We Discuss How Long It Takes To Learn The Irish Language


How Long Does It Take To Learn The Irish Language? ☘️: My niece, Hannah, asked me the other while I was working the lengths and efforts you have to achieve to learn the Irish language. Of course, the answer to that will always be a long time. And, by long, I mean really long if you really want to immerse yourself fully.


With that said, I suggested to her that if you do start learning the Irish language, you should definitely keep at it and not give up. I also told her that if this deterred her will to learn, then she should not continue.


Now, after my talk with my niece, this also got me thinking – how long does it really take to learn Gaeilge? Does it only take a few weeks? A few months, maybe? Or even, a year or two? Let us discuss this below. Read the following sections down to learn more.


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It does take a long time to learn Irish


Like any other language, it would take quite a bit of time and effort to learn the Irish language. According to Steve Kaufmann of the Linguist, studying 10 hours a day vigorously can get you to basic conversational fluency in two months for the easier-to-learn languages while it would take three months for those harder-to-learn ones. Below, you will find a sample regimen from Kaufmann if you would want to study a language 10 hours a day:


8-12: Alternate listening, reading and vocabulary review using LingQ, Anki or some other system.


12-2: Rest, exercise, lunch, while listening to the language.


2-3: Grammar review


3-4: Write


4-5: Talk to an online tutor or with locals if in the country


5-7: Rest


7-10: Relaxation in the language, movies, songs, or going out with friends in the language. depending on availability.


Unsurprisingly, Irish is one of the languages that is hard to learn. It has its own set of rules that can confuse the average person. However, with a honest desire and persevering effort, a day will come when you can learn it and use it with a respectable amount of proficiency.


Measuring proficiency


As mentioned above, it takes quite a bit of time and effort to learn the Irish language or Gaelic. Using free apps on the internet such as Duolingo may help you achieve this, but there is also another interesting way to do it – taking the TEG exams – which I will discuss in this section.


Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge or simply TEG is something that you could look to in learning the Irish language. Basically, TEG “provides a series of general Irish language proficiency examinations and qualifications for adult learners of Irish. TEG exams give candidates an opportunity to show their ability in speaking, listening, reading and writing Irish at different levels, from absolute beginner to intermediate and advanced levels”, according to their statements.


Various exams offered at five levels are taken yearly by candidates with different levels of fluency. These have included the following:


  • adult learners taking part in a Dublin evening course, returning to the study of Irish for the first time since 1970;      
  • Irish language tutors at an Irish university;
  • County council staff from Kerry, Galway, Tipperary and Clare, to name but a few;
  • Irish-language journalists;
  • teachers of Irish at primary and secondary school level;
  • students at a Canadian university learning Irish for the first time.


Moreover, they have the option to take the written or just the oral exam. This can be useful for those that wish to get certified in the spoken language.


In particular, their exams are based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. You can also abbreviate it to just CEFR, CEF or CEFRL. Below, I will discuss more about it in the next section.


Three levels


Currently, there are three levels called common reference levels. All of those levels are further divided into two levels. The levels indicate what the learner can now do in reading, listening, speaking and writing the language. How long it can take to learn the Irish language will depend greatly on you clearing the levels stated below:


First, level group A


The first, of course, is A. A equates to basic user. Additionally, it is further divided into two – A1 and A2. The descriptions, as stated by Wikipedia, are as follows:


A1: beginner
  • Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type.
  • Also can introduce themselves and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where they live, people they know and things they have.
  • Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.


A2: waystage
  • Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment).
  • Also can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.
  • Can describe in simple terms aspects of their background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.


Second, level group B


Next comes the second level group B – independent user. Like A, B is also further divided into two – B1 and B2. It should still take quite a long time to truly learn the Irish language by this point, but improvements have been made, undeniably.


B1: intermediate
  • Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
  • Also can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
  • Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.


B2: vantage
  • Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialization.
  • Also can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.
  • Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.


Lastly, level group C


The last of the three stages is, of course, C. It is further divided into two levels – C1 and C2. You’ve very much mastered the Irish language if you reach the latest stage at this level.


C1: advanced
  • Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer clauses, and recognize implicit meaning.
  • Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
  • Also can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
  • Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.


C2: proficiency


  • Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.
  • Also can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation.
  • Can express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.


Currently, TEG offers five levels – A1, A2, B1, B2, C1.


Conclusion on how long it is to learn the Irish language


Of course, it would take quite a long time to truly learn the Irish language at an elite level. But patience, willingness, dedication and effort can take you long ways. “Just keep at it” is what I would like to say!


If you want to know at which level of spoken Irish you understand, click the link below.


>>Which level?: Find out which level of spoken Irish you understand!