Irish Pronunciation Guide
Last Update 9/13/2019
One of the more challenging aspects of learning Irish for beginners is learning the pronunciation, particularly because many learners will never have had any exposure to spoken Irish. This guide provides resources compiled by the users of this forum that you can use to develop your pronunciation as you learn the language. You should view acquiring good pronunciation as an ongoing process in tandem with learning vocabulary and grammar, rather than a task to be started, finished, and never seen again.
Some things to know about Irish pronunciation and learning it while using Duolingo:
- There a 3 main dialects in Irish and many more accents
- Resources offer varying advice based on the author's dialect, accent and viewpoint; this represents the richness of the language and can more beneficially be viewed as a feature rather than a bug
- The audio in the Irish course was created by recording a person saying each phrase unlike most other languages on Duolingo, which use TTS (computerized text-to-speech). Because of this, audio is not available for every Irish sentence, and there is no slow-speed button to play the audio. It is possible, though complicated, to play the Duolingo audio at a slower speed. It is almost certainly easier and more effective to use other methods to improve your pronunciation and aural comprehension, but there is more information about slowing the Duolingo audio at the end of this post for those so inclined.
If you are an absolute beginner, you should begin with Karen Reshkin's video and handout, as well as gradually becoming comfortable looking up and listening to words in https://www.teanglann.ie/en/. As you progress, explore the other resources as you feel ready for them. Perfect pronunciation does not exist; every Gaeilgeoir (speaker of Irish), from beginner to highly educated, native speaker has their own idiolect. A good goal to set is to be able to understand others and be understood yourself.
Note: most of the links are to external websites; a lot of them are worth exploring for other resources
Where to start learning about Irish Pronunciation
Sounds and Spelling of Irish video by Karen Reshkin
Sounds and Spelling of Irish handout by Karen Reshkin
(June 2018 version, check video description to see if it's been updated)
How to Pronounce Irish for Beginners by Gearóid Ó Ceallaigh
Omniglot article about the writing and pronunciation of Irish
Help with Broad / Slender post on Duolingo Irish forum
Where to hear Irish words pronounced
Dictionary and Language Library by Foras na Gaeilge
Irish <-> English Dictionaries with pronunciation of many words in 3 dialects
This is an excellent resource, put it at the top of your bookmarks list
Lookup a word, then click the pronunciation tab at the top right
Abair.ie The Irish Language Synthesiser at Trinity College (Turn Written Text into Speech)
You can type as much Irish as you want and the computer will pronounce it in several dialects
Forvo Irish pronunciation dictionary
Words and short phrases uploaded by anyone - be aware that some pronunciation might be nonstandard
Site where people upload things they want to have pronounced and other people read them
Pronunciation Lessons on Ceacht.ie
This site provides resources for teachers of Irish
Beginners can make use of the pronunciation lessons
You can listen to the audio files and find the transcription in the pdf, Comhráite & Cleachtaí (conversations & practices)
Each audio file name indicates the unit (Aonad) and whether it is a conversation (Comhrá) or a practice (Cleachtadh)
For example, 002_aonad_1_comhra is the Unit 1 conversation, and 003_aonad_1_cleachtadh_1 is Unit 1 practice 1
Vifax at Maynooth University
Video clips from TG4 TV news program with transcripts and lessons
If you've never heard Irish previously, it will take some time to be able to pick out words at the speed they talk
RTE Easy Irish
Short Irish course with audio recordings of written dialogs
Where to read more (than you ever wanted to know) about Irish Pronunciation and Writing
The phonology of the Irish language (how it sounds)
Irish orthography (how it's written)
Pronunciation key for IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) transcriptions of Irish on Wikipedia
Recordings meant to Accompany Books about Irish
Fuaimeanna na Gaeilge
The website that accompanies the book Fuaimeanna na Gaeilge, a beginner’s course in phonetics and phonology
It has recordings of Irish sounds and short phrases in 3 dialects
Recordings to accompany the book First Steps in Irish by the Christian Brothers
Recordings to accompany Colloquial Irish By Thomas Ihde, Maire Ni Neachtain, Roslyn Blyn-LaDrew, John Gillen
Recordings and pdf of the pronunciation guide from Foclóir Póca by Foras na Gaeilge
Memrise Decks (online flashcards) Courses
Memrise Decks courses created to support use of the Buntús Cainte books
|Lessons 1-20||Lessons 21-30|
|Lessons 31-40||Lessons 41-50|
|Lessons 51-60||Lessons 61-70|
|Lessons 71-80||Lessons 81-90|
|Lessons 91-100||Lessons 101-110|
|Lessons 111-120||Lessons 121-130|
Memrise Decks course created by users based on Duolingo vocabulary and organized like the Duolingo Irish tree; most cards have audio
Pronunciation Key from Daltaí na Gaeilge
Irish language learning site with many resources
The Gettysburg Address written using Irish phonetics
You know what it sounds like, this shows what it might look like transliterated into Irish
Irish On Your Own / Now You're Talking
Video, audio, and other resources from a course produced in the 1990s
Frása an Lae
Phrase of the day on the Gaelchultur site
At the time this is being written, it is possible to play the audio from the Duolingo Irish course at half-speed. The Duolingo website and the tools mentioned are always changing, and it requires the use of advanced tools. If you do want to give it a try, you'll need to find the URL for the sound file, then use that to play the audio with software that allows it to be slowed down.
