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Here's a video to help with pronunciation, spelling, and reading in Irish!

Hi everyone!

I don't know if this video has already been posted elsewhere, but this is the video that inspired me to give Irish a third go. I don't know if I'll stick with it, but I had an aha moment and wanted to post it for everyone. Here it is:


Fuaimniú agus Litriú na Gaeilge (Sounds and Spelling of Irish) by Karen Reshkin.

Hope it helps you as well!

September 12, 2018


  • 1249

Karen Reshkin's "Sounds and Spelling of Irish/Fuainniú agus Litriú na Gaeilge is probably the single most frequently recommended video in these discussions.

There's no harm in posting it again though, as there are always new people starting the course who won't have encountered it before.

But it is helpful to include the actual title of a video when you are linking to Youtube so that people don't have to follow the link to find out that they've already seen it.


Hi SatharnPHL, thanks for the tip! I've been though the Irish course before and I didn't see it in any of the notes and I checked before I posted.

It's great that it's already in the discussions; I wasn't a big user of the forums for a long time, only just really discovered how useful they are!

I wonder if the video can be added into the notes on Basic 1, because that's the first thing you look at for information. And it would be very useful there. Searching the discussions can be daunting, especially if you're new! Thanks for replying!

  • 1249

Adding a link to this video in the Tips & Notes wouldn't be as helpful as you think - in my experience, most Duolingo users don't even know that those notes exist.

Given that certain people have criticized the video in question, (they haven't provided a more suitable alternative), adding it as an "official" recommendation in the tips & notes might just cause acrimony.

But you could certainly suggest it over in this thread.


Thanks, SatharnPHL!


I've been told by Irish speakers that the video makes some mistakes.

  • 1249

YouTube is free - how soon will we see your friends mistake-free version?

A non-specific "there are some mistakes in it" is worse than useless for a learner, because they don't know which 1% they should pay more attention to. Given that the audience for this type of video isn't capable of following the guidance in the video 100% of the time anyway, the odd imperfection is still a vast improvement over the alternative (at least while we're all waiting for your friends to post their 100% correct pronunciation guide).

There are simplifications in the video. It doesn't delve into the nuances of what works in one dialect but not another. It doesn't make any mention of exceptions that occur in certain idiomatic phrases. But it's only a few minutes long, and it is far more helpful to the beginner than a comment like "There are some mistakes in it".


OK. Here you go.

2:03 tae /tæ:/ - not a good example because "ae" is a special case and should be considered a single letter. Even though there is an "e" at the end of "ae", "ae" is broad fore and aft. That is why the the l in Gael, the r in aer, etc., are all broad.

2:15 cuirtín /ku:rt´i:n´/ - also not a good example because even though the "r" is theoretically "slender", it is in fact broadened when before t, d, n, l, th or after s in native speech.

Other examples of this include: dúirt /du:rt´/ "said", gáirdín /gɑ:rd´i:n´/ "garden", páirtí /pɑ:rt´i:/ (political) "party", boird /bord´/ or /berd´/ or /baurd´/ (pl. and gen. of bord "table"), ceird /k´erd´/ or /kaird´/ "trade, skill", Máirtín /mɑ:rt´i:n´/ (man's name) (although Learning Irish erroneously gives this as /mɑ:r´t´i:n´/ in Lesson 2), sreang /s´ræŋ(g)/ or /sræŋ(g)/ "wire".

This is a case of using an exception to explain a rule. There is actually no need to struggle to pronounce the r as slender in any of the above words. Any r at the beginning of a word is also always broad.

2:44 "a slight difference and not the most important ones [sic]" The difference between broad r and slender r at the end of a word is often the only difference between singular and plural, or nominative and genitive, of a masculine word - very important.

3:43 What Karen gives as the pronunciation of slender l is actually the pronunciation of double l "ll" in Irish. This is a common beginner's or learner's mistake in Irish. You shouldn't pronounce an audible y sound in native Irish unless the l is double. The difference between broad l and slender l is much more subtle: the broad l is like American L, it is a dark l, i.e. there is a large cavity formed behind the tongue; slender l is like British English l, a much lighter sound with less space above the tongue.

