These days, if you travel to Ireland, you'll find that nearly everyone speaks English. However, traditionally, a number of the Celtic people, an ethnolinguistic group who can be found in Wales, Scotland and Ireland, speak another language, known as Gaelic.

Gaelic is an old language, and there are fewer than 75,000 speakers worldwide. But it's a fun language to learn and if you travel to a Gaelic-speaking area, it can be helpful to know how to say some words, such as a traditional Gaelic farewell.

Facts About the Gaelic Language

When people think of "Gaelic" or "Irish" their mind might go to four-leaf clovers and scenes from Game of Thrones. But it's much more complex, and the history is fascinating. The Gaelic language is a Celtic language, which is a language family that includes Indo-European, Romance and Germanic languages. The language originated from the Gaels people, a subgroup of the Celts, who came to Ireland and then traveled to Scotland where they were natives in mainland Europe.

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These days, the two main types of Gaelic language are Scottish Gaelic and Irish. Although at one point the Gaelic language spoken in Scotland and Ireland were more or less the same, there's a lot of debate if they can still be called the same language today.

While some people believe that Irish and Scottish Gaelic are simply different dialects, others believe that they are totally different languages, and a speaker from one may not be able to understand a speaker from another.

Scottish Gaelic Goodbye

Now that you know that both Scottish and Irish Gaelic are different, it's important to understand that even the most simple words, like "goodbye" may not be the same in both languages. In Scottish Gaelic, to say "Goodbye," you can say "mar sin leat" which should be pronounced as "mar shin lat." Note that this is an informal way of saying "farewell."

"Goodbye" in Irish Pronunciation

To say goodbye in Irish (otherwise sometimes referred to as "Irish Gaelic" but never by the Irish), is "slán" which can be pronounced like "slown" with a sharp accent on the beginning "sl" sound. Literally, "slán" translates to "safe." It's a shorter version of the entire phrase "slán abhaile" (pronounced "sloan ah-bai-yeh") which translates to "safe home." Saying the shortened version instead is like saying "bye" vs. "goodbye."

Other Traditional Gaelic Farewells

In addition to the basic farewells in Scottish Gaelic and Irish, there are many other ways to say goodbye in these languages:

Scottish Gaelic:

  • beannachd leat: Translates to "see you" or "blessings be with you"
  • beannachd leibh: Translates to "farewell" or "blessings be with you."
  • soraidh: Translates to "goodbye" or "see you later."

Irish:

  • Slán agat: Pronounced "slawn agut." This is a way to say goodbye to someone who is staying at the place you are about to leave.
  • Slán leat: Pronounced "slawn lyet." This is a way to say goodbye to someone that you will only be away from for a little while. Something like, "see you soon" or "see you in a bit."
  • Slán go fóill: Pronounced "slawn guh-foyl." This is a way to say goodbye to someone that translates to "safety for a while" or something like, "hope to see you soon" or "I can't wait to see you again!"

How to Learn Gaelic

If you'd like to learn more than just these traditional Gaelic phrases, then you should consider taking a class in the language, either by moving to Ireland or Scotland where these languages are still spoken to some degree. You can also take out some books from the library or watch YouTube lessons online. Because many people believe that these languages are dying, it's best to start the language sooner than later.

About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.