The Irish language is about to take a technological leap that will place it, in terms of accessibility and knowledge, at the forefront of global languages. From the end of 2012 a vast 51,000 online dictionary of English-to-Irish words and phrases will be available, free and online, to people around the world. The result of a lengthy academic project, the New English-Irish Dictionary (NEID) or Foclóir Nua Béarla-Gaeilge will be available at Focló as well as in printed form from the state publisher An Gúm. The project team believe an extension of the project will allow them to place another 50,000 words online by the end of 2013.

Taken with the already existing Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language (eDIL), an extraordinary online and free-to-access Irish-English dictionary of Old and Middle Irish words and terms, the internet presence of tools and resources for the Irish language is probably unique in the world. Unlike the plethora of amateur, volunteer or co-operative language dictionaries that litter the world wide web, these Irish sites are the result of academic projects involving teams of historians, linguists, educationalists and information technicians. It is something we should be rightfully proud of.

The Irish Independent examines the project:

“Foras na Gaeilge plans to launch the first new English-Irish dictionary (EID) in more than 50 years which will add thousands of ‘new’ Irish words into the lexicon.

Not since 1959 has the State produced an up-to-date dictionary, and the main reason for the project is because huge numbers of modern words and terms are completely missing from the current text.

“The current EID dates from an era when the language documented in dictionaries tended to be of a more formal register rather than reflecting language as spoken by the people,” Foras na Gaeilge spokesman Cathal Convery said yesterday.

But the new dictionary, which will be published at the end of this year and available free on the internet, will change all that. Based on a database, or corpus, of 1.7 billion words of contemporary English, it will bring the Irish language completely up to date.

The computer system needed to publish the dictionary online is provided by a specialist French company, IDM.

It has also provided software for English, English-Spanish and English-Turkish dictionaries. No Irish company submitted a bid to provide the system.

The dictionary will have taken almost seven years to produce, at a cost of just over €6m.

“The current EID sells over 2,000 copies per year, despite its age, and we’re aiming to recover some of the development costs through sales of the hardcopy version,” Mr Convery added.

“The database that has been compiled for the New EID will also form the foundation of other dictionaries in the future, including a pocket English-Irish dictionary and technical dictionaries.

“The initial version to be published at the end of 2012 will have 51,000 words and terms. We’re hoping to get permission to go on for another year, which would result in about 100,000 words and terms. We think it’s money well spent.”

I couldn’t agree more.

2 comments on “Some Irish Pride

  1. Its good to see Irish being recognised. I noted the other day that Google Chrome on having a Gaelic programme page loaded, immediately pinpointed the language as being Irish…..Unfortunately nobody has taught Google the difference between Irish and Scottish Gaelic!! Maybe one of these days?? But at least we should be thankful that they were in the ballpark.


    • I’m not sure but I think I read somewhere that there is work being done on a Scottish language (Scots Gaelic) program for Google Translate (which is tied into Chrome). I certainly hope so as it would be a big asset for the language. Though admittedly the close similarities between Irish and Scottish will make it difficult for the software to distinguish between both.

      It would be wonderful if the Irish and Scottish governments got together to carry out joint initiatives in this area, pooling their resources.


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