Friday, February 17, 2012

Slowly Learning Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic)

I've been having fun learning Gaeilge and thought some readers might be thinking about it too, so I thought I'd mention how it's going. 

In a word "mall" meaning "slow." Not so much because it is hard, the language is very organized and un-ambiguous (unlike English.) It's just very different. Spoken Irish has different sounds from English, so that takes a little getting used to, and they use combinations of letters to make some sounds we have single letters for. For example "V" and "W" which do not exist in their alphabet. (The missing letters are: j k q v w x y z. )

Broad consonantPronouncedSlender consonantPronounced
bhEng. "w"bhEng. "v"
(thanks to

How do you know if the "bh" you are looking at is a broad or slender consonant? That's straightforward - if the closest vowel is a slender vowel (i, e) the consonant is slender, and if the closest vowel is broad (a, o, u) then the consonant is broad too. 

They do have two ways to pronounce vowels - long and short. If it's long, it has a fada, or an accent mark like this: á or í. You have to look close at the "i" to see if it's a dot or a fada. 

But that's basically it. Once you learn the rules and how to pronounce the sounds the rest is just like learning any other language, adding vocabulary as you go along. 

And of course that goes better if you have people to speak it with or at least listen to. And there are Gaeilge programs on the web. A good one is
As for learning, I think has a very good approach and you can start and stop as your schedule demands. It is operated by a husband and wife team who are very nice and helpful people. Check them out. 

So if you are at all interested in Gaeilge, do some wandering around the web and see what strikes your fancy. 

Slán go fóill. 

Is mise le mas,


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