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Edward Delany ( -
Posted on Sunday, November 24, 2002 - 07:44 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Sé bhúr mbeatha, a Dháltaí uilig.
Guidhim rath ar an obair.

Greetings to you all, Dáltaí, I wish you success in
your work. I came across this website by accident
while browsing Leathanaigh i nGaeilge on Google
Ireland. Iím really pleased to see that there are so many
people learning our beautiful Irish language and showing
such enthusiasm for it, even those who are not of Irish

I teach Irish to adults, part-time, here in Baile Átha Cliath/Dublin, príomhchathair/capital of the Republic of
Ireland. Iím in the process of writing a new book for
learners/beginners and I would be interested in any
suggestions any of you might have as a result of your
experiences learning Irish. What are the main difficulties
you have in getting to grips with Irish and what, if anything, is lacking in the currently available courses and books which you are using?

Below is a sampler of what Iím doing/Thíos tá sampla den
rud atá idir lámha agam.

Slán go fóill agus go n-éirí libh.
Éadbhard Ó Dubhshláine/Edward Delany

Baile Átha Cliath, Éire.



There is no indefinite article in Irish.

Alt na cinnteachta/ The definite article is:

AN/THE, singular/uatha NA/THE, plural/iolra

An fear/the man Na fir/the men
An bhean/the woman* Na mná/the women

*The article aspirates feminine/baininscneach nouns
in the nominative singular except initial consonants
d and t which resist aspiration:

An Dúil/The desire

An Toil/The will

An Tuiscint/The intelligence/understanding

The article aspirates masculine/firinscneach nouns in
The genitive singular:
fear/man, bádóir/boatman, buachaill/boy

Hata an fhir/the manís hat

Teach an bhádóra/the boatmanís house

Cos an bhuachalla/the boyís leg

The same exception, d and t initial consonants
resisting aspiration, applies:
Beatha an duine/manís life
Siopa an táilliúra/the tailorís shop

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Al Evans ( -
Posted on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 04:12 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I would prefer the use of only one language at a time. I know the immediate juxtaposition of Gaeilge and English is meant to be helpful, but it tends to be confusing. For example, looking at it as a beginning student, I would certainly wonder why "what I'm doing" is the same as "rud atá idir lámha agam", and why "an tAlt" means "the definite article" in one context, while "alt na cinnteacha" has the same meaning a couple of lines further on.

Further, an English speaker is inclined to skip the hard part (as Gaeilge) and read the easy part (in English). I think it's more educational to be forced to puzzle out the meanings than to have the answers available with no effort.

I do have one other suggestion, though I've never seen this done: for translations to English, it might be better to favor colloquial *Irish* English, instead of "standard" English. I believe most English speakers would understand, and it seems to me that it would be syntactically closer to the Irish in many cases.

Le meas,

--Al Evans

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Edward Delany ( -
Posted on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 06:39 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Buíochas leat, Al, as ucht na tuairimí sin uait.

Thanks,Al, for those opinions. I promise you it will look better as a printed book. This message board disappeared all the word seperations and bold type emphasis from the original. There will be, of course, vocabularies, sentence-building exercises, verb drills, translation from Irish to English and English to Irish as well as the grammatical definitions as above. As I'm concerned to keep costs down, it would not be economic to have completely seperate Irish and English pages in every case.

I don't agree that giving a translation in "colloquial" Hiberno-English would be of any great benefit to learners as this varies so much from area to area and from suburb to suburb in the larger cities.

For simplicity, I'm complying with the Official Standard of grammar and spelling as defined by An Caighdeán Oifigiúil published by the Government of the Republic of Ireland. As the vast bulk of published matter in Irish is now in this standard, apart from academic works specifically related to the study of dialect forms, and would be the primary source of additional reading material for students, it makes sense that a book for learners would be compatible with it.

My other concern was to produce a text which would be a lot less dense than the available reference grammars, the best of which; Graiméar Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí and Réchúrsa Gramadaí are both entirely in Irish and thus of little benefit to learners.

My general purpose is to find out what you think are the main difficulties learners have in approaching Irish as a new language; is it grammar, pronunciation, syntax or what?

Thanks a lot for taking the time to reply, Al, I will take careful note of what you say.

