Celtic languages

I really want to learn a Celtic language but am struggling to choose one. There are strong reasons for learning each of them but I can’t seem to decide which to go for. For those of you who have studied one or more of them - what was your motivation and how did you go about it? Are there reasons for learning one over another? Or did you learn more than one?


Hi, Scott! Good question. I have been fascinated by Scottish Gaidhlig from when I visited Scotland and an AirBNB hostess gave me a mini lesson over breakfast one morning, but it was Irish that eventually hooked me in.

I used to go to Irish song workshops at a local folk festival and could never make heads or tails of the pronunciation. About 2.5 yrs ago a local fellow started offering Irish classes, and since I’ve started, have fallen deep in love with this crazy language. Now that I’m way past pronouncing song lyrics I’m more interested in improving my Irish so I can better talk at conversation circles in the US and Ireland and get a better grip on understanding all the dialects. I’ve have been lucky enough to have hooked up with a number of other Irish learners groups in the Northeast, and pre-Covid had a chance to attend one of the many Irish immersion weekends in the NY/NJ area.

Right now my Irish class continues to meet online, and attend both the intermediate and advanced classes, plus I met a new friend from the other side of the country at an online event last year, she is a little higher than my level and we chat weekly online as well and send each other resources we find all the time.

I still want to learn Gaidhlig too, but the opportunities to learn and practice are much less it seems.

P.S. there are a number of places you can try the languages out… FutureLearn’s website

offers a 101 and up series through Dublin City University for free. There’s a bunch of fun videos available on YouTube, and a ton of other paid sites. You can get a feel for Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh at Duolingo, although that’s not my favorite place to learn.
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Living through a Celtic language would be a great topic to suggest as part of LangFest’s Topic Rooms during the Conference! Register here if you want to suggest a topic and meet other participants! https://bit.ly/LF-Topics

Nicolas (LangFest team)


Hi @Nicolas - would offering something like a Celtic Language Learning Resources Share be an appropriate topic? I was thinking it could be fun to have a group or groups where folks studying one of these languages could share their favorite or new and exciting resources. Or would the forum be a better place?

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Hey Scott!

So I started learning Scottish Gaelic this year but I’ve also been challenging myself to do mini-sprints of endangered languages just to get a feel for some and to make myself (and others, hopefully!) more aware of what resources are available. I chose 20 languages total (gives me ~18 days each) and included all the UK’s endangered languages because, well, I live here and wanted to give them a go :sweat_smile:

What I’ve found is that I definitely prefer one branch over the other - so check that first! For me, it’s Goidelic (Gaidhlig, Irish, Manx) over Brythonic (Welsh, Cornish, Breton) all the wayyyy. Not sure why, just sometimes they click like that, you know? And other than that, I guess it’s worth just playing around and seeing which one you like best. The advantage is that the languages are similar within their branches, so say you learnt some Irish but decided you preferred Manx, you’d have an easier time of it moving over.

Resources-wise, they’re all pretty rich, with Irish, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic at the top there, but Cornish, Breton, and Manx are well stocked too. I’ve used learngaelic.net a lot (as well as the Teach Yourself book/apps etc) for Scottish Gaelic and I started the FutureLearn course for Irish too; it’s pretty fun and I learnt about the old Irish alphabet! Since Welsh and Gaidhlig are promoted by their respective national governments, there are a ton of really well done resources out there. Cornish has a really good kind of old-school course (KDL Cornish) and Manx is sponsored by the Isle of Man so there’s stuff for that as well. I’ve not moved onto Breton yet but I know there’s a Colloquial Breton book so that’s somewhere to start. Not sure about classes as I’ve been dabbling but I assume there’s always someone out there willing to teach. :joy:

Sorry if this is a bit too long… and rambling, but Celtic languages are really fun! Ultimately, I’ve settled on Scottish Gaelic for now just because I like it the most and it’s a semi-heritage language for me (not that anyone in my family has spoken it, but they are from Scotland so :woman_shrugging:). I guess if you haven’t got any major ties to any particular region, your best bet might be Irish (more speakers, more actively used afaik) or Welsh (more actively used, again, afaik), but obviously any language is a useful language :wink: Good luck! Sorry for the wall of text!


Hi @charlottee ,
I know you were answering Scott, but I’m really fascinated with the Goidelic languages too. It was music that pulled me into learning Irish, and I’ve truly fallen down the rabbit hole, but when I get myself to a decent level (so I won’t confuse them too much) I want to learn some Gaidhlig too, having encountered it a tiny bit in Scotland, and more in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I’m lucky though to live in an area where we have access to a few Irish conversation circles and classes (now online) that make it easier to keep Irish going.

