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Nil Gaeilge maith agam! Mike Polk Jr. learns Irish just in time for St. Patrick's Day

It’s estimated that only about 1.5% of Ireland’s population uses the Irish language daily, but there's a group of Clevelanders learning to speak Irish every Tuesday.

CLEVELAND — Nil Gaeilge maith agam!

Don’t worry, I’m not experiencing a dire health issue, I’m trying to speak the Irish language. I just attempted to say “I cannot speak Irish very well”. Because I figured that even if I messed that one up, I’m still nailing it.

Irish, some times referred to as Gaelic, is a Celtic language indigenous to, you guessed it, the country of Ireland. It was the primary language spoken on the island until the late 18th century and remains the first language in broad areas of counties Cork, Donegal, Galway and Kerry.

Which, geographically speaking, is not a huge area. It’s estimated that only about 1.5% of Ireland’s population uses the Irish language daily. Which begs the question, what would possess Clevelanders to want to learn something so obscure, if admittedly charming.

Bob Carney teaches a class called “Speak Irish” every Tuesday in the bowels of PJ McIntyre’s here in Kamm’s Corners, one of the most Irish-y neighborhoods in Greater Cleveland.

The primary motivating factors for these students seem to be both a desire to connect with their culture and the communal nature of the class itself.

It appears to be just as much about the time that they get to spend with each other as it does the actual desire to be able to speak a new language.

You could see how much the students enjoyed being together and discussing a topic with which they all connected.

Due to the pandemic, they had not had the opportunity to do this in person, and they say that made them appreciate this all the more.

Before departing from my crash course in the language, my classmates were kind enough to supply me with some authentic Irish phrases, that I could pass onto my What’s New co-workers, allowing them to get in on the fun.

For this exercise I provided Kierra, Matt and Stephanie with actual, traditional Irish greetings, while providing my dear friend Jay Crawford with random non sequiturs, with the sole purpose of amusing myself. And amused I was.

If you’re looking for a good phrase to use today, might I suggest the following?


Is fearr Gaeilge briste, na Bearla cliste


Broken Irish is better than clever English

No matter how you say it, good tidings to you and yours on St. Patrick’s Day and Slainte!

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