Is mise, le gach deá-mhéin,

Éadbhárd Ó Dubhshláine Edward Delany.

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Bradford ( -
Posted on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 08:28 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Éadbhárd, a chara,

Aside from not having someone like you around to help me :-), I think the biggest struggle I've had with Gaeilge so far has actually been the spelling. I'm a very good speller in Béarla but for some reason or another I just don't seem to be able to get a grip on the spelling rules in Gaeilge.

I don't know how many clear-cut rules there are out there for spelling (aside from slim/broad vowel/consonant combinations) but for me personally that would help me tremendously.

Le meas,


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Al Evans ( -
Posted on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 11:04 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Well, you seem to have pretty well in mind what you want your course to look like:-) Please be careful, though, not to fall into the trap of "Irish Made Easy" -- it's DOABLE, but not easy. I'm a masochist, but I like that about Ó Siadhail's book -- important bits of information are mentioned only once, in small print, or only given implicitly; words are spelled two different ways, there are a few mistakes in the answer keys, etc. You have to do your research, and that is an accurate reflection of the reality of learning any new language, especially Irish.

"My general purpose is to find out what you think are the main difficulties learners have in approaching Irish as a new language; is it grammar, pronunciation, syntax or what?"

For me, the hardest thing about Irish is that it is a Celtic language. It doesn't look or work much like a Romance language (I know French very well, Spanish and Italian well enough to translate them professionally) or like a Slavic language (again, I've translated Russian professionally). The one thing that makes it "easier" is that the concepts embodied in it translate into English easily (as compared to Russian, for example, where it often takes a while after I understand a sentence to figure out how to say the same thing in English). The possibility of emphasizing this conceptual similarity is the reason for my suggestion to use "Irish" English in preference to standard English. I admit I'm not qualified to be much more specific, but Yeats' collection of Irish folklore is a fair example of the sort of thing I envision.

--Al Evans

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Nicole ( -
Posted on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 01:02 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Edward a chara,

I think for myself when I was first attempting the language, (with very little support), the biggest hurdle was pronunciation, in the sense that I didn't feel I could remember anything or begin to form in my mind the necessary patterns for learning the language, without knowing how words were supposed to sound. This from the point of view of trying to learn it more or less independently.
Having since taught the language as well in the US, I think syntax is also an enormous stumbling block - especially for learners outside of Ireland who mightn't have the same degree of familiarity with hibero-english syntax structures. I think too that making Irish syntax more accessible to English speakers might help to avoid over-anglisised sentence structures in Irish. Irish syntax is so different to English, but is so delightful and great fun once one actually manages to master it! If there were some exercise that could be offered to help people break out of english syntax, something which would help people learn to think intuitively in Irish from the very beginning rather than attempting to translate from English to Irish word for word, as is the natural tendency. I don't know - just thinking off the top of my head really...
I found O'Siadhail's book good, but have since come to prefer the layout and design of "Teach yourself Irish", especially for beginners. I think O'Siadhail can sometimes be a bit daunting for beginners (particularly those who may not have a natural facility for languages, or who aren't already fluent in a second language).

Hope that's helpful in some small way!

Mise le meas,

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James (
Posted on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 03:22 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Éadbhárd, a chara:

I've been "self-teaching" with the assistance of the good people on this site for about two years. I consider myself to be of reasonable intelligence and of reasonable linguistic capability. (I speak Spanish well enough to have worked throughout Latin America, know enough Russian to get a drink or get in a fight, and enough Korean to make it from the train station to the bus station and that's about it.) My observations and frustrations are as follows.

1. Grammar rules are numerous and confusing. Your explanations of "the article" are suggestive of O'Siadhail and, as Al stated above, the problem with O'Siadhail is that "...important bits of information are mentioned only once, in small print, or only given implicitly." Never-the-less, I still rely heavily on his book to grasp the "why" behind the grammar. If you could continue your approach but explain the "grammar-ese" in more user-friendly terms it would be a HUGE improvement.

