Irish Lesson 1


Pronunciation guide system


Most of the symbols are letters and letter groups for sounds common in familiar English words. If you pronounce them in that way for the first few lessons, you will be close enough for a beginning. We will gradually correct you and improve your pronunciation as you advance, so that you will soon have a genuine Irish pronunciation.


For most consonants, such as b, d, f, g, h, l, m, n, p, r, s, and t we will use the letters themselves as pronunciation symbols. In the lessons you will get instructions on how to pronounce these sounds in the Irish way. Nearly all these consonants have two sounds in Irish, depending on what vowels are next to them. (English "c" and "g" also have this characteristic. Notice how you start to pronounce "king" and "coat", and then "give" and "go".)


The vowel symbols may need some explanation, so here are the symbols and description of their pronunciation:

Symbols and pronunciation

(ah) as in English "ah-hah".

(a) as in English "at".

(aw*) as in English "tot". but held for a longer time

(ay*) as Irish pronounce English "say" without a trace of (ee) as in English "mean".

(i) as in English "pin".

(eye) as in English "eye".

(oh) as in English "toe", but without the trace of (oo) sound at the end as in English "food".

(oo) as in English "food".

(u) as in English "put".

(uh) as in English "but".

(ou) as in English "shout"


We will capitalize the letters in the accented part of the word or phrase. We will use asterisks, as in some symbols above, to indicate a sound fairly different from usual English sounds. Remember, too, that many Irish sounds are not exactly like their English counterparts. Some English sounds, such as "z" and "th" are not in Irish.


Now try these English words as practice in using the pronunciation guide system:

(boht) (HAM-muhr) (kin) (KUH-stuhm-ayr-ee) (de-LIV-uh-ree) (giv) (trans-LAYT) (ad-MEYE-uhr) (ful-FIL) (fuhn-duh-MENT-uhl) (wohnt) (wawnt) (tawt).


The actual English words for these are:

boat, hammer, kin, customary, delivery, give, translate, admire, fulfill, fundamental, won't, want, taught. These sounds are not always exact, as you can see, but are close enough to be understood. With these important preliminaries taken care of, you can now make your entry into Irish.