Old Irish Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Old Irish?

Old Irish is the Gaelic language of Ireland used from the earliest period to the 11th Century. Old Irish is the ancestor of all modern Goidelic languages: Modern Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx. A still older form of Irish is known as Primitive Irish.

Irish is one of the so-called Celtic languages, a sub-family of Indo-European. The Celtic languages documented and in part still spoken in modern times are Irish, Manx, and Scottish-Gaelic (dialects of a previous intermediate linguistic stage known as Goidelic), together with Welsh, Cornish, and Breton.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in Old Irish in the following subject areas:

  • Old Irish (P.Grad.Dip.) – This Postgraduate Diploma in Old Irish aims to provide graduates in related disciplines with a solid grounding in Old Irish language and literature.
  • Early Irish (M.Phil.) – The M.Phil. in Early Irish is an opportunity to develop a wide range of specialist skills, as well as a deep technical knowledge of the Irish language as it was used during the Middle Ages.
  • Irish Writing (M.Phil.) – This course offers an exploration of Irish writing in English from the late seventeenth century to the present.
  • Irish Paleography – This course in Irish paleography will give a taste of Irish paleography from the oldest sources up to the present day.

Studying Old Irish

There are many courses in Old Irish that may take place over a few days, weeks or even 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials and taught modules. Assessments will take place on a continuous basis with written examinations and practical assignments combined in order to achieve a qualification.

You could also consider work experience or a work shadow in the industry. Research internships are often open to students from any institution, with successful applicants often having achieved exceptional results in their pre-university qualifications and first-year undergraduate assessments. These opportunities may be based in research institutes, universities or a combination of the two, and are an ideal opportunity to demonstrate your potential to a future supervisor and develop your network.

Work Experience will not only give you the opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing an Old Irish course you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of the history of languages.

Research in Old Irish generates new knowledge and progresses the current understanding of the language and its origins. As an academic researcher, you’ll apply your expertise and skills developed through study and research. You’ll aim to publish papers on your work in peer-reviewed, well-respected journals and will write reports, books or chapters of books on your specialist area of knowledge.

You are also likely to be involved in the teaching and supervision of university students and speaking at conferences. A significant amount of your time will be spent on planning research, attending meetings with colleagues and contributing to the strategic direction of your department or group.

Academic researchers may be employed in the following roles PhD student/researcher, postdoctoral research associate/assistant, research associate/fellow and higher education lecturer/senior lecturer/professor/reader

As academic researchers are mainly based in universities, a lot are employed as higher education teaching staff that also carries out research. Some highly sought after roles are purely research-based, but even posts such as postdoctoral researcher often have some teaching element.

Staff employed by research institutes may deliver teaching in the associated universities and supervise PhD, Masters and undergraduate projects as part of their role. This is often a strong factor in helping universities to attract the best students to their academic programmes.

Highly experienced and knowledgeable academic researchers may work freelance, completing numerous short-term contracts.

Working hours will depend on whether you are self-employed, employed by a company with set business hours or if you are contracted to various businesses or companies. Working hours are usually advertised as being 35 hours per week. In reality, you’ll work longer hours as required, in order to complete projects and reach publication deadlines and targets. This will include evenings and weekends. Time away from home may be common, depending on the nature of your specialism – for example, to complete scientific fieldwork overseas.

Related jobs include:

  • Academic researcher
  • Archivist
  • Heritage manager
  • Historic buildings inspector/conservation officer
  • Museum education officer
  • Museum/gallery curator
  • Museum/gallery exhibitions officer
  • Secondary school teacher
  • Academic librarian
  • Archaeologist
  • Broadcast journalist
  • Civil Service administrator
  • Editorial assistant
  • Human resources officer
  • Information officer
  • Marketing executive
  • Policy officer
  • Politician’s assistant
  • Solicitor
  • Talent agent
  • Lexicographer

Further study

After completing a course in Old Irish you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skill set. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practice in certain career areas such as


What is the difference between Gaelic and Irish?

Gaelic is an adjective that describes the people and culture of Ireland. The Irish language is sometimes referred to as “Gaeilge” (pronounced Gwal-gah), but it is not Gaelic; Gaelige is the name of the Irish language in Irish.

Like its Gaelic cousin, both are Indo-European languages, but Irish is actually a language unto its own. The term “Gaelic”, as a language, applies only to the language of Scotland.

What is the importance of the Irish language?

As a language, Irish is unique to Ireland and is, therefore, of crucial importance to the identity of the Irish people, to Irish culture and to world heritage. The Irish language however has had a turbulent and traumatic history and has endured a complex and varied relationship with the Irish people.

Do people still speak old Irish?

Old Irish was affected by a series of phonological changes that radically altered its appearance compared with older Celtic languages which has lead to the Modern Irish that is spoken today.

Although English has been the first language of most residents of Ireland since the early 19th century, Modern Irish is spoken as a first language in broad areas of counties Cork, Donegal, Galway, and Kerry, as well as smaller areas of counties Mayo, Meath, and Waterford.

Where can I study Old Irish?

Explore your options here

 Did You Know?

  • The Woodenbridge Hotel in Wicklow is the oldest hotel in Ireland, dating back to 1608. The premises were first licensed as a Coaching Inn on what was then the old Dublin-Wexford road.
  • The festival of Halloween originated in ancient Ireland. The story begins with the pagan celebration of Samhain.
  • A discovery made in 2016 has revealed that humans were present in Ireland in 10,500 BC. A bear bone that was excavated from a cave in Clare that dates back to the late Paleolithic Age showed signs that it was butchered.
  • Hook Lighthouse is one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world. The current lighthouse at Hook has been there for a whopping 848 years.
  • Dating back to 900 AD, Sean’s Bar in Athlone town is the oldest pub in Ireland. It’s also widely believed that it’s the oldest pub in the world.

Mariza Halliday

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