Are you learning Scottish Gaelic on your own or with a class?
Oh, and I’m doing a Futurelearn Irish class too… 201 at the moment.

Hi Charlotte - thanks so much for the reply!
For all those reasons that you mentioned - it’s a tough choice!! I think, even though there are less opportunities to speak, I am probably leaning towards Gàidhlig, I have always had a fascination with it and like Sadelle it’s the music that has pulled me in!
The learngaelic.net stuff is great - I think I’d like some instruction though especially in terms of grammar and pronunciation. I’ve been looking into the An Cursa Inntrigidh online course offered at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig - do you have any experience with it or know anything about it? Everything I’ve read online says that it is a really great course and gets you to a really decent level, but that it is fairly intense which I guess explains the high standard achieved.
Looking forward to more chats about Celtic languages!


Hi Sadelle,
Thanks for replying and for sharing your story! Like you, it’s the music that has hooked me, even if it is Gàidhlig music rather than Irish music - but that’s only because I don’t know any Irish artists! Any suggestions for me to look into and get hooked on?? Celtic music in general is just great and I’m sure I will love Irish language music just as much as I do Gàidhlig!
Maybe we need to start a Celtic music stream as well :rofl:

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Hi @ScottBE ! Re Irish Artists… well… SO many out there, but a GREAT place to check out what’s happening in Irish Music is to go to the Irish language TV station,
http:/www.tg4.ie (there’s an English tab so you can poke around if you have no Irish) and do a search on music, Fleadh (the yearly music competitions) and Sean Nós (for the acapella traditional lilted singing). Personally, I’m a big fan of the group Altan and their lead singer and fiddler Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. I love their rendition of the song “Dulaman” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KzOyCwvQ9o&ab_channel=AnGhaothAniar

But Scottish music is one of my other great loves. I’ve been to fiddle camp in Cape Breton, attended a Ceilidh there were people greeted us at the door in Gàidlig, and when I was last in Scotland in 2018 discovered the music of Julie Fowlis. I’ve even learned to sing one of the mouth music songs she recorded, Fear a’ Bhrochain

And then there’s Mary Jane Lamond, a wonderful Cape Breton singer in Gàidlig whose music I’ve listened to forever… https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSneSQWdks7jsAv7nHXBXog

Would love to hear how you are studying Gàidlig - on your own or with classes or both? Do you have a chance to speak it at all? It seems the resources online are less than I’ve found with Gaeilge.

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Ah, that’s awesome! I haven’t been to Scotland since I was literally a baby (lol no excuses, I live in England :roll_eyes:) but hopefully I’ll be able to go in the next… two years? :sweat_smile: So it’s good to know you can hear it in the wild, as it were!

I’m learning on my own. I like classes but now I’m not a student anymore I haven’t got around to them, and I do like learning alone a bit more I think. Pre-pandemic, I was having a look at what was available re: conversation practise in London though (not that I’m there yet!) but now I’ve left the city I’m torn… on the one hand, there should be more online; on the other, there’s definitely nothing related to Gaidhlig irl where I live!

And oooh, I really did enjoy what I managed of the FutureLearn course, they do a good job of putting it all together - so I hope you’re having fun with it too! :smile:


Hey Scott - aha, nice choice! Honestly, I’ve got no experience with courses or anything else; I bought the Teach Yourself book on Kindle because it was on offer and I managed to hunt down the audio. Pronunciation is a bit tricky though, you’re right, but I did think Duolingo was actually kind of useful there because they got some native speakers to record - also (full disclosure) I work for uTalk and used that app too, so I got my early listening exposure through those apps.

Tbh I might look into the course now you’ve mentioned it! I’ve kind of stalled with my learning because of well… [gestures] everything, so that might be a kick start for me. :smile:

Should be easy for you to pick up Irish after if you’re so inclined too :wink:


Thanks Sadelle!
Mostly by myself using online & teach yourself resources, but I’ve also had a few italki lessons with a tutor, which has really helped. I’m the kind of person who needs the pressure of a class to force me to study and practise though so I’m looking for something structured. Both Sabhal Mòr Ostaig & AGA have online courses - I just have to take the plunge and commit! Would help to have a group of people to practice with on a regular basis though. Perhaps we should start something!


