Irish Lesson 57

Pronunciation Review

We will review the sounds for the letter "b" this week. "b" gets its slender sound when the nearest vowel in the word is "a" or "i". Pronounce the slender sound like English "b" but keep your lips close to your front teeth. Try:

beagán (beg-AW*N), a little; béal (bay*l), mouth; bí (bee), be; bille (BIL-e), bill; biorán (bi-RAW*N), pin; bliain (BLEE-in), year; bleán (blaw*n), milking.

When a slender "r" follows "b", you may hear a faint (i) sound between the "b" and the "r". Try:

breis; pronunciation is between (bresh) and (bi-RESH), increase.

bréag; pronunciation is between (bray*g) and (bi-RAY*G), lie.

Bríd (breed), Bridget.

breá; pronunciation is between (braw*) and (bi-RAW*), fine.

"b" gets its broad sound when the nearest vowel in the word is "a, o, u". Pronounce this broad sound like English "b" but protrude your lips. Try:

bán (baw*n), white; bó (boh), cow; baile (BAHL-e), town, home; bláth (blaw*), flower; brách (braw*k*); go brách means "forever"; brón (brohn), sadness; brú (broo), pressure

In a few cases, where a broad "b" sound is followed by a slender vowel sound, the protrusion of the lips for the broad "b" will cause a (w) sound. Examples:

bain (bwin), cut or remove; buile (BWIL-e), madness; buí (bwee), yellow.

In these words, the "a" and the "u" are not sounded. They are written only to show you that the "b" must get its broad sound.


Masculine nouns

liosta (LIS-tuh), list

nóta (NOH-tuh), note

leabhar (LOU-wuhr), book

stampa (STAM-puh), stamp

clúdach (KLOO-dahk*), envelope

seoladh (SHOH-luh), address

ainm, (an t-ainm (AN-im, un TAN-im), name

marc (mahrk), mark

Feminine nouns

abairt, an abairt (AH-birt, un AH-birt), sentence

cóip, an chóip (KOH-ip, un K*OH-ip), copy

oifig, an oifig (IF-ig, un IF-ig), office

líne (LEEN-e), line

ceist, an cheist (kesht, un hyesht), question


Use each of the above words in simple sentences with the irregular verbs, such as chonaic mé (k*uh-NIK may*), I saw; téim (TAY*-im), I go, etc. If you can not think of a suitable sentence with an irregular verb, try a regular verb. Avoid "tá" if possible.


Here are some pointers on how to conduct a conversation in Irish. First of all, conversation differs in several respects from merely reading. There is nothing to see; you must listen to get enough information to be able to reply. You must also judge from the situation and surroundings to get clues to what the other person has said.

In written or printed Irish, the clarity is good, and above all, it is uniform. The speed of intake into your mind is whatever you want. You read at your own pace. With conversation, the speed at which the other person speaks may be fast or slow. Clarity can differ, too. Sometimes whole sentences are a little hard to recognize at first. This is true in English, of course. You have learned to recognize "Whaddaya doon?" as meaning "What are you doing?"

Some types of audible language material are more difficult than others. Words of songs are an example.

In general, it will be harder for you to understand others than for them to understand you. At first, when listening during a conversation, you may not understand more than a quarter of the words and may miss the meaning of nearly every sentence. This is usually because you are nervous and overanxious.

Keep trying, however, and above all keep speaking Irish to your conversational partner. There are good reasons for this:

  • You get practice in thinking and in pronunciation.

  • You direct the conversation so that the other person's reply will be more easily understood by you. because it will generally be in response to what you have said.

  • You show the other person that you want to learn Irish.

To start a conversation, begin with a salutation:

Dia dhuit (DEE-uh git), or Dia dhaoibh (DEE-uh yeev). The answer will be: Dia's Muire dhuit (DEE-uhs MWIR-e git).

Conas tá tú? (KUN-uhs taw* too) How are you? is next. Answers can be: "Táim go maith" (TAW*-im goh MAH), or "Ar fheabhas" (er OUS), excellent, or perhaps "Tá tinneas cinn orm" (taw* TIN-yuhs kin OH-ruhm).

Next is the weather, or perhaps a brief description of where you were recently or what you did. In answer to this, some of the short expressions that you have learnt will be useful. Examples:

Is maith liom é sin (is mah luhm ay* shin), I like that

Cá raibh sé? (kaw* rev shay*), Where was he?

We will continue this next week and give you more advice on how to conduct a conversation, an extremely important part of learning a language.

(c) 1998 The Irish People. May be reprinted with credit.

Irish Lesson 56

Irish Lesson 58

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