Stupidity of the worst kind

The Irish language is the heritage of all the Irish people, including those who don’t speak the language, but those who are not native speakers of the language are unlikely to have native-sounding accents in their Irish. Of course, there are some learners who make a better fist of learning the phonology of a language, but by and large learners will not sound like native speakers.

There is nothing unusual about this—apart from the fact that people constantly pop up on the Internet claiming that imitating a Gaeltacht accent in their Irish would be wrong, because they are not from the Gaeltacht.

The argument—such as it is—goes like this: “I am from Dublin, so why would I try to sound like someone from the Connemara or from West Cork?” Er… maybe that is because Dublin is in the Galltacht, its native language is English, and when you learn a language you are trying to imitate the native speakers of it?

To have a Dublin accent in your Irish Gaelic would not be to have a foreign accent as such—the accent won’t sound German or French—it will sound like the type of accent an Irish learner of Irish who speaks English as his first language might have. But as the Irish language is not native to 98% of Irishmen, to have an English-Irish accent in your Irish is totally inferior to having an Irish-Irish accent in your Irish. Irish is learnt by Galltacht speakers in a manner no different to the learning of a foreign language; the only thing that prevents Irish from being labelled a foreign language is that it is the heritage of the whole country, but nevertheless when it comes to learning it, the process is the same as the learning of a language such as French or German, languages that are indeed “foreign” to Ireland, albeit a good deal easier for Dubliners to learn than Irish Gaelic.

Look! It is true that the accent of Dublin English will retain something from Gaelic—but not everything. However, a fool on the Irish Language Forum is currently claiming that as he is a Dubliner—and therefore speaks with an Irish lilt—it is “offensive” to claim that his decision—his CHOICE, as he puts it—to use an English r for Irish broad r in his Irish is an inaccurate pronunciation of Irish. Yet such a pronunciation owes more to the influence of London and Manchester and Oxford on Dublin English than it does to the influence of the Gaelic heritage. To that extent, many features of the Galltacht accent are foreign—they reflect the influence of English, not only British English but American English, on Dublin.

The intonation of Irish English is probably largely inherited from Gaelic days, as intonation is harder to unlearn than other features of an accent, and so Leinstermen probably retain the general lilt of their ancestors. But as far as consonants and vowels are concerned, Dublin English is already far removed from the Irish Gaelic that was once spoken in Leinster. Another point of connection between the English of Ireland and the Gaelic is the use of epenthetic vowels in Irish English, as in the pronunciation of film as filim: such things can be a help in learning Irish. However, the following points are points of divergence between Irish English and Irish Gaelic:


Liquids refers to r, l and n. These difficult consonants for English speakers, and in this regard the English speakers of Dublin are no better off than the inhabitants of London or Portsmouth when it comes to learning Irish.

/r/ and /rʹ/: Some types of English (Scottish English, some areas of Northern England) have an equivalent of broad r, but the slender r is not found in English. It is simply no adequate substitute to use English /ɹ/ for either the broad or slender r, because that is not a Gaelic consonant, and yet the English /ɹ/ is widely found in Irish English. To use that pronunciation is just like Germans saying zis instead of this. As a learner, I have not mastered the Irish slender r, but my point is that native pronunciation has to be regarded as the gold standard, and where learners, such as I, cannot get a native pronunciation, there is no point in refusing to recognise the superiority of the native version. Dublin learners need to recognise this.

/l/ and /lʹ/: broad and slender l are phonemic in Irish, and so Dublin-based learners cannot simply fluff this distinction and brazen it out with reference to the fact that Dublin is in Ireland, and so a “a Dublin accent is an Irish accent”. Some varieties of native Irish have three- or four-way distinctions between broad and slender tense and lax l. How can Dublin English help with this?

/n/ and /nʹ/: the situation here is similar to that with n. The fact that speakers of Dublin English are forced to look to Spanish ñ for a clue on the pronunciation of slender n highlights just how far Dublin English has come from the days when the people of Leinster spoke Irish natively.

