Dublin 2019 Dublin, Ireland MSMU Travels

A Guide to Gaelic

Dia dhuit! This week in Dublin we had the opportunity to learn a little bit of the official Irish language, Gaelic (or as you would say in Gaelic, Gaeilge)!

This was something I found really cool to learn about because when my dad was growing up in Ireland, he was required to learn the language in school. Although everyone over here speaks English, Gaelic is the official language of the country. One of my favorite things about Ireland is how the names on signs for streets, bus stations, etc. are listed in Irish as well as in English.

This is the sign for the stop where I live. The English version of the name is Kilbarrack, but here on the sign we see it as Cill Bharróg.

I decided that for this week’s post, I wanted to give a basic run down of how to pronounce words in Gaelic, so Mounties back in America can learn a little bit of the language, too. I’ll start with the vowels.

The short vowels are pronounced as follows:

A = ah/oh

E = eh

I – ih

O = uh

U = uh

The long vowels are pronounced more like this:

Á = aw

É = ay

Í = ee

Ó = ow

Ú = oo

You might notice that there’s an accent mark over each of the long vowels. This accent mark is called a fada and is used to emphasize certain vowels. A good example of this would be my brother’s name, Seán which would be pronounced SHAW-n. You may be wondering why there’s a “SH” sound if there’s no “h” after the “s,” and that’s because Seán is actually the Irish version og John. There is no “j” sound in the Irish language, the closest thing they have is a “SH” sound, which is created by the letter “s” followed by an “i” or an “e.”

This is also the case for the name Siobhán, which has another special pronunciation rule in it. There are special sounds made with different combinations of consonants called broad consonant sounds. When you see “bh” in Gaelic, it actually makes a “v” sound, so this name is pronounced Sha-VAWN. This is also true of words where you see “mh,” such as mhúinteoir (which, I know, looks scary to pronounce). You would pronounce this word “VOON-tor.” It means “teacher,” so if you wanted to say “my teacher” then you would say mo mhúinteoir or “MUH VOON-tor.” If you see “gh” in a word, you make a kind of guttural sound that I could best describe as a harder “h” with a soft “g” in front of it. If you want to say “my field,” you would say mo ghort (muh gHURt). The letters “dh” together sound like a “g,” so if I wanted to say in Gaelic “my brother Seán,” I would say mo dheartháir Seán (muh GRUH-har SHAW-n). You might be confused by the “th” in the middle of the word for brother, and that’s because a “th” in Gaelic is more of a harder “h” sound.

We also learned how to count to 10 in the language, so here is a list of the numbers, their Gaelic names, and their pronunciations:

  1. Aon (ayn)
  2. (doh)
  3. Trí (tree)
  4. Cathair (caher)
  5. Cúig (cooig)
  6. (Shay)
  7. Seacht (shokt)
  8. Ocht (uckt)
  9. Naoi (nee)
  10. Deich (deh)

You might notice with the number 9, which is naoi, that the letters “aoi” are together. This makes an “ee” sound. For example, the name Aoife is pronounced EE-fuh.

We were also given a list of vocab words and charts to help us pronounce things the Gaelic way (below) so we could learn how to say a few things and practice reading with the Gaelic pronunciations.

Gaelic vocabulary
Pronunciations chart

Hopefully you’ve been able to follow along and learn a little Gaeilge! Remember to check back in each week to learn more about #IrishRoots with me on #WeldonWednesdays! Slán!

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