Keith from New Zealand sent on a question this week:
Pronunciation is of prime importance to me and I feel that I need to see phonetic spelling alongside the written ‘Irish phrases in your lessons??
Great question! The basic problem that many people feel with learning Irish Gaelic is that the language uses a different combination of letters to represent sounds.
Lots of people (not Keith) have said to me “Irish Gaelic isn’t pronounced like it looks!”. That’s not exactly correct! Irish Gaelic just uses letters and combinations of letters differently to represent spoken sounds, in relation to English, for example.
Let’s take an example that might be more familiar to you. A French person will know exactly how to pronounce “tenez” as something like tennnay. But if you tried reading “tenez” according to English language rules, you would say like ten-ehz.
By now I hope you agree with me that different language have different rules for how to represent spoken sounds, even if they share the same alphabet.
If you still agree with me, then you’ll understand that the Irish language also has its own pronunciation system for written words.
As an Irish speaker, I know exactly how to pronounce the phrase “An bhfuil tú?”. It’s just that you don’t have the pronunciation rules to deal with that phrase!
Update: Some of our online Irish lessons now do feature phonetic spelling of Irish Gaelic words! It’s written beside each “play” button, where available.
In each online lesson, wherever you see Irish words written, there is a play button to hear that word pronounced. More specifically, several of our lessons teach you how to pronounce words based on the combination of letters you see.
A nice summary of Irish Gaelic pronunciation is to be found in our Pronunciation Cheat Sheets for Irish Gaelic.
We don’t show you the words written out as if they are in the English language. Rather, we equip you with the knowledge necessary to decode how a word should be pronounced, even if you have never seen it before.
Join Bitesize Irish Gaelic today to access all our 60+ lessons that cover pronunciation and much more.