/hr/, /hl/ and /hn/ and their slender equivalents: all of these liquids have devoiced equivalents, as in shrois. These are once again sounds that speakers of Irish English will find hard to reproduce.

Broad and slender more generally

Apart from the acute difficulty with liquids, the broad and slender contrast needs to be maintained for all consonants in Irish, and there is no equivalent in English. A “Dublin accent” is no help here, as Dublin English does not have a broad and slender contrast, owing to the replacement of the original set of phonemes by English-influenced ones.

I would suggest that /t/ and /d/ are particularly difficult to get right, as the various native dialects of Irish have varying realisations of slender dentals, and it is recommended that learners of Irish follow a particular dialect in order to try to reproduce a real Gaeltacht accent rather than mix and match in an inauthentic way. In other words, /tʹ/ may be /tʃ/ in Donegal, /tʹ/ in Galway and alveolar t (only slightly palatalised, if at all) in Cork and Dubliners should pick a model to emulate.

Irish English does have dental /t/ and /d/, but I think the problem is the need to put the broad and slender variants in all the right places. Inead has a dental /d/, whereas inid has an alveolar /d/.

Guttural consonants

In some ways, speakers of Dublin English are worse off when it comes to learning Irish than some speakers of British English. Scottish English speakers, for example, do have /x/ in their English, whereas many Dubliners try to use /k/ for /x/ in their supposed attempts at Irish.

There is simply no point learning Irish if you unprepared to make an attempt to pronounce broad ch as /x/ and broad dh and gh as /ɣ/. Jeeah gwitch doesn’t mean anything in Irish—or any known language in the world—Dia dhuit is pronounced /dʹiə ɣotʹ/, and if there is no attempt to pronounce this as natively as possible, it is time to scrub round learning the language at all.

Elision of vowels

Vowels that come together are dealt with by elision in Irish. A fhios is a single syllable in pronunciation, /is/, not /ə ʔis/, with an English Cockney-style glottal stop in between. A Eóin! is also a single syllable, /oːnʹ/. A Dubliner who tries to put in a glottal stop between the vocative particle and the name is not coming up with an authentic “Leinster accent”, but not speaking proper Irish at all.

The quality of vowels and diphthongs

English-style diphthongs are not natural to Irish. Where speakers of Irish English use them, their attempts at speaking Irish Gaelic are likely to sound Gallda.

mé: this word is not pronounced like the English word may, i.e. /m(ə)eɪ/. Go for /mʹeː/.

: this word is not pronounced like the English word too, i.e. /tʰ(ə)ʉː/. Go for /tʰuː/.

As far as diphthongs are concerned, there may be some diphthongs in Irish English that reflect the lingering influence of Gaelic—the Oirish-style pronunciations show that English /aɪ/ has often been /əi/ for Irishmen. Tadhg, at least in Cork Irish, is not pronounced /taɪg/, but /təig/. There will be learners of Irish Gaelic in Dublin who can use some aspects of their English to produce good diphthongs in their Irish, but this will not be the case for each diphthong. The sounds /uə/ and /uəu/ may present difficulty, as they are far removed from anything in Irish English. Practise with buachaill and chuabhair.

You can find links to recordings of native Irish phonemes here.

It makes no difference claiming to be “offended” by the assertion that Dublin Irish is incorrect. If the truth upsets people, that should not mean the truth is never spoken around them. La, la, la, not listening! may be their response, but, if so, such people have nothing to offer.


About dj1969

at the conservative end of the libertarian spectrum
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21 Responses to Stupidity of the worst kind

  1. Gearóíd Ó Laoi says:

    The accent of the northside of Cork city, which is difficult for foreigners to understand, and indeed many Irishmen is in many respects VERY CLOSE to the sounds of West Muskerry Irish. My father who was an Irish scholar studied it and not only are the vowels and consontants identical in come cases, but the intonation is identical to that of Cúil Aodha. At a distance when you hear it, you can’t say if it’s Irish or English. Much of Cork city spoke Irish at the time of the famine.
    Identical sounds. Vowel rhyme.. Child Tadhg Aghaidh.
    Car Cearr.
    Away Féar
    Go! Fuar
    The older accents persisting in adults but being lost in the younger generation of West Cork and Kerry are pure Irish in sound. In fact, so much so, that you can identify which dialect prevailed. If they say good morning as good marning, that’s Muskerry, as good Morning it’s Cléire, Béara etc.

