If you want to start learning the Irish language, here’s my guide for you. I hope it helps. I recommend spending some time on this guide to the sounds everyday for two weeks to get used to reading. That’s goal #1. There are 10 sections in Lesson 1 so you can do 1 a day and take weekends off. Number IX is a break as it’s in English. All this preparation will really pay off as you launch into the language! Even after this lesson you should be able to read many words and pronounce them right. Listen, listen, listen and practice, practice and have fun too! If you want a teacher for help search for one here: http://www.daltai.com/classes/
Some teachers are on Skype. My Skype address is Gaeilge Bheo We’re here to help you on your journey.
PS. All the photos were taken on my iphone in Ireland.
LESSON 1 Fáilte (Fawlte) / Welcome
Words you may already know:
Clann = family (children), Cailín (Colleen) = girl, Erin = Éireann = Ireland
Now get ready to dive into the language. Do as little or as much as you want of this everyday. It’s better to practice on a regular basis if you can even if you only have time for snippets. This lesson is about the sounds of the letters, very basic grammar for making sentences and simple conversation. Learn to read and makes basic sounds, figure out the basic structure and then put sentences together so you can talk. That’s the plan but who knows where it will lead. Here we go…
Forgive me. I forgot to say Hi
Haigh. That’s Hi and it sounds the same. Note that you ignore the …gh at the end. That’s going to be key in learning to read. It’s not so tough when you learn how many letters you won’t pronounce at all.
Is mise Caitríona.
Is (it’s an s sound, not a z sound)
Mise (se ►shu)
Haigh. Is mise Caitríona.
You can pretend you’re answering me.
Haigh. Is mise ……….
Haigh ….. Nice to meet you.
Let’s get started. Ready? Here we go.
1.1 The Sounds of Irish.
Some sounds in Irish don’t exist in English and the best way to learn any language is to imitate the sounds of a native speaker but this will help you get started.
It’s a simplified guide of how to pronounce letters that should help you begin to read basic Irish easily. Ready?
THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT
There are 5 short vowels and 5 long vowels. The long vowels differ somewhat from English long vowels. There is only one accent mark (Good News!). It’s called a fada. The word fada means long and the accent is used to change short vowels to long vowels.
Short Vowels Long vowels
a: as in answer * á: aw as in saw
e: as in egg é: ay as in hay
i: as in it í: ee as in feet
o: u as in under ** ó: o as in over
u: as in under ú: oo as in moon
Challenge: Can you read these words?
Short e: le Long e: é, mé, ré, léir
Short i: i, in, is, lig Long i: fí, níl, ní
Short u: dul Long u: súile, tú
OH! AH! (O AND A)
There are two letters to watch out for: the really tricky short a and the short o.
i) ** The short o is easy. Just change it in your head to a short u as in under.Yes that means that both o and u are pronounced u. Examples: loch luch, obair ubor, ort urt
ii) *The pronunciation of the short vowel a is the tricky one as it varies so much. More often than not it is pronounced as a short o: agus ogus. That’s why the Irish word cailín is written as coleen in English (a►o). Although people recognize the word Clan for a family group, that word (clann) is pronounced as Clon in Irish (a►o).
So basically the difference is that
2. a►o (usually)
Just two points to remember.
Keep it in your head.
2. a►o (usually)
Now, about that usually…
AH (A) , YOU’RE SO FLEXIBLE!
The 4 sounds of the letter a:
o as in on (most often) 1. o: am om, as os, ach och, ann on
e as in egg (with prepositions and r) 2. e: ag eg, ar er, arsa ersu
u as in unless (weak syllable) 3. u: arís ureesh, anall unol, amú umoo
*a as in at (when followed by i or th) 4. a: aice ake, aire are, athrú ahroo (na, sa, a)
*Note: it’s a British a sound, not an American one. Use the Spanish a sound. That’s best.
Don’t try to remember all these words in Lesson 1. Just know that the letter a can be pronounced in 4 different ways and you won’t be surprised when you see that happening later on.
