I can speak Irish fairly well. One should say, I can speak Gaeilge or Gáidhlig, fairly well, as those are the real names of the language. Not to get too complex, but calling the language 'Irish' is a modern political phenomenon, designed to broaden the appeal of speaking Gaeilge, actually there's more to this name business, but I digress.
Speaking Irish I find very satisfying. I've never really studied the language in a formal academic manner that would lead one to a degree. I just speak it, read it, etc., as time allows each day. I have done a summer time course back in 1981, the type where you spend a month in the Gaeltacht. Most of the Irish I have I picked up from just listening and talking to people in Ireland.
Why you ask? Why would a Mississippi lad learn Gaeilge (said Gale-ga). Well, I am a Gael, in the ethnic sense, my people, the McCains, are from mid Argyll, in the Scottish Highlands. They moved to Donegal in the 1500s. There were many Scottish Gaels relocating to parts of Ulster in those years, this was part of the ebb and flow of politics and wars going on with the English. They, the McCains, clann Mhic Eáin, would have spoken Argyll Gaelic, which was not too far removed from the Ulster Gaelic that I speak. I descend from Gaeldom.
Circa anno domini 1400
Gaelic speaking areas are in blue in the map. This map shows how widely Gaelic was spoken in Scotland, even in parts of what are now called 'the Lowlands' at this point in time. Ireland and the 'blue' areas of Scotland in the map, were all part of Gaeldom.
Scot's Gaelic and Irish Gaelic are the same language, each being a dialect of the tongue. Irish Gaelic is the western dialect and Scots Gaelic is the eastern dialect. Ulster Gaelic shares some qualities of Scots Gaelic, or one could say Ulster Gaelic has been influenced by the eastern dialect, because of the interaction of Scottish Gaels in Ulster circa 1500 onward.
I personally, do not think you can really understand Gaelic society, without speaking Gaelic at least at a minimal level. Gaelic is a door, you learn it, and the door opens. You enter the wonderful, beautiful, world of the Gael. It gives meaning and quality. Those are very good things.
It is not hard to learn Gaelic, people are doing it all over the world now, in everywhere Gaels have settled, in the Diaspora as it is called. I recommend it highly.
Gaelic is a more powerful language than is English. I would need to take many words to explain that rather strong statement. Gaelic has retained something, has retained values, that English has lost. It largely has to do with the nature of English; it is spoken by so many people and societies not connected to the history of English, that one aspect. Gaelic is still connected, by blood, to its origins, and that gives it great power. I think everyone of Gaelic ancestry should learn Gaelic, it will make your children happy, your love life improve, make you immediately interesting (that's hard to do with some of you), and could very likely land you into some pleasant predicament in your life.