    Liverpool English has a slender r as in Christy. That could be of Irish origin. Not sure.
    American English has broad and narrow L, again possibly from Irish or Scots Gaelic. A New Yorker says Long with a very broad L.

    I’m fascinated by all this stuff!!

    • djwebb2010 says:

      Gearóid, a very valuable comment! Yes, some Irish people do speak a form of English that is still very much influenced by Irish, and part of my difficulty in commenting on “Irish English” is the difficulty of generalising. Child pronounced with the vowel to rhyme with aghaidh – yes that would be a clear case of the influence of Irish diphthongs. As you say, some Liverpudlians have slender r, and yes it is of Irish origin. Also, Liverpudlians have a broad and tense l at the beginning of the word Liverpool, and Glaswegians have a broad l in the middle of the word Scotland! They say: scótland – with a long ó and a broad l.

      As far as I know, Dublin English, or some varieties of it, has been pulled much closer towards British English. At the very least, people who say jeea gwitch etc are not using Irish phonemes.

  2. Tash says:

    Is it my imagination or is this a bit of a storm in a teacup?

    There is a difference between pronunciation and accent. If learning Spanish, I must of course strive to pronounce my Spanish words properly, but if I tried to put on a Spanish accent a Spaniard might think I was mocking him. Besides, which Spanish accent would I try to reproduce? There must be many but they all sound the same to me.

    A Dublin accent is a bone-fide Irish accent and is entirely valid in speech as gaeilge, so long as the pronunciations are not totally obscure. For that matter an Englishman or Japanese man or anyone else speaking Irish can use their own accent, so long as they can be understood. At the end of the day language is merely a tool of communication.

    No dialect of Irish (or any other language for that matter) is pure. All languages and accents contain strands and influences from other languages and places. The Dublin accent shows hints of gaelic, a strong element of Danish and obviously a lot of English. Using that (my) accent in Irish only adds to the wonderful diversity and colour of the language. As I have already stated, pronunciation must be close enough to other speakers to facilitate communication, but after that, who is to say what is right and what is wrong. And the Elephant in the room is the fact that more people use Irish on a daily basis in the greater Dublin area than all of the gaelteacht areas combined.

  3. djwebb2010 says:

    Tash, no Spaniard will think you’re mocking him if you try to do a Spanish accent. HE WILL JUST THINK YOU LEARNED SPANISH WELL. For heaven’s sake – there is no point in learning Spanish unless you want to sound Spanish!

    Tash, a Dublin accent is a bona fide accent of Irish English, but it is not a bona fide accent of Irish, for the same reason that a Dublin accent is not a valid pronunciation of French. True, as long as communication is achieved, then language is performing its function, but I think native speakers will tire of speaking with people whose Irish is so English-flavoured as to be grating.

    Why wouldn’t you want to speak like your Irish ancestors? Your Irish-speaking ancestors would have used the phonemes used in the Gaeltacht today and not your English phonemes.

    As you say, more people use Irish every day in Co. Dublin than in the Gaeltacht – I am sure the Jeea Gwitches all add up to such a number that they outweight the Dia dhuiteanna of the Gaeltacht – but so what? No one is criticising people for trying and not succeeding in producing totally native-sounding Irish, but what you are talking about is an arrogant declaration that the learners’ pronunciation overrides that of the native speakers.

  4. Ciarán says:

    You are a petty, petty man. Prescriptivism of this caliber is just… I’m lost for words. I just don’t understand how you can be so poisonous. How other people speak is none of your fucking business. No-one is trying to make you speak in a certain way, so why can’t you just leave it alone? You’re giving the language a bad image. I’m not going to be dissuaded from learning it, because I know better than to let a prick like you take this away from me, but others might be turned off the language because of your…imperialism, for lack of a better word.