Go maith = Good
Let’s move on.
Challenge: Can you read these words?
Short a►o: ach, agus, ‘am, an + a► e: ag, ar Long a: cá, tá
Short o►u: mo, orm, trom Long o: ón, mór, fós, óg, fód
Note: the combination of two consonants rm is hard so the word orm is pronounced urum with a vowel to separate the r and the m.
A. Practice saying these aloud. There is no difference in sound for double consonants:
a: na á: ná (naw) ‘Aw’ is the sound many people make when they see cute puppies
e: te é: té (tay) It rhymes with say
i: sin (shin) í: sín (sheen)
o: an (on) ó: ón (oh)n ‘Oh’ is the sound people make when they’re surprised.
u: donn (dun) ú: dún (doon) It rhymes with soon
Note the last two short vowels on this list a►o and o►u
B. Here they are again and try reading them aloud:
na, ná, te, té, sin, sín, an, ón, donn, dún
Good? Let’s try some more:
ait, áit, de, dé, min, mín, as, ós, olla, úlla
Are you getting used to the a►o and o►u?
I won’t put the letters in red then this time. The first one ab is a short a, not an o sound.
Try reading: ab, bá, le, mé, binn, ní, an, ór, lom, úll
C. One more exercise reading aloud before we leave the vowel section:
Short Vowels Long vowels (the ones with the accent)
a: na á: ná, bád, cá, lá, tá
e: te é: té, cén, cé hé, mé
i: linn í: bí, ní, níl
o: ort, mo, do ó: ór, óg, bróg, tóg, ól
u: turas ú: dún, úll, úr
Good. Go maith (Gu moh)
Now we have conquered the vowels, it’s on to
1.1.2 C, K, SH, V, W,
The letters in italics here are to help you say the sound. Bold letters show which syllable is strongest.
1. C is always a hard c, like k and never like s – cá kaw, cé kay, conas kunos.
G is always a hard g, never like j: go gu, gorm gurum, glas glos.
2. S is pronounced sh before i or e or í or é – sin shin, sín sheen, sea sha, sé shay.
3. The letters V or W don’t exist in Irish but the sounds of these letters are written as bh or mh: bhí vee, amháin uwawn.
Want to sound really good?
4. A narrow T: when t is next to i or e it’s like a short s sound that starts with a t sound: ait.
3. D,N,T,L s, are ‘dentals’: the tongue touches the back of the upper teeth for these sounds
duit dit, nuair noor, tá taw, las los.
The truth is that many modern speakers outside the Gaeltacht (Irish as a first language areas) don’t follow the sounds of points 4 and 5 here BUT if you DO, you will sound really good!
Try reading these aloud
Don’t fear. You can do it!
Irish English Sound
1. Tá bád ar an loch. There is a boat on the lake. Taw bawd er on luch.
2. Cé hé sin? Who is that? Kay hay shin.
3. Ná tóg ór. Don’t take gold. Naw tohg ohr.
4. Níl sí ag ól. She is not drinking. Neel shee eg ohl
5. Cén lá é? What day is it? Kayn law ay (as in hay)
6. Tá sé te. It is hot. Taw shay teh
Challenge: Can you read these words? Cén, ‘Sé, Sí, Cibé
i) the vowels are like English sounds except a short o is really a short u and a short a is really a short o. Tricky a: however the short a can also sound like e (prepositions), u (weak syllable) or a (with i or th) .
ii) Beside an i or an e, g and c do not change to j and s sounds as they do in English but s changes to sh
iii) There is a new sound called a narrow t and it’s like a combination between an s and a t
When in doubt just repeat the question without the ? intonation 😉
Go maith! Go maith.
C and G and S►Sh
OK, let’s do one more thing before we try to read some words.