Finding the URL for the Sound File
Some kind users have posted the audio URLs in sentence discussions as the topic has come up. To find examples of these, you can search within the Irish Forum for "Play Speed" then search within the page for the comment that has that phrase.
To find the URL yourself, you will need to open the developer console in your browser (usually with the F12 key).
- Make sure you are on a sentence discussion page that has an audio play button (not all sentences have audio - if it doesn't have audio, there will be no button) - Press the F12 key to open the developer console - Click the Network tab in the developer console - Click the play button on the web page (you should hear the sentence being spoken) - You should see a new entry in the network tab (the layout of the tab varies slightly depending on which browser you are using); it will be a GET request and the content type will be "mpeg", and it should be similar to one of the following:
- Right click the name/URL and copy the URL
Playing the Audio Slowly
You can do this directly in the browser with MS Edge by going to the audio URL, then right clicking on the player and changing the Play Speed. Firefox can also play at half speed, but has a lot of audio artifacts; Chrome doesn't seem to have this function built in.
If you have a media player that supports slower playback, such as VLC, you can use that to play the audio directly by selecting Open Network Stream, or by downloading the mpeg as a file to your computer and then playing it.
If your look'n for a good mobile app. with all dialects (Connaught, Munster and Ulster) try Caoga caoga 50/50 .It uses pictures, writing, and reading. Each answer is repeated out loud. You select which Dialect you want to hear which is good for those still developing an ear for the language; while still getting practice in reading, spelling and relating your physical sight. The only thing missing is your verbal accent . Nemo is what I use for working on my accent perfection ,if I don't have a person to practice with. But there are many chat rooms you can find as well. The problem with the chat rooms is the if you are new meaning less than a year or more in the Gaeilge. Following a conversation can be a bit hard. But there are many native speakers that are patient happy to help. Another problem with beginners.. know that there is no perfect accents and even regionally speaking everyone and I mean everyone has there own way of speaking. Trick is to make the meat of the words you say understandable. But that takes lots of interaction. Then it just comes with experience. Hope this was helpful and thank you all for your input and information as well. Turas sona agus dea-ádh do chách
In addition to the resources listed above, some learners may also be interested in the PDF version of the 1961 edition of 'Teach Yourself Irish' that is available via 'Archive.org': https://archive.org/details/TeachYourselfIrish
Learners should be aware that the volume in question does not follow the Caighdeán, but was instead based upon the Irish of West Munster (i.e. Cork and Kerry); the associated recordings for individual vocabulary units and sentences, all of which are embedded within the PDF, are therefore in that dialect. As well as the embedded recordings, the PDF also includes the recordings from an associated disk prepared by Gael Linn that provides examples of indicative pronunciation for the three major dialect groups (i.e. Connaught, Munster, and Ulster).
In terms of authorship and permissions, the PDF version was prepared by David R. Smith, and he received permission from the relevant copyright holders to make the volume available on a not-for-profit basis - evidence of such permission is included with the PDF.
This app Cód na Gaeilge really helped me with Irish phonetics. It is very cutesy because it is designed for preschoolers, but really effective . I think it is based on Ulster Irish, but would be good for anyone starting out. http://ccea.org.uk/curriculum/gaeloideachas/eochairchéimeanna_1_2/réims%C3%AD_foghlama/teanga_agus_litearthacht/cód_na
There is also a free flashcard app/ game called caoga caoga which has illustrations for many words, and let's you select between the three dialects. http://defuncart.com/games/caogacaoga/
What the Focail is a youtube channel with Ciara ní É few videos on pronounciation, on specific topics (as well as a lot of other content about Irish):
I think something similar to the multiple choice feature for sound recognition in the French course would be very useful for Irish.
There has never been any indication that there will be any substantial change to the audio available on the current Irish course. When the audio for the course was completely replaced in 2016 (a process that took over a year to implement), almost all of the new audio was re-recordings of the existing audio - there was relatively little new audio. It is extremely unlikely that there will be any substantial change to the audio on the course as it stands.
If/when an upgraded version of the course is ever released, we'll all find out at the same time how the audio will be dealt with. If previous experience is anything to go by, providing the audio for such an upgrade might cause significant delays.
Thanks for the resources! I'll have to check these out before I start the Irish course again!
This is very useful. The only thing that is Irish is my first name. I'm an Asian-American.
YAY! Thank you so much for all these great resources. This will make my fascinating pursuit of Irish much more fruitful and fun and successful, too, I hope!