  5. Carmanach says:

    “How other people speak is none of your fucking business.”

    How native speakers of the Irish language speak their language is their own business. You are a learner. Your job is to learn. Irish is not your first language. English is. Get it? Look, I know that many native English speakers find it hard to pronounce Irish properly but what really really irritates me is that their Anglophone mispronunciation should be just accepted as another “dialectal variation”. It isn’t. Hiberno English and Irish are two completely different languages. People need to be honest and just say it; “Look, as a native English speaker I found Irish pronunciation hard”. What is really doing enormous damage to the language is this idea that Irish spoken with English pronunciation is just as valid linguistically as that of native speakers. Learners need to be given as much help and encouragement as possible but the problem is that you people never seem to actually bother LEARNING anything and part of that mindset comes from the idea that they are already native speakers and that therefore their anglophone mispronunciation should be put on the same level as that of Gaeltacht speakers. It’s absolute bonkers!

  6. Tash says:

    The reason why the hypothetical Spaniard mentioned above might think that I was mocking him is that my forced Spanish accent is more likely to sound like Manuel from Fawlty Towers than a real local accent. Accents are very subtle things. If I was living in a particular region of Spain for some years I would likely begin to pick up the accent as well as local slang and other nuances of the local tongue. That is natural and normal. Trying to fake an accent is not natural and not particularly helpful.

    As for the learner you have labeled as a “fool”, perhaps his pronunciation is unusual, but I have met plenty of native English speakers who used unusual pronunciation. Sometimes it is funny, sometimes it may be seen as eccentric, but so long as they can communicate effectively, who is to say that it is wrong? The Irish learner in question may too be a little eccentric. As his command of the language grows he may naturally grow to conform with the broader norm, or he may choose to remain eccentric and just take the risk that some people may have difficulty in understanding him, or snigger at his funny speech behind his back. But I think eccentric people are accustomed to that.

    As for speaking like my ancestors; who among us speaks like our ancestors? I speak differently to how my parents spoke, more so from how my grandparents spoke. If I time traveled back 5 generations I imagine those near ancestors would have real difficulty in understanding my English. I might understand them better because I have the benefit of having seen/heard period dramas on TV etc.
    The same would be true for the native Irish speakers of Muskerry. All living languages are growing and changing and taking on influence from all sides.
    Besides, who among us is 100% pure Irish? I doubt that there is anyone in Ireland who does not have some English or other non-Irish genetic heritage. To use Anglicisms in our speech is a reflection of our ancestry. It is a bona fide use of language whether we speak Irish or English.

    I commend the great work you have put into your website. You make a convincing case for learning ‘Cork Irish’ and the resources you have uploaded are very helpful to the learner, but calling other learners of the language fools and stating that they are unwilling to learn (when so many are striving hard to do just that) is unhelpful, at best.

    • Carmanach says:

      “Trying to fake an accent is not natural and not particularly helpful.”

      Er, I’m sorry to have to break it to you. But learning any foreign language (and to you and me Irish is a foreign language, it’s not our mother tongue), means that you aim to copy how a native speaker speaks. Learning a language is more than learning strings of words, what makes one language differ from another is its phonology and intonation, it’s core sound system. You may not succeed in sounding completely like a native speaker but that in no way negates the principal. Indeed, not trying to imitate native speakers will make it all the more difficult for you to get a real grasp of the language. All you will end up is poor Irish, limited in scope and vitality.

      “As for the learner you have labeled as a “fool”, perhaps his pronunciation is unusual, but I have met plenty of native English speakers who used unusual pronunciation.”

      You’re mixing apples with oranges. Of course there is variation within native spoken English just as there is in any language. But I’ve yet to hear a native speaker of English speaking with strong French or Italian or Russian pronunciation. However, the vast majority of learners of Irish in Ireland speak Irish like Inspector Clouseau spoke English in the Pink Panther films. This has absolutely nothing to do with personal “eccentricities”. There are languages which are created and moulded by native speakers – not by native speakers of a completely different language only distantly
      related to Irish.

      “If I time traveled back 5 generations I imagine those near ancestors would have real difficulty in understanding my English.”