First, let’s practice the c (k) and the g sound (never j)
A. C is always a hard c, like k and not like s.
1. Cé? Who? Kay
2. Cad? What? Kod
3. Céard? What? Kayrd
4. Conas? How? Kunus
5. Cén? Which? Kayn
B. G is always a hard g, not like j.
1. gan without gon
2. Gaeilge Irish (silent ei makes a long) gaylghe
3. gile light guileh
4. go to guh
5. gá need gaw
C. Even wondered why Sean is pronounced Shawn?
S is pronounced sh before i or e or before í or é.
Watch our for the magic letters i and e and their power to transform the letter S!
1. seisear six people shehshur
2. siad they sheeod
3. sé he shay
4. sí she shee
Challenge: Can you read these Irish names? Síle, Séamus, Sinéad, Seán
Don’t worry about learning all the meanings of words right now.
The challenge is to see if you can read the sounds right.
When you see an accent mark, switch to a long vowel sound.
When you see a letter o, think u. When you see the letter a, think o etc.
It takes practice. You can do it!
Take a break if you want. Continue when you are ready.
COMBINATIONS OF LETTERS
Now that you have conquered the sounds of individual letters, let’s get fancier.
1. Th at the beginning or middle of a word is pronounced as the sound of h: thuas hoos, athrú ahroo
The combinations ith or igh are not pronounced at the ends of words: maith mo, thosaigh husee. Once you learn how many letters you can ignore in pronouncing a word, Irish gets way easier!
2. The combination ch is throaty: (a very light gargle) chun.
3. An initial dh sounds like gh (with a gentle vibrating sound in the throat) and occasionally as a y sound: dhún ghoon, y – dheachaigh yachee.
Challenge: How would you read this name? Siobhán
i) the vowels are like English sounds except a short o is really a short u and a short a is really a short o but the short a can also sound like e (prepositions), u (weak syllable) or a (with i or th) .
ii) Beside an i or an e, g and c do not change to j and s sounds as they do in English but s changes to sh. There’s also a new t sound.
iii) Some letter combinations are not pronounced and others represent other sounds: th►h, mh►w, bh►v
and some sounds are throaty (dh, ch).
A. The letters V or W don’t exist in Irish. These sounds are written as bh or mh.
1. bhí was/ were vee
2. lámh hand / arm lawv
3. amháin one awawn
B. Th at the beginning of a word is pronounced as the sound of h.
1. Thug gave hug
2.Thóg took hohg
C. The combinations th or gh are not pronounced at the ends of words.
1. maith good (ignore the ith and a is pronounced as a short o as in on) moh
2. chuaigh went (ignore the gh at the end, the extra vowels ai make u long) choo or sometimes chooa and ocassionly chooee
This part is really important and will make the language so much easier for you. There are letters you do not have to say 🙂
D. An initial dh sounds like gh (with a gentle vibrating sound in the throat) and occasionally as a y sound. 1. dhún closed (vibrating throaty gh for dh) ghoon
2. ní dheachaigh didn’t go (dhe►y, ignore the igh at the end, a►o) nee yacho
3. chun so as to ( throaty ch) chun
Well, we covered a lot there. How is your throat after that gargling?
Challenge: Can you read these words?
mh ► v: lámh, sámh, riamh (ia ► í), roimh (oi ► i)
th►h: thart, cothrom
ch: nach, ach, amach, sách
Even though words may look complicated, once you get used to the rules it gets easier. It takes time to get used to which letters you mentally replace with others (a►o and o►u) and which letters you eliminate.
Go for it!
READING EXERCISE 2
1.1.4 Let’s see what you remember.
Do you remember the long and the short of it?
Try to read the Irish form of these words with the Irish long vowels. Good luck with your challenge.
1. Cá? Where? 2. bán white 3. slán goodbye
4. rí king 5. ní not 6. Cé? Who?
7. bó cow 8. ól drink
9. dún fortress 10. tú you
Check your answers:
Did they sound like 1. kaw 2. bawn 3. slawn 4. ree 5. nee 6. kay 7. boh 8. ohl 9.doon 10. too ?
If so, you did a great job. If not, go back and review the basic sounds. It’s easy to forget.
1.2 Grammar points
A. Put the verb first.
Word Order verb subject + object/ time /description
Tá am mé tuirseach tired.
