Are Irish And Scottish Gaelic Both Mutually Intelligible With Each Other?


Can Irish Understand Scottish Gaelic? 🤔💭: This question has been brought up quite a few times already. I can certainly confirm its status as an FAQ or frequently asked question. And, like any other FAQ, we at Fluentirish would love to debate and discuss everything we know about this topic. Going back on track, Irish and Scottish Gaelic do indeed resemble each other to be compared. 


In this blog, we will talk about both the similarities and differences of Irish and Scottish Gaelic. We will also talk about a little bit of history in this topic. Put on your reading glasses and get ready to read useful information!


Sa bhlag seo, labhróidh muid faoi na cosúlachtaí agus na difríochtaí idir Gàidhlig na hÉireann agus na hAlban. Beimid ag caint freisin ar bheagán staire san ábhar seo. Cuir ort do spéaclaí léitheoireachta agus ullmhaigh faisnéis úsáideach a léamh!


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Some Irish can sort of understand Scottish Gaelic… and vice-versa


Yes, many will attest that Irish and Scottish Gaelic are mutually intelligible. They have enough similarities due to the fact that both languages came from language of the Gaels. In a broader perspective, Irish and Scottish Gaelic are both members of the Goidelic group of Celtic languages. Other members of the Celtic group include Manx Gaelic or simply Manx, Welsh, Breton and Cornish.


The Celtic languages are further divided into two groups – Goidelic and Brythonic (British).  Irish, Scottish, and Manx are in the former and Welsh, Breton and Cornish are in the latter group. You can read more interesting information on Irish by reading our blog on its origin.


The Gaels, in particular, split and went to Scotland and the Isle of Man in the early centuries (6th and 7th centuries), which caused their language to evolve and change.


Now, reading the statements above, we know that since they belong in the same group and have the same origin, we can deduct that, even without interviewing Irish and Scottish people that they understand each other to some extent.


Anois, agus na ráitis thuas á léamh againn, tá a fhios againn ós rud é go mbaineann siad leis an ngrúpa céanna agus go bhfuil an bunús céanna acu, gur féidir linn a asbhaint, fiú gan agallaimh a dhéanamh le muintir na hÉireann agus na hAlban go dtuigeann siad a chéile go pointe áirithe.


They seem too similar… are they different languages or dialects?


Some time ago, this thought came across my mind. ‘They seem way too similar for me, so they must be different dialects!’ I exclaimed in my mind. It also helps that they both came from the Gaels. As such, there exists debates discussing the true difference of Irish and Scottish Gaelic.


It seems that because Irish do indeed understand Scottish Gaelic that the argument of Irish and Scottish Gaelic being different dialects instead of language exists. Some, to this day, still argue that. However, the general belief is still them being different languages rather than different dialects because they have a clear and enough difference to be considered as such.


We can compare them to the similarities and differences of Spanish and Portuguese or even Spanish and Italian. They are both Gaelic just as much as Spanish, Portuguese and Italian are all Latin.


How different of a language are they?


We are going to need more than one blog to truly distinguish the difference of Irish and Scottish Gaelic. But still, we can point out a few below. Here are some of the more obvious differences:


Spelling – which we can also call as orthography. One of the main differences between Irish and Scottish Gaelic is their opposite accent marks. While the accent mark lean to the right in Irish, Scottish Gaelic has its accent mark leaning to the left. Additionally, some spelling combination exist in one language that does not exist in the other. An example is the word open – it is oscailte in Irish and fosgailte in Scottish Gaelic. Day is in Irish and latha in Scottish Gaelic. Finally, the word Ireland is Éireann in Irish and Èirinn in Scottish Gaelic. While you may find some similarities, these examples still emphasise the difference between the two.


Sound – or also the pronunciation of words. As someone in the midst of learning the Irish language, you will find similarities but still would not understand Scottish Gaelic very much – even with the same cadence in speaking and such. But below, we will discuss a dialect of Irish which can understand Scottish Gaelic in a better degree.


Did you know that they even pronounced the word Gaelic different? The Irish pronounce it like this: GAY-lik while the Scots pronounce it like this: GAA-lik.


Which Irish understands Scottish Gaelic?


Apparently, not all Irish can understand Scottish Gaelic even with the similarities of vocabulary and grammar. Through research and experience, we have found that Ulster Irish speakers can understand Scottish Gaidhlig better than the other dialects. You can go to website often used to ask questions such as Quora and Reddit and ask away yourselves!


Obviously, this is because Ulster Irish closely resembles Scottish Gaelic, especially from the southern Western Isles. It closely resembles it more than the likes of Munster Irish and Connacht Irish.




Although Irish, to some extent, do understand Scottish Gaelic, they still have lots of differences that can make it hard to understand one another. But it was apparent that Ulster Irish speakers think otherwise and can understand Scottish Gaidhlig better.


We can argue that the two might be different dialects rather than languages, but there are still noticeable differences which makes it better to consider them as two different languages. Moreover, according to Bitesize Irish, the definition of languag can be seen as political more so than it is linguistic. The two have diverged well enough to be considered different from each other.