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"Must Have" Books for the Serious Learner

I was recently asked for a list of "must have" books. Perhaps you've been studying a while, have a few books, but you're looking for something more... something that will take you to the next level. If so, you may find these suggestions helpful. These are not books for beginners; they're for the intermediate or advanced learner.

1. A "Big" Dictionary (or two)

The best dictionaries at present are one-way, so you need more than one. You'll find more information about these dictionaries in my reviews of popular dictionaries. An absolute must-have is Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (Ó Dónaill). Less crucial, but still high on the list is English-Irish Dictionary (De Bhaldraithe). If you're on a budget, you can get along quite well with Ó Dónaill augmented by the English-Irish half of Foclóir Poca, Foclóir Scoile, or Collins.

2. A Grammar Workbook

A workbook with grammar exercises will really help you improve your grammar.

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I've been very pleased with Úrchúrsa Gaeilge, and would recommend it highly. The information is presented in a logical fashion, and there are sufficient exercises to ensure that you fully understand the concepts. Although the book focuses on the standard, sufficient information is presented about dialect variations so that those who wish to focus on a particular dialect aren't left confused. This book is entirely in Irish.

Úrchúrsa Gaeilge
Dónall P. Ó Baoill
Éamonn Ó Tuathail
Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann
ISBN: 0 946452 776

Úrchúrsa Gaeilge - Eagrán Leasaithe
This booklet contains the answers to the workbook.
ISBN: none

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I wasn't looking for another grammar workbook, but when I realised that Cruinnscríobh na Gaeilge includes a CD with a searchable electronic copy of the book in PDF format, I simply had to have it. I hope that more publishers will follow suit. I do most of my writing in Irish at the computer, juggling Ó Dónaill, De Bhaldraithe, a grammar book and a keyboard. Having a complete grammar book available on my computer will be a welcome relief. I've only just bought it, so I can't review it in detail. My initial impression is that the style and format are similar to Leabhar Gramadaí Gaeilge (Mac Congail) This book is entirely in Irish.

Cruinnscríobh na Gaeilge Le CD
Ciarán Mac Murchaidh
Cois Life
ISBN: 1901176 43 6

3. A Thesaurus

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If you find yourself using the same words and phrases all the time, this book will help you expand your vocabulary. There are 145 core words. The entry for a core word typically takes up an entire page. The information, which is well-organised using boxes and colour, contains:

There is an Irish-English index, and an English-Irish index.

Here's a sample of how you might use it. The day I received it, I wanted to write "the postman brought me a new book" but I wasn't sure of the right word for brought in this situation. So...

Focail í bhFócas
Seán Mac Cionnaith

4. A Guide to Idioms

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This book is easy to use and fun! Suppose you'd like to find a similar expression to (not a translation for) "When she finds out, she'll have kittens!" Look up a keyword (in this case, "kittens"), and you'll find "Beidh sí thairstí féin nuair gheobhaidh sí amach".

Gaelic Idioms
English - Irish
G. Bannister
ISBN: 0954103866

5. A Dialect-specific Grammar

If you have an interest in a particular dialect, you'll want a grammar book that focuses on that dialect. You consider the An Teanga Bheo series. I've only used the Gaeilge Uladh one, but I assume the others are of similar (high) quality. Gaeilge Uladh is packed with fascinating information about the language as it is spoken and written by real people. The only shortcoming I can find (and it's generally true of this type of book), is that it doesn't give you any indication whether a particular variant is widespread or confined to a small area. Still, these books are invaluable for helping you know what to listen for when you talk to a native speaker. These books are in Irish only.

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An Teanga Bheo Gaeilge Uladh
Dónall P. Ó Baoill
Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann
ISBN: 0 946452 85 7

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An Teanga Bheo Gaeilge Chonamara
Séamus Ó Murchú
Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann
ISBN: 0 946452 85 7

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An Teanga Bheo Gaeilge Chléire
Breandán Ó Buachalla
Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann
ISBN: 0 946452 98 9

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An Teanga Bheo Corca Dhuibhne
Diarmuid Ó Sé
Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann
ISBN: 0 946452 82 2