Hi Scott! Not sure I dare start Gàidhlig whilst in the throes of learning Gaeilge, however one thing I CAN recommend that has really helped me especially during weeks that I don’t have Irish class is that I have a regular “language date” with a friend I made through another course who lives on the other side of the country (US) from me. She and I are close to the same level in Irish, and we meet every Sunday for an hour to chat in Irish. Right now we’re working through a series of videos from an intermediate language program that are fun to watch together on Zoom.
For the accountability, it’s been awesome for the both of us, and we’ve been now been meeting weekly for over a year!
I wonder if you might find a Gàidhlig language Zoom buddy through a FB group or other online social group on the language. I found a bunch of FB groups that are all about learning Irish, and I see there are a few for for Gàidhlig too. But keep me posted, I’d love to hear how it’s going!
BTW did you see the Intro to Welsh program in the Saturn room? It was wonderful!

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Hi Sadelle,

Sorry for not responding earlier, with the first couple of days of social activities, I missed your message! Yes, that could work, plus I think it could potentially attract people interested in Celtic languages and get a discussion started. You are welcome to submit that topic.
It will be possible for two discussions to happen during the same time slot, so take a look at the schedule to see which ones are free! http://bit.ly/LF-Activities

Let me know if you have any questions!


Thanks, @Nicolas ! Let me go look at the times available and see if anyone else wants to join me?

@ScottBE , @charlottee - would you both be interested in helping me do a session in the Topics area on a Celtic Languages Resource share? Basically share what Celtic language learning resources we know about, have used or experienced and enjoy. I’m thinking like language books, actual online courses, self-learning resources, social media learning groups, meetups, websites, podcasts, youtube and streaming television and radio. Certainly not a comprehensive list, but what we’ve personally made use of.

I don’t know what time zone you’re both in. I can’t do the open slot for tomorrow, but there are sessions open in Topic #2 are at http://bit.ly/LF-Activities - it could be fun!

Hi ScottBE,
My motivation to learn Scottish Gaelic is because it was my grandmother’s first language. An uncle, and two aunts were fluent in early life. But because the provincial education did all it could to stamp out the language, the home language was only English by the time my mother came along. She only learned the swear words. I started to learn Gaelic many years ago but pressures of family life and career caused me to stop.

I have carried on some of the family’s Scottish traditions by becoming a piper and played in bands for many years. I even taught my grandson how to play via Skype over the internet. He lives in Germany.

As you can see, there are so many different reasons to lead you to a language. Mine is quite personal.

Thanks Paul!
I am also a piper so I can relate to that. How are you learning gaelic? Are you following a course or teaching yourself?

Sounds like a great idea Sadelle! Unfortunately they are all during the day for my timezone and as I’m a teacher that’s a bit tricky for me since I’ll be at school during those times. We could use this thread to post the resources if it doesn’t work out for timings, otherwise feel free to go ahead without me and I’ll catch up with you guys later!

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all Celtic languages have their beauty and diversity. I speak Welsh, and, as it happens, last week BBC Radio Cymru celebrated ‘Wythnos Dysgwyr Cymraeg’ (Welsh Learner’s Week) with different programmes and discussions: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/18y2rPRh9DFSLtTwP6kMS1z/wythnos-dathlu-dysgu-cymraeg-bbc-radio-cymru.

You can follow lots of people and societies on Twitter who tweet in Welsh (or biligually) and there’s a translate facility to translate into English in Twitter. @cymraeg is one to start, but plenty of individuals, bands, groups etc.

Also worth listening to Welsh language pop music (folk music isn’t such a thing in Wales as in Ireland or Brittany). Try @YwsGwynedd (a singer) who tweets with his weekly favourite songs including list of Welsh songs who’ve had 100,000+ downloads on Spotify.

Say Something in Welsh is a popular way to learn Welsh which also has an online community of learners and speakers to back you up. https://www.saysomethingin.com/welsh


Hi Siôn, I’m so happy to hear there are as many resources for Welsh online. I think especially the communities of learners are so so important, especially for folks learning on their own. Even for me, with a 3 hours class and local community every week for Irish, I still appreciate the online communities. It’s how I find out about events, new websites and new podcasts all the time.

Question for you, is there a Welsh language TV station that has streaming available abroad, akin to what TG4 does in Ireland? If I had to pick ONE resource I love the most that is available to me as a learner in the Americas, it would be streaming shows from TG4.

One of these days I’d love to try out some Welsh. I loved the presentation that Dafydd from iTalki did on an Intro to Welsh. I learned so much in 45 minutes.

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