Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) Language Classes

UW-Madison classes in the Irish Gaelic language (Gaeilge) are offered by Becky Shields within the Language Sciences unit. Classes meet in person for one hour per week in Fall and Spring semesters, and include access to online audio and practice activities at our interactive Canvas website. Key details:

  • Basic introduction to modern conversational Irish for students with no previous background
  • Open to students, faculty, and staff at UW-Madison
  • Students may optionally register for 1 credit of Linguistics 699: Independent Reading
  • Or, students, faculty, and staff may audit (attend informally for no credit) if space permits
  • For-credit option requires regular attendance and participation at weekly meetings, as well as approximately 2 hours/week of online work on the Canvas website
  • These classes do not count towards the L&S Language Requirement

Email Becky to register or for more information:

Register here

Why Study Irish?

People are inspired to study Irish for a wide variety of reasons – here are a just a few to consider!


  •  Many people in the US (and other places) have ancestors that immigrated from Ireland in the recent or distant past. Often, these ancestors spoke Irish, and learning the language can be one way of reconnecting with our heritage, as well as helping to support one of Europe’s minoritized languages which is currently under pressure in a globalized society.


  • Ireland is a popular tourist destination, with the areas in the Irish-speaking West (the Gaeltacht) being among the most stunning. A basic knowledge of Irish can be helpful in reading road signs, understanding place names, and appreciating the native culture of the area you are visiting (even if everyone there does speak English too!)

Music and other Creative Arts

  •  Ireland’s cultural store of music, literature, and folklore is vast and deep, with much of it (in many genres from traditional to modern) in the beautiful Irish language. Recently, more and more short and feature-length films are produced in Irish as well. The majority of this cultural wealth has not been translated into English and is only accessible through knowledge of Irish. (Here is a Spotify playlist of lovely Irish-language music for you to enjoy!)


  • Irish is one of the few surviving Celtic languages (along with Scottish Gaelic, Manx Gaelic, and Welsh). These languages have various complex characteristics that make them unique among the languages of Europe and fascinating to study from a linguistic perspective.


Irish Gaelic 1 – Is Mise…

All about me… Introduction to contemporary spoken Irish. Develop abilities to introduce yourself, talk about likes/dislikes and order food and drink, and describe hobbies and activities. Emphasis on sound system, fundamentals of sentence structure, and useful conversational phrases. Connecting elements of Irish language and culture.

Next offered Fall 2024


Irish Gaelic 2 – Scéalta, Daoine, Áiteanna

Stories, People, and Places. Continue to make progress in the basics of spoken Irish as you learn to describe people and places, and construct and comprehend short narratives. Emphasis on expanding vocabulary and learning common verb forms. By the end of the semester, students will be able to participate in basic conversations and read simple narratives in Irish.

Next offered Spring 2024

Mondays 4:30-5:30

Summer Study and Scholarship Opportunities

Once students have completed the basic level, there are several opportunities to continue their studies with summer programs in Ireland:

  • Fulbright Ireland offers Summer Gaeltacht Awards for summer immersion study in Ireland. The awards provide free tuition, room, and board (participants need to cover their own travel costs) for 2-6 weeks of study at an Irish language course in the Gaeltacht. Students who have completed a semester at UW-Madison are eligible to apply (although priority is given to students with more background).
  • Foreign Language Area Studies fellowships are available for 6 week intensive Irish summer programs in Ireland. Applicants generally need to be at least intermediate level, so some additional study beyond our courses may be required for eligibility. Contact the Center for European Studies FLAS coordinator Eleanor Conrad for more information.
  • Graduate Students: an academic year Foreign Language Area Studies fellowship is possible for students planning two semesters of Irish language courses at UW-Madison, plus additional cultural courses such as literature or folklore.
  • UW-Milwaukee’s Center for Celtic Studies offers a 3 week, 6 credit summer study abroad program at Oideas Gael, in Donegal, Ireland. Contact UWM to inquire about enrollment for UW-Madison students.

Local Community Resources

A variety of additional resources are available locally for students and community members interested in Irish Gaelic:

Attendees at the 2023 UW-Milwaukee Tionól Gaeilge
Attendees at the 2023 UW-Milwaukee Tionól Gaeilge