2. Pronunciation! I rely heavily on tapes but still feel inadequate trying to pronounce what I read.

3. Learning to "think Irish" has been a moderate challenge. As Nicole indicates above, the syntax of Irish is more closely followed in Hiberno-English. For example, there is a great illustration of this (can't remember where I read it, but I believe it was on this site) with McCourt's "Angela's Ashes." Questions posed are not answered with mere "yes" and "no" but, rather with "I am and "it is" which is more reflective of "Taím" and "Is ea." Likewise, Joyce refers to subjects "having Irish" which is confusing when read as bearla but understanding that as gaeilge the prepositional pronoun is a crucial component of expressing ability, possession, or association makes his phrasing utterly perfect.

At any rate, I hate to wax poetically as it implies a far greater academic acumen than I actually possess. These are just my thoughts. I hope they are helpful.

Thanks so much for all you and your colleagues are doing to sustain and advance this beautifully complex language.

Le meas,


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Edward Delany ( -
Posted on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 06:42 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Míle buíochais libh, a cháirde, as ucht na tuairimí smaointúla sin a scaoileadh uaibh.

Many thanks, friends, for those thoughtful opinions of yours.

In the matter of pronunciation which concerns you all in some way or other I would recommend, as well as regular repeat listening to the tapes you may have, to try out the broadcast programmes of the Irish language station Raidio na Gaeltachta. It has a 24hr service and is available on the internet. Here is a link for it:

You can listen to the live broadcasts or you can download from a selection of recorded programmes which you can then use as supplementary to your language tapes. The main daily news bulletin, An Nuacht, has a main bulletin of the day's events, national and international, followed by three local bulletins in the three dialects Ulster, Connacht and Munster so you can experience directly the sounds of each and make your own comparisons.

I understand what Al and Nicole are saying about syntax and my approach will be to explain this in the sections on sentence building by direct examples and exercises. I would love to do a phrase book of Gaeilge/Hiberno-English but, this is not my task at the moment as set by my publisher, so it must await another time or someone else might take it on. As it is, I have about ten years of accumlulated research to put into my current effort and I need to dispose of that first. I intend to cover syntax for each part of speech seperately; Noun, Adjective, Verb, Preposition etc.; as well as the usual sentence construction so, I think it will be adequately covered for an introductory type book. I am not an academic,so I don't
have the resources of a whole Department of a University like Mr O Siadhail would have at his disposal.

Similarly, the general grammatical rules will be introduced and demonstrated by examples of colloquial speech in a natural context, recognising the difficulties learners have with Irish inflected language. The summary type grammar explanations, as in my first post above, are intended as an aid to memory and revision inserted at appropriate intervals in the text. I hope, thereby, to satisfy in some way the need which James has identified for more "user-friendly" explanations.

For Bradford, I can't offer a magic formula to take care of the difficulties of the spelling of words, especially with so many changes involved in beginnings and endings except to suggest that getting a mental grasp on the pattern of the changes, which are repetitive, is the easiest way to gain fluency.

There are a couple of ways which you might use to remember the different spellings of the words as they appear in different contexts. One is to consider the root word as the axis of a pendulum which swings from left to right going through the appropriate changes thus:

...................masculine,1st declension.................
.............firinscneach,an chéad díochlaonadh............

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen. Voc.-----Ain. Cus. Tabh. Gin. Gair.
(an) (an) (ar an) (an) (a)-----(na) (na) (na) (na) (a)
fear fear bhfear fhir fhir-----fir fir fir bhfear fheara


You can also do it in tabular form with the root words on the left column and the changes entered progressivly to the right for as many words as you design your table to fit. But, these are just memory aids and a help to get the pattern memorised. There is no substitute for listening to the spoken language and writing whole sentences in translation exercises from memorised vocabularies.

Enough for now, I think, but thanks again to all of you for your interest. Feel free to extend this discussion as much as you like. I look forward to further conversations on these matters.

Is mise, le gach meas,

Éadbhárd Ó Dubhshláine/Edward Delany

Baile Átha Cliath, Éire.

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Michael J Noonan ( -
Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2002 - 02:32 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Dia Dhuit aÉadbhárd
In my experience pronuciation is the biggest challenge in beginning to learn Irish. I like the conversational approach in class I had recently and around the house that helped me work on pronuncitaion.
After learning the basic words for starting a conversation, that gave me confidence. I believe that when I could speak to a classmate or my father-in-law (Con as ta tu? Cad ta tu? Slan abhaile and their responses) that helped me learn pronuciation.
After pronunciation, I find learning the irregular verbs (past, present and future) to be quite a challenge.

