently in Irish will really boost whatever learning you do in class. I teach the Irish language online to Beginners, Beyond Beginners, and also Learning Irish Through Literature and Learning Irish Through Poetry (for intermediate/advanced learners). If you've any questions at all about my courses please contact me.

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