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How to Understand an Irish Person

This post is from our partners at ABA English

Hey everyone! How is your English coming along? Do you understand most accents? What about the Irish one? Ireland, like most English-speaking countries, has a variety of accents. The most common one is from the Dublin area, though there are slight variations in this area as well. Today we are going to look at how to understand certain expressions and the way Irish people pronounce certain words so that we can better understand and identify an Irish person when we meet one.

What are common Irish expressions?

Ireland has a lot of funny expressions that might be hard to decipher at first glance. Let’s look at a few:

The craic – Fun/good time/banter
Gas – Funny
Grand – Great/good
The Garda – The police
To shift someone – To passionately kiss someone
To be bang on – To be absolutely correct
To give out to someone – To be angry at someone/complain to someone about something

If you go to Dublin and start chatting to the locals, you will likely hear these expressions in Irish English. Let’s look at an example sentence of what someone in a bar might say to you in Dublin.

“Hey, how’re ye? What’s the craic?”

Or in general English it would mean:

“Hey, how are you? What’s happening?”

As we can see from the above example and its standard English translation, “what’s the craic?” can mean “what is happening?” and not only refer to something being good or amusing. Understanding the way words are used in context is important.

How is Irish English pronounced/spoken?

As mentioned previously, there are several varieties of Irish English accents. Here, we’re going to look only at the primary ways in which Irish accents distinguish themselves from other English accents.

Generally, a “th” sound at the beginning of a word — such as “think” and “thought” — is pronounced with only a “t” sound. By contrast, when a “th” sound comes in the middle of a word — such as “mother” or “brother” — it changes to a soft “d” sound.

Look at the following couple of examples to see the general pronunciation in Southern Irish English:

Thick = [tik]

Mother = [ˈmvdər]

Brother = [brvdər]

As can be seen from the phonetic pronunciation in Irish English, the “th” of thick changes into a “t” sound, whereas the “th” sound of both brother and mother changed into a soft “d” sound. This is widespread in Irish English and something that should be paid attention to when learning this variation of the English language.

Other sounds that stand out in Irish English are the vowels, especially the letter “I”, which, in many words, almost joins with an “a” sound to create a new sound.

Example:

Time = [taim]

As with most accents, this pronunciation is true of other words of a similar structure, such as “mime,” “chime,” and “crime,” to name a few.

Is it hard to get used to Irish English?

In our honest opinion here at ABA, we have to say that the Irish accent is one of the more challenging ones that you will come across when studying the English language. Adjusting to the variation of sounds from standardized British English along with variations in the speed of speech will be the most challenging aspects.

As with most accents, it’s easier to adjust your ears to the Irish accent if you are constantly surrounded by it. If that’s not an option, there are great Irish TV shows, such as Father Ted, with which to train your ear.

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