English and Irish are Ireland’s official languages, however Ireland’s linguistic landscape is very diverse, with over 70 languages being spoken within the country.

Irish a Celtic language with a rich history, which is sometimes referred to as Gaelic or Gaelige, is part of the Indo-European family languages as a Goidelic language. The Irish language uses the Latin script ant its alphabet is comprised of a total of 18 letters. Irish Gaelic is recognized as the first official language of the Republic of Ireland and one of the oldest and most historic written languages in the world.

Irish began to lose its popularity in Ireland at the end of the 1800s when English started gaining more prominence. After King Henry VIII of England declared himself King of Ireland in an attempt to restore British authority, English started emerging as the favored language of politics and the upper class, with Irish remaining as a rural vernacular. It was even outright banned in the newly unified schooling system.

After the Irish War of Independence in the early 20th century, the Republic of Ireland was created in an attempt by the country to emancipate itself from Great Britain. Although Irish was subsequently declared as a chief national language of Ireland, English has remained the country’s de facto operating language.

Today, Irish is spoken by only around 10% of the population, with a very small number of whom speak it as their first language. This translates to around 141,000 native speakers. In comparison, nearly 99% of the population of Ireland speak English. 13% of the population speaks a language other than Irish or English at home. There have been lots of attempts to revitalize the language in the modern times, which haven’t been the most successful. Despite that, Irish is still a mandatory subject in all public schools. Many students actually chose not to continue learning the language outside of school, with many of them opting to pursue other European languages such as French.

There are 72 different languages spoken in Ireland, with each of these languages having at least 500 speakers living in Ireland. Some of these include Polish with 135,895 speakers, French with 54,948 speakers, Romanian with 36,683 speakers, Lithuanian with 35,362 speakers, Spanish with 32,405  speakers, German with 28,331 speakers, Russian with 21,707  speakers, Portuguese with 20,833 speakers, Chinese with 17,584 speakers, Arabic with 16,072  speakers and Italian with 14,505 speakers.

Along with these, Ullans can be heard in the northeastern part of Ireland. Ullans is a Scottish language spoken by roughly 10,000 people which draws influence from English and Scots and is classified as an official minority language. Furthermore, the Irish deaf community also has its own Irish Sign Language, which is more closely related to the French Sign Language than English Sign Language. Also, a distinct ethnic group called the Irish Travellers speaks their native vernacular, Shelta or De Gammon, which is essentially a mixture of Irish, English and Romani. Around 30,000 people speak Shelta.


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