I see this question, and related questions, coming up a lot, so I'll try to answer it. This is a long explanation with lots of examples. You might need to read this over a few times too see how everything fits together, but then you'll know it for good. It shouldn't be too hard to understand, and once you grasp it, it'll seem straightforward.
I'm not going to be super strict about representing the exact sounds involved, as I just want to provide a reference to help people get their head around some unfamiliar things.
Forget about how Irish is spelled for the moment. We're just talking about sounds at the beginning. Most consonants in Irish occur in two differently pronounced variants. Traditionally, they're called leathan and caol—broad and narrow—but I'm going to buck tradition and call them hard and soft, as that terminology might be familiar to some, for example from Slavic languages, and probably is more suggestive anyway.
Soft (caol, narrow) constants are technically what's called palatalized consonants , which means that they tend toward having a 'y' sound incorporated in them. Sometimes it really just sounds like there's an extra 'y': like the word for 'woman' (spelt bean) has a soft b and is said rather like 'byan'. A soft b sounds rather like 'by'. A soft 't', on the other hand can sound like 'ty' (as in Irish/UK pronunciation of "tune") but will often be pronounced like 'ch' in "chin". The variation basically depends on the dialect and causes no difficulties for anyone—just like US "tune" versus Irish/UK "tune". As a learner, listen to the recordings, choose one way of doing it and be consistent.
Hard consonants, in contrast, have a sort of a w-quality, as opposed to the y-quality of soft consonants. This can be especially obvious before i or e. So the word for "yellow" consists of a hard b followed by a long i, and it sounds like bwee. Now, it's spelt buí, but don't think that b=b, u=w, and í=ee. What's actually happening is that the u is flagging the b as hard, and therefore as having a w-sound incorporated in it. This flagging is exactly what I want to describe here.
I'm not going to describe the difference between hard and soft for each sound here. Instead, I'll tell you how to identify them in words you see written. Then you can listen to the recordings and learn what they actually sound like.
OK, here goes:
Irish has two 't' sounds, two 'b' sounds, and so on. But the Latin alphabet has only one letter 't', one letter 'b', etc. So the hardness or softness of a consonant is indicated in spelling by the vowel that comes before or after it. Letters A O and U indicate a hard consonant. Letters I and E indicate a soft consonant. Here's the crucial rule:
Short vowel letters that are flagging an adjacent consonant as hard or soft are not pronounced themselves, unless there's no other vowel available.
(NB: these silent letters may seem to be pronounced sometimes, but what you're really hearing—if the pronunciation is right—is the hard or soft consonant with the 'w' or 'y' sound incorporated in it.)
The word for "yellow" is spelled "buí". There a consonant: B. Is it hard or soft? Well, it's followed by a U, which makes the B hard. OK, cool. Do we pronounce the U? Well, a hard B has a kind of a w-sound inside it, but it's not a full vowel, just an off-glide. If there was no other vowel available, we'd say the U. So the imaginary word bu would be said as hard B followed U—sort of like bwu or bu. But here we have another vowel: í. So we don't say the U. We've got hard B followed by long I: bwee.
If the U wasn't there, the I would make the B soft: we'd have byee — although 'y' and 'ii' (long i) sound so similar that you mightn't really head the y-offglide, and it sounds more like bee. In fact, this is another real word: bí, which means "to be".
If you see a work like fear ("man"), you can tell it's soft F and hard R - but which vowel do you say, E or A? Actually, you say A (soft F, A, hard R: a bit like fyar though the y is just a hint). Now, you just have to learn that for the pattern ea. It's very common, so it's worth learning.
But there's a significant simplification: vowels marked long are always the one that is pronounced. This is very helpful, as its very, very common to see a long vowel beside a short one, as in téad "rope". In such pairs, the short vowel is not pronounced: it just marks the D as hard. Téad is thus pronounced: soft T, long E, hard D: tyeyd or cheyd.
If a word teád existed, it would be: soft T, long A, hard D: tyaud or chaud
Finally, the rule that ties everything together:
Leathan le leathan, caol le caol
"Broad with broad, narrow with narrow"
It's really the consonants that are "broad" (hard) or "narrow" (soft), but this rule is referring to the vowel letters that symbolize them: we can see what it's talking about by considering the word féarach, which means "pasture". This word is pronounced:
Soft F, long E, hard R, A, KH: fyeerakh, with a fleeting 'y' sound.
Now think about this: the fyee syllable on its own could be spelled fé. The 'rakh' syllable on its own could be spelled like rach. But if we naively join them together to make férach, we have a problem: vowels affect consonants they come before, as well as those they come after (this allows us to spell the word: I followed by soft M, which means butter, as im). So, in our hypothetical férach, the É tells us that the R is soft, but the A tells us it's hard! We must match leathan vowel with leathan vowel, as the rule says: we insert the A to avoid contradictions, and everything is clear:
The F is soft because it's followed by É. The É is pronounced, because all long vowels are pronounced. The two As make the R hard. The first A is not pronounced, since we already have vowel in the first syllable, and the second A is pronounced, since there's no other vowel available.
Some compound words will break the "leathan le leathan, caol le caol rule", such as comhrialtas ("coalition", literally "co-government"). So if you see an A O or U matched on the other side of a consonant group with I or E, you can more or less be sure that there are two independent words or elements in there.
Can't remember, sorry. Although on the strengthen skills section (main page, no particular skill) an hour ago, I had a problem in a 'Type what you hear' question where a long sentence was spoken, only for the answer to be completely unrelated - 'An aghaidh'
I'll report them if I come across them again
Nope. When I have to speak to the microphone, duo doesn't understand what I say. At all. And now I see the 100 lingots! Hva i alle dager??? How did I get that? I don't know, but thank you, whoever generous fellow language nerd!!! BTW, I had to google vbf. I found something terrible in Urban Dictionary, but I'm sure you didn't mean that. What do you mean with vbf?
I'm not a native speaker, but as far as I know 'tá sé' on its own makes no sense. You need to fill it out:, e.g. 'tá sé ansin' -> 'he is here' or similar. If you just want to say 'he is' = 'he exists', you still need the dummy word 'ann': 'tá sé ann'.
It doesn't work as an answer to 'who is...' - that question and its answer require a copular construction.
ataltane: that makes so much sense! Thank you for enlightening us! :-) Because we have already been taught that Irish is phrasal and that many Irish phrases need another component to complete the phrase. Here are some example of Phrasals from the Irish tree: 1. (Is veigeatóir mé) – I am a vegetarian. 2. (Is liomsa é) – It is mine (It is or He is) 3. (is…muid) We are… 4. (is…iad) They are ... 5. (Tá uisce ag) an bportán – The crab has water. (has water the crab) 6. (Tá uisce ag) an gcailín - The girl has water. (has water the girl) 7. (Tá ...agam) I have … 8. (Tá…aige) He has ... 9. (Tá …aici) – She has ... 10. (Tá brón ar) an gcailín – The girl is sad -(Is sad) the girl 11. Tá mé – I am – not a phrasic? 12. Táim – I am (tauim) – not a phrasic?
lioneln17: Si usted sabes poco inglés, usted puedes aprender irlandés con instrucciones inglés. Yo no puedo hablar español muy bien, perro guiero aprender catalán e necesario que yo apprender catalán con español instrucciones. Si sabes instrucciones en español tú puedes appendar irlandés con instrucciones en inglés tambien. :-)