Slan agut

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Edward Delany ( -
Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2002 - 09:37 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Sláinte gheal, a Mhichíl, a chara,

You could try out the link for Raidió na Gaeltachta which is further up the page. This Irish language station is on the net 24hrs a day and you will hear there current Irish as she is spoken. It should help you get an idea of the pronunciation even if it is a bit hard to follow because of the pace of speech.

Beatha agus sláinte,

Is mise, le gach meas,

Éadbhárd Ó Dubhshláine/Edward Delany

Baile Átha Cliath, Éire.

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René ( -
Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2002 - 06:32 am:   Edit Post Print Post

A Éadbhard, a chara

I started learning with the old "Teach yourself Irish" by Myles Dillon & Donncha Ó Cróinín. The difficult thing about this book is that it's in Munster Irish and uses many old forms, even the old dative plural.

But there's two VERY GOOD things about it:
* FIRST chapter explains PRONUNCIATION rules
* Then it builds up the grammar with the lessons
You wouldn't find a sentence like "Is mise..." or "Go raibh maith agat" in the first lessons, as these contain way to much grammar, like the copula "is" and prepositional pronouns like "agat". You won't find any copula until lesson 8 and then lesson 8 is entirely on copula. Other books often start out with CONVERSATIONS that SEEM SIMPLE, but contain loads of grammar. And the learner doesn't know why he can't say "Táim John" instead of "Is mise John".

Le meas,
René (táim i mBAC anois freisin, agus raghaidh mé thar n-ais go dtí an Ísiltír go luath (Dé hAoine))

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Jace (
Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2002 - 05:22 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Hello, Edward,

I have no Irish. I am trying to find a way to learn it without a teacher. The overwhelming problem for me has been mentioned above, but I would like to elaborate.

As children we learn to speak in an "enriched" learning environment, i.e.when we hear the language repeated in situational contexts. That is not an option for me with Irish. I learned to read English phonetically (not 'Phonics' as it was taught here, but actual phonetics, phonemes of written and spoken English) When I learned French in school I depended heavily upon the ability to make the visual/aural connection afforded me by knowledge of the phonetics of spoken French. This allowed me to become fluent in French.

Learning German in college was also successful due to the 'audio/lingual' pedagogy employed, which depended heavily upon an oral response technique in class (from the second week, English was forbidden) and the use of tapes in the language lab on which native speakers repeated phrases from the text (so we could read them simultaneously), with an interval between repeats which allowed the learner to repeat the phrase. We usually studied with the tapes three to four times a week. After a year we could speak fluently, with very good accents. We also had an excellent foundation in the grammar of the language which was set forth in the textbook.

I had a similar experience in studying Greek and Latin in College. Though they are 'dead' languages, my professors read aloud and 'spoke' the languages (using a conventionally-agreed-upon pronunciation among academics) and therefore the all-important visual/aural connection could be made.

The greatest help I could have as an individual learner outside of an academic or class situation would be to have a textbook (grammar) which employed the 'audio/visual' approach. Naturally this would necessitate the development and production of accompanying tapes, allowing several repetitions by the learner of the written phrases spoken by native speakers. (Of course it would be most helpful to have the phonetics of the language presented at the outset in the text and the tapes.) The result would, in my opinion, be worth the expense to the student, and would reward your work (and the risk taken by the publisher) with satisfied students actually able to speak, read and write Irish.

I appreciate the opportunity to add my comments here, and to couch among them this request for a useful system.

Jace Iversen

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Edward Delany ( -
Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2002 - 08:12 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Buíochas libh, René agus Jace,

Those comments are very welcome and valuable to me.

My approach is to favour the difficulties of the learner rather than the academic style of many of the Irish learner texts and grammars. Only one major grammar with explanations in English has been produced in almost a century. I agree that the audio/visual linkage is the key to eventual fluency and that the explanatory grammar should be thorough without being overwhelming. My effort is a small one due to limited resources but, if it proves successful I would hope to expand it in later editions.

Thanks again for the contributions,

Is mise, le gach meas,

Éadbhárd Ó Dubhshláine/Edward Delany

Baile Átha Cliath, Éire.

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