No, English is not the only language spoken in Ireland. For a long time, Gaelic was the most widely spoken language on the island. It was only with the invasion of the English, in the Middle Ages, that English became the main language. Despite falling into disuse, Gaelic is still considered the official language of Ireland and the European Union, and there is a strong movement for the preservation and teaching of the language among Irish people.
Like all languages, Gaelic has some peculiarities. Check out some interesting facts about the language:
- More than 1.7 million people speak Gaelic in Ireland, but only 5% use the language daily. Most Irish people learn the language at school, but do not use it outside. Therefore, Gaelic is one of the many endangered languages in the world, according to UNESCO.
- The language is also spoken by thousands of people outside of Ireland. There are approximately 18,000 speakers of the language in the United States, and another 9,000 in the United Kingdom. Gaelic became one of the most widely spoken languages in the Canadian province of Newfoundland during the 18th and 19th centuries, when many Irish people emigrated to Canada.
- Since 2007, Gaelic has been considered one of the official languages of the European Union. In addition, Gaelic was first used in space in 2013, when astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted in the Irish language directly from the International Space Station.
- The order of words in a sentence differs from most other languages. In Gaelic, the subject comes after the verb. For example, the phrase “I love you” in Gaelic would be written “I love you”. It is estimated that only 8% of languages use this structure.
- Gaelic uses the Latin (or Roman) alphabet, but does not use the letters j, k, q, v, w, x, and y. In addition, vowels may have an accent, just like in Portuguese.
- There are no words for “yes” or “no” in Gaelic. You must use the verb in the affirmative or negative to answer a question.
- There are 21 different words to say “hole”, and 45 for “stone”, as well as countless ways of describing changes in the ocean, light and wind. This says a lot about the past of the Celtic peoples.
- There are only 11 irregular verbs, while English has more than 300.
- There are different words for the numbers according to what is being counted. There is a specific set of words for dates, times and arithmetic, another for counting people, and another for counting objects and animals.
- Some English words were imported from Gaelic, such as whiskey – which comes from uisce beatha, or “water of life” – and hooligan – which comes from the surname Houlihan, used in a pejorative way to describe miserable and violent individuals.