Some examples: balla /bɑ:Lə/ BALL-uh "wall" (broad l) buile /bil´ə/ BWIL-ih "madness, frenzy" buille /biL´ə/ BWIL-yih "blow, stroke, hit" Sinéad O'Connor's "Óró 'Sé Do Bheatha Abhaile" is a good example of how NOT to pronounce a slender l. She says uh-WUL-yuh, but it should be uh-WUL-ih.

3:57 Again, what Karen gives as the pronunciation of slender n is actually the pronunciation of double n "nn" in Irish. This is also a common beginner's or learner's mistake in Irish. You shouldn't pronounce an audible y sound in native Irish unless the n is double.

The difference between broad n and slender n is much more subtle: the broad n is also "dark", i.e. there is a large cavity formed behind the tongue; slender n is a much lighter sound with less space above the tongue.

If anything, the slender n is like English n, and the broad n has a thicker quality. The ñ sound only comes in when there is a slender double n "nn". In some dialects, the broad double n "nn" sounds like "ng".

4:22 The vowel combinations (diphthongs) aren't represented in IPA properly. In particular, the lengths are incorrect:

ae /e:/ or /æ:/ (should just be a long eh or ah sound not an ay sound) ao /i:/ or /e:/ (long ee or eh sound depending on dialect) aoi /i:/ (long ee only) ea /æ:/ (long eh or ah sound) ei /e/ (short eh sound) -(e)adh /ə/ (schwah (short uh sound) or (/u:/ (long ooh sound) in Ulster) for nouns -(e)adh /u:/ (long ooh sound) for autonomous past tense in all dialect -(e)adh /ax/ (schwah (short uh sound) plus German ch) for some conditional and habitual tenses -(e)adh /at/ (schwah (short uh sound) plus t) before pronouns starting with s (sé, sí, sibh, siad) in those same conditional and habitual tenses eo /o:/ (long oh) -faidh /ə/ (schwah (short uh sound) or short ih sound, depending on dialect) -fidh /i/ (schwih (short ih sound)) ia /i:ə/ (long ee sound followed by short uh sound) ua /u:ə/ (long ooh sound followed by short uh sound) io, ui /i/ or /u/ (short ih or ooh sound) oi /i/ or /o/ or /e/ (short ih, oh, or eh sound, depending on the combination of consonants fore and aft)

6:20 Contrary to what Karen says, the síneadh fada (misspelled as "síne" in the video) is really only a lengthener, the changes in pronunciation are secondary, with the exception of "a". One doozy of a mistake here is the misrepresentation of short u as /ʌ/, which is the sound of the u in "much" or "putty". It should be /u/ the sound in "full" or "pull" or "put". (It is highly likely this error arose from the original explanation by an Irish teacher, as Hiberno-English speakers pronounce all of the sample English words with an ooh sound /u/.)

Here is the revised set: a /a/ or /a:/ short or long uh sound á /ɑ:/ long aw sound e /e/ short eh sound é /e:/ long eh sound (NOT a diphthong like ay /ei/) i /i/ short ih sound í /i:/ long ee sound o /o/ short oh sound (English o, not American o) ó /o:/ long oh sound (NOT a diphthong like "owe" /ou/) u /u/ short ooh sound (NOT uh) ú /u:/ long ooh sound

9:05 The table says "No equivalent" for /ɣ/ under broad dh and gh, but the sound is actually the same as the German uvular r sound (the real German r, not the operatic trilled r).

9:24 Fh is silent but it DOES matter whether it is broad or slender as a preceding d', or n will take on the broad or slender quality of the fh.

10:25 As with other consonants, there is a slight difference between the broad f and the slender f: The broad f has a fuller sound, due to a large cavity being formed behind the tongue; and the slender f has a lighter sound, due to there being less space above the tongue.

12:06 The title should read "Urú", not "Úrú".

[deactivated user]

    That is smart to teach everyone on here punctuation. I'm sure it's going to be very successful.

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