On a Europe tour that explores Ireland, seniors will be exposed to the vibrant culture and rich history of the Emerald Isle. Travelers may be shocked by the many differences they encounter when they step onto the rolling green hills of this destination, from its regional cuisine to the thick accents of the locals. Discovering these location-specific nuances are what make an international trip so much fun; however, seniors may want to prepare for any potential culture shock by learning about the nation's dialect in advance.
A Celtic Comeback
English is unofficially the predominant language of Ireland. Visitors may notice that the residents use different slang terms, and colloquialisms common in the United States may not make sense here. Seniors might also come across people from older generations who still speak in Gaelic - the native language that is of Celtic origin and dates back to at least the 4th century.
Gaelic, now called "Irish," has faded from the spotlight in favor of English, which is spoken daily by 95 percent of the population. But the ancient language recently had somewhat of a comeback. In 2005, the government passed legislation that officially named Irish the country's national language, making English the second language.
Along the country's western coastlands are Gaeltachts - regions whose residents still mainly speak the native language. These communities are generally rural areas, particularly in County Waterford, on secluded islands and in the western portion of Cork. That's why seniors on a Best of Ireland Tour may find that cities such as Killarney and Cork have street signs in Irish - some counties have laws mandating that it be utilized as the sole language, and the use of English on official maps and street signs is banned in Gaeltachts.
Senior travel tour members may want to learn to recognize the Irish names of cities and towns they intend on visiting. Additionally, they may benefit from knowing these key Irish terms and phrases:
- Men's restroom: fir ("fur")
- Women's restroom: mná ("minah")
- Cork: Corcaigh ("kerr keg")
- Dublin: Baile Átha Cliath ("lah Klee-ah")
- Galway: Gaillimh ("gaul-if")
- Killarney: Cill Áirne ("Kill-or-eh-nah")
- North: tuaisceart ("toos-skurt")
- South: deisceart ("dis-kurt")
- East: oirthear ("err-thur")
- West: iarthar ("ear-hurr")
Recognizing these language barriers and memorizing basic words can make a tour of Ireland more enjoyable and enriching. But if visitors do experience confusion reading the signage and talking with locals, they can always turn to their experienced senior travel group leader for assistance.