Scríobh wrote Seán Sean an litir the letter.
Bhí was sé it go hálainn beautiful.
B. There are two forms of the verb To be
Like Spanish has Ser and Estar, Irish has Is and Tá
i) Use Is when defining things. ii) Use Tá when describing things:
Is peann é. It’s a pen. Tá sé briste. It’s broken.
Note: Is has an s sound, not a z sound.
1.2.1 Numbers (and More Reading Practice):
Read and practice the following:
1. Tá taw Be 6. Go maith gu moh well/good
2. Mé may I 7. Tá mé go maith I am well/good
3. Tú too you 8. Cé ‘tusa? kay tusa Who are you?
4. Sé shay he/it 9. Aon, Dó, Trí, Ceathair, Cúig, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,
5. Sí shee she/it 10. Sé, Seacht, Ocht, Naoi, Deich 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
When people count aloud they put the word a in front of the numbers. Here are more numbers than you need at the moment but you might try counting to ten for fun:
So, after all that preparation, let’s get you talking!
1.3 Conversation 1 A Basic Introduction
A: Dia dhuit. Hello (God be with you).
OR Haigh Hi
Is mise .. is mishu Caitríona I’m… Caitríona
B: Dia ‘s Muire dhuit. Hello (the response) (God and Mary with you)
OR Haigh Hi
Is mise … Síle I’m…Síle
Practice putting in your name and someone else’s name.
Listen to the elements of a basic conversation here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BmoCUCBCzs
All you need for now is #1
#1. Basic greeting (Hello) 0:00-0:12
A. Dia dhuit
B. Dia ‘s Muire dhuit
A. Is mise (your name)
Just repeat that part until you feel comfortable with it. Note the throaty dh sound.
Ready for a new challenge?
ASKING FOR SOMETHING
1.3.1 Try reading these aloud
. Approximate pronunciation *
A: Peann led’ thoil. A pen please. Pyon led hul
B: Seo dhuit Here you are (This to you) Shu ghit
A: Go raibh maith agat Thank you ( May you have good) Gura moha gut
B: Tá fáilte romhat You’re welcome Taw fawlte roht
Here are some other words to insert instead of a Peann to keep practicing this:
airgead (ariguid) money, páipéir (pawpayr) paper, cupán tae (kupawn tay) a cup of tea
USEFUL EXPRESSIONS FOR THE CLASSROOM
Gabh mo leithscéal Excuse me Gu mu lesh kayl
Ní thuigim I don’t understand Nee hi ghim
Slán Good bye Slawn
You should be able to pronounce these words in green correctly. They are from MP3: http://bit.ly/AviciiVsLurgan
You can learn Irish from this song here
Fáinne fí i gcoim na hoíche.
(Níl) ‘tada riamh nach mbíonn thart.
‘Diabhail fhios ‘am cá bhfuil deireadh mo scéil.
Ach tá mé ar an mbealach ceart.
Deir siad liom gan a dhul sa tseans.
Nach dtagann ciall roimh aois.
Bhuel ‘sé m’aistear é. Ní léir cén fhad a mhairfidh sé.
‘Sé togha ar aon chaoi.
So lig mé saor ón suan ‘tá orm.
(Tai)speáin dom bóthar éasca cothrom.
Bainfidh mé ceann scríbe amach. ‘Sí m’aidhm.
Cibé treo atá i ndán.
(Tá) mé ag iompar ualach mór an tsaoil.
Ach níl ‘am ach péire lámh.
Súile troma is an ghrian ag dul faoi.
Ach ní chodlaíonn mé go sámh.
“Bris amach agus tú fós sách óg.”
Chinnigh mé le dul in’ aghaidh.
Bhuel, seo mo ré. Seasfaidh mé an fód.
‘S leanfaidh mé ar aghaidh.
Did you remember o►u?