      Again, you’re confusing two completely different issues and two completely different languages.

      “All living languages are growing and changing and taking on influence from all sides.”

      True, all living languages as spoken by NATIVE SPEAKERS are growing and changing.

      “To use Anglicisms in our speech is a reflection of our ancestry.”

      I’ve no great problem with Anglicisms as long as they are actually used by native speakers. However, learners repeatedly use certain Anglicisms which no native speaker would use because most of the Gaeilgeoir set live in their own little universe divorced from Irish as a native spoken language.

      “but calling other learners of the language fools and stating that they are unwilling to learn (when so many are striving hard to do just that) is unhelpful, at best.”

      What is unhelpful is sticking your head in the sand and trying to have us believe that the sound system of a completely different language should be foisted on Irish. If you find Irish pronunciation difficult, fair enough. Be honest and say so. But please stop this nonsense of claiming some sort of parity between Anglophone pronunciation in Irish and native pronunciation. Though there are minor regional variations, overall, the basic sounds, the phonemes of Irish are not so different from dialect to dialect. What marks out the Gaeilgeoir set is that their pronunciation does not exist in any dialect, north, west or south.

  7. Tash says:

    One quick question. I have a neighbour who is a French woman, living in Ireland for many years. She has clear, flawless English, but apart from an occasional phrase where a hint of West Cork can be detected she has a distinct Parisian accent. So is she to be criticised for not trying to impersonate an Irish accent? If she tried I think it would sound pretty ridiculous.

    • djwebb2010 says:

      Tash, she doesn’t have flawless English if she speaks with a heavy French accent. She ought to aim at – and to give her credit, probably is aiming at – a near-native accent, although whether that would be Irish English or British English or American English would depend on her textbooks. I would suggest that most dictionaries for foreigners give US or UK pronunciation and not Irish pronunciation, but there is no reason why she shouldn’t fit into Co. Cork with increasing use of Irish-style English is there? Is there a dictionary that lists the Hiberno pronunciation of all English words?

      • Tash says:

        I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with you there. As time goes by she will probably develop a local accent. It is a natural process. But to say that her English is not flawless is simply inaccurate. Her pronunciation, use of grammar and diction are near perfect. Her musical French accent only adds to the package. It speaks of her heritage and culture, her excellent English speaks of her high level of Education and time living in Ireland. Forcing her to speak in a West Cork accent would be to ask her to deny who she is.

        Irish and English have one thing in common; both languages have more non-native learners than native speakers. Certainly this brings challenges to both languages but to assert that all learners must also impersonate a native accent is clearly ridiculous. Should a learner of English learn an Australian accent? How about a Nigerian accent? Or a Jamaican accent? English is spoken natively in many countries and in many accents. Should a learner of Irish be forced to speak with a Cork accent or a Connemara accent or a Gaoth Dobhair accent? So long as pronunciation is clear and understandable I don’t think it really matters what the accent is.

  8. djwebb2010 says:

    Tash, you are leaving some absurd posts here! If this woman’s diction is near-perfect you will not be able to detect a French accent. All learners must impersonate a native accent, yes – because that is what learning a language is.

    • Carmanach says:

      “Her musical French accent only adds to the package.”

      Well, you’ve pretty much said it yourself. She is speaking in a French accent, i.e. she has not mastered native English pronunciation and intonation.

      “Irish and English have one thing in common; both languages have more non-native learners than native speakers.”

      Perhaps so, but I’m sure that there are very few learners of English who would be arrogant enough to claim that their non-native English should be treated as every bit as correct as that of native speakers. This is what really gets on my wick about most learners of Irish: the complete lack of humility on their part as learners of someone else’s language. Imagine if I were to demand that double consonants and the various forms of the subjunctive should be banished from Italian to make the language “easier” for me to learn as a native English speaker. Such a mindset seems to be widespread among learners of Irish.

      “but to assert that all learners must also impersonate a native accent is clearly ridiculous”

      . . . which means that learning the language itself is “clearly ridiculous”.

