A Brief History Of Languages Spoken In Ireland

Ireland is divided politically between Northern Ireland, that is part of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent state. The latter covers the most of the island and has population of about 4.5 million people. For comparison, over 1.7 million live in Northern Ireland. What is the main language on the island? It might seem a bit surprising, but the most popular language is English. It is spoken by 94 percent of people living in Ireland. As for Irish, it is spoken by 34 percent and is a mother tongue for a small number of citizens.

shutterstock_130088723Why English is more widely used?

Primitive or Archaic Irish was spoken on the island in 4th century. Gradually it evolved into Old and Middle Irish (until 12th century). Since then it started to develop into more contemporary forms, for example Scottish Gaelic and modern Irish. Today the latter is an official language in the Republic of Ireland, but as we already know, the majority of people speak English. Why is it so? English was first introduced here in the 12th century. Five centuries later, as a result of Tudor conquest, it became the language of justice, business and administration. Nowadays English remains the main language, for example for universities and for studying Bachelor degrees abroad.

Are there any other languages spoken in Ireland?

Yes, there are many other languages used in Ireland. For instance, Ulster Scots, a dialect of Scots, is still used by one percent of the population in Northern Ireland (the data is from 2011 census). Another language is called Shelta spoken mostly by the Irish Traveller community. It is considered that the language was used as a cryptolect in order to exclude outsiders from conversations. There is also Irish Sign Language that is similar to French Sign Language. In recent years, with increased immigration, new languages got spread. Among the most widely used ones are Lithuanian, German, French, Russian and Spanish.