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Rhaibhin (
Posted on Saturday, May 11, 2002 - 06:08 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Having been raised in the United States my family never taught me Irish although my parents both speak it when out of ear-shot, or assuming the parental role and screaming at me.

After a family reunion in Ireland where I was the only person there speaking "Yanky English" as it was so colorfully put, I have decided to try to learn the family language. The problem is that it sounds like my parents are speaking two different languages. And while they may be able to understand each other, I fear I may not be able to beacause all learning materials seem to be designed in the "munster dialect" which is from the south.

How strong are the differences between them? I was told to avoid the northern dialects because they are "harsher" than some of the other dialects, but personally I have always prefered listening to my father's Irish because it felt more familiar to me. I have read somewhere that there is a western dialect that is somewhat nutral between the northern and southern tounges, would this be a better course of action?

I was wondering how other people felt about dialects and how they sound?

Would love some help here?

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Tom Pullman ( -
Posted on Sunday, May 12, 2002 - 06:37 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Hi Rhaibhin,

There's quite a lot of difference between the way the dialects pronounce things sometimes - for ex. in Munster "déanamh" is "daynuv", in Ulster "jannoo" - but if you're broadly familiar with how each dialect pronounces things you can understand them, and to sound natural you only need to know how to pronounce one dialect. There are some grammatical and vocabulary differences between the dialects as well, but they're not very big, and the written language is pretty uniform across all the dialects.

There's an official standard grammar - the Caighdeán Oifigiúil - but no standard pronunciation.

Here are a couple of web pages about dialect differences:
They might be a bit technical though.

Your parents would be ideal people to copy the pronunciation of, if you can get them to speak Irish to you - it's a shame they didn't bring you up speaking it, being raised bilingual never did anyone any harm ever and is even beneficial to people's command of both languages, apparently - but if they speak different dialects, pick one and stick to it. It'd sound a bit odd if you mixed different dialects' pronunciations.

I suppose you might describe Ulster as "harsher" than other dialects, but that's probably more a matter of intonation than anything else and besides, the person's voice who's speaking will almost certainly make a lot more difference than the dialect. Connacht (the western dialect) is the strongest in terms of number of speakers in Ireland, but the pronunciation is I think the hardest to learn.

Ádh mór, (good luck)


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Rhaibhin (
Posted on Sunday, May 12, 2002 - 01:12 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Thanks for the websites, I think I am going to stick with the northern dialect. As I said before it feels more familiar to me although I do like listening to my mothers version of the tongue.

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