      “Should a learner of English learn an Australian accent? How about a Nigerian accent? Or a Jamaican accent? English is spoken natively in many countries and in many accents. Should a learner of Irish be forced to speak with a Cork accent or a Connemara accent or a Gaoth Dobhair accent?”

      Once again, you are confusing two completely different languages and two completely different issues. Yes, a learner of English should learn a native English accent be that Australian, American, Irish, English, New Zealand, etc. A learner of Irish, is by the very definition of the word “learner” not a native speaker of Irish and yes, in order to learn the language, they must take their lead from the native speakers of that language. It’s really a no-brainer. If the language is already theirs, why are they learning it? It’s really very very simple. Let me break it down for you:

      Irish language does not equal English language. Got it?

      “So long as pronunciation is clear and understandable I don’t think it really matters what the accent is.”

      But the real problem is that people with poor Irish are in the driving seat of the language movement and there is a virtual apartheid between them and native speakers. These people have barricaded themselves behind the notion that they are already native speakers of Irish because they have been born in Ireland and so therefore don’t really need to learn the language properly. Throwing tantrums at anyone who suggests otherwise is really not helpful and what we need is a little humility.

  9. Tash says:

    Unless you think that I am the same person from the language learners forum, you are trying to put words in my mouth. I never said that learners of Irish should dictate to native speakers about what is right and wrong, no more than the hundreds of millions of Chinese and others learning English should dictate to me about how to speak English. And I do know the difference between English and Irish, I was merely making an analogy with another language, and it is, I think, a valid analogy.

    Some weeks ago I saw an interview on TG4 with a man born in Dún Laoghaire who went to school in Dublin. He was raised speaking Irish at home. His Irish had a Munster feel to it (he used phrases like “Do Bhí” and “Bhíos”) but he clearly had a Dublin accent. He went on to become a board member of RnaG and a chairman of TG4. He has written numerous books in Irish about railways and other subjects. I am not qualified to judge, but given his credentials I think it is fair to say that the man is as fluent as any native speaker. Given that he was raised from birth in Irish he can arguably be called a native speaker himself. Yet he had a noticeable Dublin accent. The Dublin accent is a legitimate accent in Irish or any other language.

    You seem to be deliberately muddying the waters between pronunciation and accent, they are not the same thing. It is akin to saying that all Mackems and Geordies an Scousers must strive to speak with a BBC accent, or that a Cockney moving to Middlesbrough should strive to speak with a Boro’ accent. No one is not required for clear accurate use of language and effective communication. If a native accent is acquired naturally over time it is simply the icing on the cake.

    Clearly you hold a strong opinion on this and I doubt if there is anything that I can say to change your mind so there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of point in continuing the debate.

  10. Conchobhar says:

    The writer is conflating pronunciation with accent, I agree with what he’s saying about not using English consonants and vowels but to say that accents from outside the Gaeltacht areas shouldn’t be used in Irish is wrong. The Irish language is part of the heritage of all of Ireland, not just the Gaeltachtaí and I think the author’s attitude is quite discouraging to other learners.

    Languages evolve and I don’t see why other Irish people learning the language should pretend they’re from somewhere they’re not.

    • djwebb2010 says:

      You seem confused. The non-Gaeltacht areas have English as their native language. Their “accents” nowadays owe more to London and New York than to the Irish-speaking past – not forgetting that Irish has not been the majority language of Dublin at any point over the past half a millennium. Do you pretend you’re from Paris when you learn French? You don’t need to pose as a Parisian but you should acknowledge that the Parisian accent sets the standard for you as a learner to imitate.

  11. Dylan says:

    If, as a learner of Irish, you think it’s good enough to just use the closest English sound instead of trying to imitate the actual Irish sound, it’s because you’re lazy. Learning a language is hard work, and pronunciation is only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re not willing to even take the beginning step of learning how to make the right sounds, you’re doing the language a disservice and you should give up. Which is not to say you have to actually get perfect pronunciation, but you’d better at least be trying.

