Irish Language Pronunciation Explained


In this month’s Bitesize Live Q&A Ben and Niall welcomed you to submit your questions on how to pronounce words and sounds in the Irish Language. Topics covered included dialects, broad and slender consonants, and how and why the form of surnames in Irish can change.

The boys also answered questions on adding ‘t’ to the start of words, what dialect the film ‘An Cailín Ciúin’ (The Quiet Girl) is in, whether tourists should assume that most Irish people understand the Irish language and, phew, whether there is any point in learning and remembering when to use ‘séimhiú’!

Here’s a taste of the discussion..

Michael asked for tips on learning pronunciation and being clear with accent and dialect

Niall recommended reading and listening at the same time. It can be helpful to make a note of sounds which are difficult or very different to English, and practise them. Gaeilge gach lá is our motto here at Bitesize, and practising a little every day makes it easier to retain and build on what you’ve learnt before. Regarding dialect, it’s best to choose one dialect for your own speaking. Ben reminded learners to keep an eye out for the words and terms that are preferred in your chosen dialect.

Clare asked how her maiden name might have changed from Bhaoilligh to Boyle somewhere down the line, and wondered How is Bhaoilligh pronounced?

Niall explains that the typical spelling for a maiden name would be Ní Bhaoill /nyee wee-ill/. Sometimes a form ending in -(e)ach is used to refer to someone, so that would be an Baoilleach, which Bhaoilligh is a form of.

Joel asked how the word ‘déisi’ is pronounced

As Ben explains, the term Déise or Déisi derived from the word ‘déis’, which meant ‘vassal’, or ‘subject-people’ in Old Irish. It is pronounced day-shuh. The Déisi Muman were a prominent enough power to form their own regional kingdom in Munster from the early Middle Ages. County Waterford is based on the historic Gaelic territory of the Déise . The modern-day Irish-speaking area in the south-west of the county is known as Gaeltacht na nDéise.

As Renata points out, we pronounce “s” as broad or slender depending on the vowels that surround it. She asks if there is ever an “s” with a broad vowel before it and a slender vowel after it?

Niall says that the closest example that springs to mind is the word “ospidéal” (hospital). Generally speaking, the ‘caol le caol, leathan le leathan’ rule governing the placement of slender (‘i’, ‘e’) and broad (‘a’, ‘o’, ‘u’) vowels is consistently applied. The most common exceptions are when we have compound words, e.g. “osréalach” (surreal). The prefix “os-” finishes with a broad s and we don’t change that if the following noun starts with a slender consonant.

P.S. What did you learn from this Q&A? Leave a comment below!

Emark on your Irish language journey!

We want to help you achieve Gaeilge Gach Lá – Irish Every Day. Since 2010, we’ve been helping thousands of people learn, practice and speak the Irish language. Take your Irish language journey at your own pace, and practice with others and our fluent staff. Aistear (“journey”) is our self-paced language learning platform.

Or become a member now to access our self-paced courses and more:
Membership Plans

Don't miss out on our next Live Q&A

Get our newsletter for free Irish language learning content every week. You’ll have a chance to submit a question to the next live Q&A, and get the latest resources for Irish language learners.

Watch Previous Irish language Q&As on-demand

The fluent staff at Bitesize Irish are passionate in helping your to learn, practice and speak Gaeilge. Watch more previous live Q&As.

How To Ask Questions in irish

Niall & Ben gave pointers on how to form your questions in Irish confidently and effectively. Niall described the new ‘Asking Questions In Irish’ course module on the Bitesize learning platform, and walked us through the free to download cheat-sheet that he put together to accompany the launch! Janine asked if there Is a standard format to building

Read More »

Back To School

This month Ben and Emma discussed your questions on balancing Irish learning with other responsibilities as we settle back into our daily routine after the summer break. They’ll had tips on resources for busy people and suggestions for speaking Irish with kids everyday. Gaeilge gach lá! Bitesize member Lynn asked ‘What do you recommend on

Read More »

Visiting Ireland

Eoin and Ben discussed where to use your Irish when visiting Ireland. They spoke about the expectations that you may have as a visitor, and how to experience the native culture during your stay. Barra is an Irish emigrant who is returning to Galway City from living abroad for the past 6 years. he asked

Read More »

Learning in Summertime: Tips for holiday learning.

Emma and Ben discussed the challenges that Irish language learners face in maintaining a routine during the Summer months, and gave tips on both offline and mobile-friendly learning resources for the holiday season! As Ben says,  we all deserve a break but sometimes we worry that if we put a learning routine on hold for

Read More »

Everything You Wanted To Know About Irish Nouns Explained!

This month Niall and Ben answered questions about nouns. Topics covered included gender, cases, declensions and the vocative form of names. Here’s a flavour of the discussion.. Does the gender of nouns matter Ben explained that in Irish all nouns are either feminine or masculine. Niall explains that the gender of a noun is important

Read More »

All Things Nature in Irish Q&A

Niall and Siobhán discussed Irish language words, phrases, and customs related to fauna, flora, and the weather. I imagine there are some very poetic names for flowers and plants in Irish. Could you give some examples? [01:42] There are many plant names beginning with the word lus (plant, herb) that have very evocative meanings. lus

Read More »

1 thought on “Irish Language Pronunciation Explained”

  1. …i’ll be there but my problem is i keep putting the ukulele down or the bite size irish down and therefore not advancing ….. yet thanks for the lessons and encouragement, at 75 need all the encouragement possible.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.