Irish Language at UW-Milwaukee

Opportunities to Learn and Use Irish at UWM

Infographic: Irish Language at UWM

Why Irish?
Irish is known as the oldest spoken language in Europe. Now under endangered status, Irish (also called Irish Gaelic, Gaelic, or Gaeilge – in Irish) is taught in schools in Ireland, but only spoken as the primary language at home by about 1.5% of the combined population of Ireland and the North of Ireland. There are over 25,000 Irish learners in the U.S., that number growing through increased availability of online resources, in-person classes, and language immersion weekends!

Gaeltacht regions (Irish-speaking areas), primarily but not exclusively along Ireland’s west coast, are home to native speakers and many Gaeltacht schools for children, teenagers, and adults who want to learn Irish. These are great opportunities to tour a magnificent corner of the world while learning a language which is equally beautiful, and intricately tied, to the landscape, traditions, and music you’ll find there.

Interest in Irish and Irish speakers is increasing within Dublin, a growing international tech hub. Job opportunities are open across the country for those who can bring Irish to the public sphere, making technology, information and daily life experiences accessible through the language. Other benefits of learning Irish include travel opportunities (like study abroad), internships and research projects, connecting with a part of your heritage, being competitive for scholarships, and being part of a dedicated community.

History of Irish at UWM
As far back as the 1960s, Irish was being taught at UWM. It started unofficially as a gathering led by Gareth and Janet Dunleavy, UWM English professors. They were early adopters of Fulbright’s international programs on UWM’s campus, paving the way for global connections to UWM.

By the official founding of the Center for Celtic Studies in 2002, Irish had been taught on campus for several years. The Center, the vision of the late, great John Gleeson, was created to supplement L&S curriculum with a Celtic Studies Certificate. Through the certificate program, students are given the tools to extend their Irish language education into areas of history, art, film, theater, literature, archaeology, anthropology, folklore, and music, and build context for how Celtic Studies aligns with their major. Celtic Studies students have become well-connected to the many Celtic organizations throughout Milwaukee as well.

John was a second-language learner of Irish who frequented the Gaeltacht and helped to get traction for Oideas Gael in the 1980s and beyond. He set up the summer study abroad to Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille, Co. Donegal, and the semester study abroad program at Ulster University – McGee Campus in Derry.


Updated January 2024