Without doubt, the trickiest letter is the short a so it is a good idea to memorize the sounds of common words that are likely to cause difficulty. Yes, I know I’m repeating things. Most times it’s going to be a►o like in as and an and agus etc. That’s your default guess. So memorize the exceptions
a►e: ag eg, ar er, arsa ersu
a►u (on a weak syllable) : arís ureesh, anall unol, amú umoo
*a as in at (when followed by i or th): aice ake, aire are, athrú ahroo, na, sa, a
Tóg sos – Take a Break! ☺
Want to head to Ireland and understand the names of places?
1.4 Let’s take ourselves in a different direction. Around Ireland, that is.
Try to find the following words in town names on the map that follows:
Anglicized version Original Irish Meaning
Bally/Ball Baile Town
Dun/ Don Dún Fortress
Kil Cill/Coill Church/ Woods
How many towns will you find? Write them down when you find them.
Ireland / Éire
Did you find Ballymena, Ballybofey, Ballinasloe, Donegal, Dungannon, Dundalk, Kilkee, Kilkenny, Killarney, Killybegs? Do you remember what Baile, Dún, and Cill mean?
ABOUT THE IRISH LANGUAGE
1.5 The Written Language – The Irish alphabet has 18 letters
Though you don’t see it very often these days, Irish used to be written with this script:
As in other languages, you will sometimes see a letter that does not belong in the language introduced, usually for foreign words.
WHAT IS GAELIC?
1.5.1 Gaelic and The Six Celtic Languages
The six Celtic languages contain two groups: Gaelic & Brythonic
Gaelic is also the name of the Scottish language within one of those groups.
Gaelic languages: Irish, Gaelic (Scottish), Manx,
Brythonic languages: Welsh, Cornish, and Breton
Manx is experiencing a revival and more recently so is Cornish!
It is a very common mistake to hear people refer to Irish as Gaelic. Be warned. That’s a different language. If you buy a book called Teach Yourself Gaelic you will not be be learning Irish, but the Scottish Gaelic language.
What ‘Gaelic’ means
The local inhabitants of Britain called the Irish arrivals gwyddel savages. From this comes geídil, goidel, Goidelic and finally Gaelic.
Please note that Irish people refer to their language as Gaeilge when speaking in Irish and Irish when speaking of it in English. They do not call their language Gaelic. The language called Gaelic is the Celtic language of Scotland and, while related, is an entirely different language. Now you know!
1.5.2. Our Origens
The Celts occupied lands stretching from the Ireland to Galatia, an ancient territory of central Asia Minor, in present Turkey (around modern Ankara). There are historical accounts of the Celts coming from northern Italy around 400 BC.
Celtic descended from the original Ur-language and from Indo-European languages.
Old Celtic was the closest cousin to Italic, the precursor of Latin.
1.5.3 Two Groups
- q-Celts were the original wave of Celtic immigrants to Britain.
They spoke Goidelic circa 2000 to 1200 BC.
Goidelic led to the languages spoken in Ireland, the Isle of Man. and later Scotland.
There was no p in Celtic and an a in place of an the Italic o.
- p-Celts came later in a second wave of immigrants speaking Brythonic.
Brythonic gave rise to two; Welsh and Cornish in Britain and. Breton, in Brittany.
An example of the difference between the two Celtic branches:
The word ekvos in Indo-European, meant horse.
In q-Celtic this was rendered as equos. In p-Celtic it became epos.
Irish myths were probably recorded in the eighth century or earlier, possibly written by the Druids in Ogham. There are few surviving examples of Ogham because this writing was primarily done on bark, or on wands of hazel. However the legends of the early Celtic people were also passed down in stories.
The best record of the rich Celtic mythological tradition is contained in the four cycles drawn up by twelfth century Christian scribes:
the Mythological Cycle
the Ulster Cycle (also known as the Red Branch Cycle)
the Fenian or Fianna Cycle
the Kings or Historical Cycle
Thank you so much for your interest in Irish. It means more than you will know.
1.6 Check out some useful Irish Language Resources online:
Duolingo has Irish! It’s free ☺
TG4 is the Irish TV channel