    The English accent in Irish is not at all comparable to an Australian or Jamaican accent in English. Australians, Jamaicans, Americans, Englishmen etc. are all native speakers, and what they’re speaking could be called a dialect of English. Japanese learners of English, however, are not speaking a dialect, and their accent, rather than being a natural variation, is a sign of their imperfect grasp of the language’s sounds. Consequently, no learner of English anywhere in the world sets out to deliberately learn a variety of English that has no distinction between R and L. That would be ridiculous. The Japanese are doing their best, or settling for good enough, but certainly none of them claim that their speech is on the same level as that of a native when they still can’t even make the right sounds.

    There is an important difference between accents that result from variations among native speakers and accents that result from foreign-language speakers using their own sounds. So, even though Australian and Japanese accents both sound funny to me (an American), the Australian accent is perfect English and the Japanese is not.

    Now if, as an Irish person whose native language is English, you think you automatically know all the phonemes in Irish, that’s just not true, in the hard scientific sense. If you think that being from Dublin means that your Irish is just “Dublin-Irish”, that’s not true either, because there’s no such thing anymore. The Irish language was cut off in Dublin a long time ago, and its influence has faded. I might as well say that I’m speaking Chicago-Irish- that wouldn’t be true either. You’re starting the language from scratch just like anyone else. As Webb pointed out, certain features (like the helping vowel) are in Hiberno-English, and that’s great, but the broad R, for example, is not and you need to learn it.

  12. saulemiorta says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m honestly surprised at how many people think that learning the correct pronunciation is not part of learning a language… Being Dutch, I learnt 3 different languages at school, English, German and French. You get a grade for speaking, and yes, pronunciation is a major part of that. It is in every official course I’ve ever taken. It also was when I followed some Irish courses in University. Afterwards, I followed a course in Galway and I actually had to get used to the pronunciation of fellow students from Ireland. Being surrounded by Dutch learners or audio from native speakers, I wasn’t used to the use of /k/ for /x/. The /x/ is actually a native sound for me, and although I get that it’s difficult for English natives, I was surprised at the lack of effort. ‘They’ll understand what I mean anyway, and it’s just hard’. Learning a language is not just about making yourself understandable (honestly, if that were the case you could just speak English), it’s about getting it right whenever you can.
    For all those who think accents are fine, have you ever spoken with someone with an accent so heavy it made them difficult to understand? I have, and it’s a major effort for the person speaking with you. It can also be very annoying. I know I get annoyed whenever Dutch people mispronounce English. And yes, it’s hard, I had to practice on the ‘th’ in English for a long time as well. But learning a language without bothering with pronunciation is not really learning a language at all.

  13. Hugh Fitzgerald says:

    Dia duit, I’m currently trying to improve my Irish as a sixth year in school, but not just for the leaving but mostly because this will be my last chance to receive free tution in the subject. One thing I would say, in response to your article, is that I’m not sure how it encourages people to learn a language that is a part of their heritage as an Irish person, to criticise the accent with which they speak? The dubs have a native canúint like the rest of us, why should they be discouraged as if they were wrong just because they don’t speak like they’re from Connemara?

    • dj1969 says:

      Hugh, this is totally false. The Dubs do not have a native canúint in Irish!!! The English-speaking part of Ireland has already adopted large parts of English phonetics — the Dublin accent is essentially a foreign accent in Irish. If you pronounce amach as amac, it is totally wrong, and not just a Dublin canúint — in fact people in large parts of England (Liverpool etc) can pronounce ch better than most Dubliners… The native canúint is only found in the Gaeltacht. I’m not discouraging you from learning your native heritage, but poorly pronounced Irish is not your heritage at all. If you think being a Dubliner allows you to get broad and slender right in every consonant and to pronounce broad r and slender r right, then you are totally misguided – those sounds have disappeared from much of the Galltacht, and so the Galltacht accent cannot be a native canúint.

    • dj1969 says:

      By the way, the FitzGeralds were in Kerry in history, and so your heritage in actually Munster Irish. Luckily for you, it is the most conservative dialect, more strongly connected to the written Irish of the 1600s and 1700s. Don’t be reluctant to learn real Irish.

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