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I struggle to understand the pronunciations!

I'm currently doing Scottish Gaelic and thoroughly enjoying it, but I have difficulty in understanding what the lady (sounds like an older lady) is actually saying. Her pronunciation is not very clear. I have no problem with the translation, or the speed in which the phrase is given; I just can't hear what she is saying clearly. Also, the pronunciation of some of the words in Gaelic appears to be different between the different narrators. The lady mentioned above seems to include an 's' in some of her words but a different narrator does not pronounce the 's' for the same word. It makes it difficult to comprehend.

December 24, 2019



In short - differen dialects.


Dialect is part of it, but we had a discussion about poor audio in this person's recordings. Someone said it sounded as though she was at the other end of the room. I also feel that she does not enunciate as clearly as the others but it might be just me, and I am getting more used to her speech as I go along.


I agree. I think the speakers are native speakers with different dialects. In learning that can make it difficult to hear the "standard" sounds that go with the words.

Here is a forum discussion chain with information on some sources that explain Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/35612452


Hey, hopefully I can shed some light from a course contributor point of view. We use manually recorded voices in Gaelic unlike many other courses which use text to speech software. We could never realistically strive to have the same level of consistency as many other courses for this reason, but personally I think this is a strength. The real voices give the course extra personality and hearing a range of male and female voices of different genders is the best way to prepare people for Gaelic being spoken in Gaelic communities. Dialectal variance in Gaelic is actually quite limited, what we are hearing in the course is generally differences in accent as you might find in any language. I really do think this is needed to prepare people to actually use the language.

Regarding the speaker in question, the difference in tone is largely due to age as they are significantly older than any other speaker on the course. They are very much a first language native speaker and their pronunciation is about as good as it gets. Great Gaelic and immediately easy to follow Gaelic for a native English speaker may not always line up neatly. Myself and other contributors think the course gains a lot from having a speaker like this on it. I hate the term, but this speaker's voice is about as "pure" as Gaelic gets. Everyone will have their own opinions on the audio and we have had others contact to say that this speaker is their favourite. Bear in mind that even if you struggle with one speaker, you will likely hear the word again a couple of skills down the line. Gradual exposure from a variety of voices is a great way to take pronunciation on board.

I am doing the Irish course right now (very similar to Scottish Gaelic) and I find that I struggle with pronunciation till I have had a good few attempts! If you let me know what that word with the s is I can take a look at it. Any issues with audio fidelity (overly quiet, glitching etc.) that people report will get replaced once we come across them. I am immensely proud that our course had full audio from the get go, as some take a longer time to get to that stage and although everyone has their own preferences I think it is a great showcase of what the Gaelic language sounds like. :)


CI - I will never complain about clarity again. It's wonderful to hear that you've included such first language speakers, and I know that persistence with their accent will get me through. I suspect that the older gentleman in the Pets section falls into that category too. I was having trouble with some of his phrases too. It's great to hear first language native speakers giving up some of their time to helping us learn Gaelic.


Thanks everyone for your responses. I’ll come back after Christmas with the word(s) that I’m unsure of. Have a great Christmas and New Year!


You too! Nollaig chridheil (Merry Christmas)! Have a good one!


Thanks for your reply. Different dialects may be the answer but most native Gaelic speakers are generally based in and around the west coast of Scotland and so are relatively close geographically, so the dialects may not have diverged that much (although that doesn't seem to apply to Thurso and Wick in the north which are only about 20 miles from each other but have noticeably different accents). No, I would be inclined to think it is simply the pronunciation is just not clear enough, certainly for someone who is learning the language.


I cant find this discussion, but in this course there are at least two different dialects. And they heve different pronunciation. But maybe someone could write more about this issue.


I had a friend who had learned Gaelic at university, but was the son of a native speaker from the Inverness area. He told me that the Lewis accent was more gutteral than the Skye accent and he would sometimes tell me Gaelic words for Anglicised place names, along with the true translation to English. Of course, in those days, I never took notes which would be handy now. He also used to talk about some words which were generally pronounced one way, but added darkly ... "except in Lewis". It may be that the availability of Gaelic radio and TV programmes has flattened out some of the differences (that's just a guess), or that Gaels are becoming more tolerant of us learners when we "give it a go". In that case, I would expect the older pronounciations to survive better among older speakers. Perhaps the educators here will know?

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