The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2002 (July-December) » The Dialect Cois Fhairrge, Co. Galway « Previous Next »

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Gavin (
Posted on Thursday, August 01, 2002 - 08:52 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I am an american trying to learn Irish so I may be able to communicate with some famlily o'er the ocean. (Oh sure they speak english but just try to get them to do it.) My family comming from Conamara obviously speaks a western dialect.

I, in my infinite "thinking", went out and bought Mícheál Ó Siadhail's Learning Irish. I read a couple of reviews from here and the net and thought this might be my best bet since it uses the Cois Fhairrge dialect out of Co. Galway which is in the vicinity of Conamara. (correct me if I am wrong here)

Having completed the first few lessons I am still still having a tough time with the phonetics of this language. First of all I have developed a large vocabulary from a great many sources so my methods of pronounciation vary also...but this book and these native speakers are not coming even close to how I would expect them to be pronounced. I have developed a basic understanding from the many sources on the net.

For example the "th" and slender "ch". When I called my cousin to show that I really was trying to learn she about had a heart attack when she heard me say some of the words I knew. She being a native speaker knew what I was trying to say (the words were bóthar and oíche) I said them as the book and tapes did /bo:r/ and /i:/ but she said that if I really want to be understood I should say them like the rest of the Irish speaking world /bo:her/ and /i:he/. (she was also kind enough to mention that my american accent is gonna butcher it anyway...gotta love family) Is she correct?

I am now a little worried that I should stop with this book because I do not want to waste my time learning a dialect that strays from the pact. This dialect varies to great degree with what I have come to associate with Irish.

Has anyone else had similar problems or concerns? I love the is just the right thing for beginners if they want to learn this dialect. I only wish some of the other dialects would copy this book's format and come out with books and tapes.


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James (
Posted on Friday, August 02, 2002 - 12:33 pm:   Edit Post Print Post


Learn whatever you feel comfortable learning! I am using three sources, myself. O'Siadhal is very indepth regarding grammar and he uses grammar terminology like we all understand it. I've had more trouble understanding that than I have the Irish!!

My suggestion is to learn all you can from O'Siadhal but you may also want to pick up Buntus Cainte. It's not a grammatical approach at all, but it gets you in the "flow" of things rather quickly. It's the "standard" Irish so it'll be pretty universal.

Once you feel comfortable, go to Ireland and put your best effort forward. Make mistakes, butcher the words (not intentionally, of course) and then, maybe just then, you'll really start to learn. (That was my experience with Spanish!) You'll find the average Irish speaker more tolerant and forgiving than you might expect. Most will just appreciate your effort.

Fluency comes from experience and experience is nothing more than an accumulation of mistakes.

Adh mor ort,


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Gavin (
Posted on Friday, August 02, 2002 - 02:20 pm:   Edit Post Print Post


Actually between you and me, I am one those grammar geeks, understanding the fancy words isn't to tough.

In fact, that's one of my many favorings of the course. I just really don't want to form any habits that I might have to break or even worse relearn.

But I think I am going to keep with the O'Siadhal. After all, I may have butchered the words but she knew what I meant...and that to me is half the battle!

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James (
Posted on Friday, August 02, 2002 - 02:54 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Absolutely! Butcher away--at least you're putting forth the effort. You may also try the tapes that come with the book. I've found them to be rather helpful. For example Oiche mhaith-- which looks horrendously cumbersome is actually quite easy--eee wah. Anyway, good luck and keep at it!

Le meas,


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Beth ( -
Posted on Sunday, August 04, 2002 - 09:32 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Gavin a chara,

I've used "O'Siadhal Irish" in the Aran Islands, and the people there seem to understand every word I say - that, or else they're remarkably psychic. Coinnigh ort agus glac misneach!


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Jonas ( -
Posted on Monday, August 05, 2002 - 04:00 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I started with "Learning Irish" and I've always regarded it as one of the two best books for learning Irish. It covers almost every aspect of Irish grammar and in very thorough indeed. It is also one of the few books using natural Irish as it is spoken in a Gaeltacht area. Like Beth, I've visited the Aran Islands (at least ten times) and the dialect there is almost identical to the one in "Learning Irish". I've also got a number of friends in Cois Fhairrge who speak exactly as in Learning Irish. As you said, Learning Irish is concentrated on the Irish of Cois Fhairrge.

Now, you say that your family lives in Conamara. I've stayed in an Irish speaking home there for two months, so I hope that I know something of their dialect. All in all, it is very similar indeed to the dialect of Cois Fhairrge, although there are some few differences. The only striking difference is exactly what you've pointed out:
Cois Fhairrge says /bo:r/ , /i:/
Conamara says /bo:h@r/ , /i:h@/
The same holds true for all similar words, of course.

So, if you want to learn to speak the Conamara dialect, you should most definitely stick to "Learning Irish". (It is not the Irish dialect I speak myself, so I'm in no way partial in saying this...)

By the way, where in Conamara does your famile live?

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Gavin (
Posted on Monday, August 05, 2002 - 04:12 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Jonas a chara...

Well the family that I was speaking of comes from somewhere near Clifden...I believe. I know that when I called I was routed through there so she must be nearby.

Just curious, what dialect of Irish do you prefer and why?

Also I am interested in going to Ireland for one of those summer language courses...I was wondering if you did something like that or could tell me about your stay there with the family.


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Jonas ( -
Posted on Tuesday, August 06, 2002 - 02:45 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Well, I'm interested in Irish dialects so naturally I like all Irish dialects - the one I speak myself, though, is the dialect of Corca Dhuibhne.

When I first came to Ireland I stayed short period in the Conamara Gaeltacht and began to speak that dialect, although I was not even remotely fluent. I then went to Corca Dhuibhne to attend a course there, made friends there and have been coming back every year since. The most important reason for my speaking Corca Dhuibhne Irish is that my friends speak it and I have learned the language by talking to them. I also like the place a lot since it's extremely beautiful and one of the few (sadly) truly Irish speaking areas left.

Another aspect that made me favour Corca Dhuibhne Irish was that I started to read books by the Blasket Island authors, who all lived in Corca Dhuibhne and wrote in that dialect. Nowadays I have to admit that I think that Corca Dhuibhne Irish is the most beautiful form of Irish, but that is of course 100% a matter of personal opinion. Anyone who has made good friends in the Conamara Gaeltacht or in the Gaoth Dobhair Gaeltacht would probably feel the same way about those dialects. I try to read as much as possible in all dialects and I think they all got interesting aspects.

As for the language course: yes, I went to a summer language course during my first year in Ireland, and that's what sold me on Corca Dhuibhne - I was very happy with the tuition, the teachers were excellent and I loved attending a course in the Gaeltacht so that I could practise what I learned. If you're interested in attending that course, have a look at this site:

There are similar courses in both Conamara and Gaoth Dobhair, but unfortunately I don't know the URLs of those sites.

Slán go fóill, I hope this helps a bit

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Gavin (
Posted on Tuesday, August 06, 2002 - 03:51 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Actually the site was more helpful than you might think...I went to the site and I was impressed with what I saw.

Now I have to add one more option to my list of possibilities...

I must confess I am unfamiliar with the Corca Dhuibhne dialect. I have never heard it spoken live so I can not say what I think about it. I personally agree with you, I think all the dialects are great. I just wish they weren't so hard to choose from.


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