August 27, 2014



How do you pronounce Irish "bean" meaning woman?


To get into the nitty gritty (I know that some will appreciate it):

The 'e' is just there to 'soften' the 'b'. A soft 'b' is very similar to a 'hard' b, except that there's a little 'y' glide after it: almost like 'byan'. Other consonants have greater distinctions between their hard and soft variants, e.g. soft 'd' sounds more like the 'j' in jam, and soft 's' is like 'sh' in 'shout'.

If a consonant has an 'e' or an 'i' before OR after it, it's soft. If it has 'a', 'o', or 'u' before or after it, it's hard

So a lot of the time, pairs of vowels have two functions: one vowel is pronounced as a vowel, and the other 'flavours' the consonant it's sitting beside. You'll soon learn to distinguish these automatically. For the beginner, it's useful to know that long vowels (á é í ó ú) are always pronounced, so when a long vowel is beside a short vowel, the short vowel is just modifying the nearby consonant and is not said distinctly.

[I know, in the context of Irish,'hard' and 'soft' are usually called 'broad' and 'narrow' [leathan is caol], but I think the 'hard' and 'soft' terminology makes more sense to English-speakers and to anyone who's every tried to learn a Slavic lang]


Thank you very much for this post, it's incredibly helpful.


Broad and slender actually, if we trust wikipedia here. But soft and hard are indeed easier to understand, though the Irish broad-slender pairs are not always similar to hard-soft pairs in a Slavic languages. E.g. Russian has two hard-soft pairs: s-s' and sh-sh', while Irish has one s-sh pair instead, which a Slavic language speaker would never consider as a hard-soft pair.


Ugh, THANK YOU. Much more simply and directly explained than every other post I've seen trying to explain this concept. So glad I stumbled upon your comment. Hallelujah.


It sounds something like [bee-yan] said really fast, but it changes by dialects, and whether there's a shéimhú (that 'h' that seems to end up in just about every word!) There's great websites for learning Irish (www.gael-linn.ie, http://beo.ie/, http://focail.ie/Home.aspx), and http://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/pronunciation translates and pronounces words in all the dialects so it should work). Hope that helps(:


Thank you! This helped so much.


You pronounce it like the word bann


Depends on the dialect. I pronounce it as bahn. Which i believe is the Ulster dialect (not 100% positive on that).


i am from Cavan (in Ulster) and i pronounce it the same way


ha i cant believe they call women beans


I remember this vocab by always thinking, "yup because we're cute lil' beans!" every time I got a question for this! Haha!


OMG I love it!!! I am a girl btw, people think Im a boy...


I have a question about the audio: is anyone else hearing "bam"? Regardless of the vowel nuances, in the same way that I hear a very fricative [th] consonant when Spanish speakers pronounce words with a "d", I am hearing a slight "em" sound where the letter "n" sits.

I am solely an (American) English speaker and sometimes subtleties of language are lost on me, so I'm not sure if I'm imagining this.


An Irish broad n can sometimes sound somewhat m-ish because Irish broad consonants are pronounced with greater velarization than their English analogues. (Yes, Spanish d can be pronounced as a dental approximant rather than a dental stop, depending upon its location in a word.)


What's a broad n?


Yes, the 'n' sounded like 'm' to me. I didn't know whether to trust my ears or not.


Im hearing the bam as well, so I dont think your imagining it.

[deactivated user]

    I keep seeing people talk about the tips and notes at the top of the page but I don't see anything?


    The Tips & Notes are available on the website on the page where the lessons for each skill are listed. Click here to see the Tips & Notes for Basics 1.


    i have a question : there is a gaelic song I like very much. it is called mna na eireann and translates as women of Ireland. Why is it Mna for women and here DUO says that "woman" is bean ?


    "Mná" is the plural of "Bean", just as "Women" is the plural of "Woman".


    thanks, i had a feeling it was that but it looked too irregular so I thought it could be another dialectal form. Do you know that song ¨Mna na Eireann ¨? any idea where I could find the lyrics ?


    Just type lyrics "Mná na hÉireann" into your favourite search engine (note the reqired "h" after "na", though).

    The Wikipedia article is probably your best bet, though:


    Thank you so much. Now I can listen to Nolwenn :Leroy(she looks like my first wife), read the poem and look at the translation. It will help me a lot.


    Why is man/men similar but woman/women two completely different words?


    Why is 'woman' sometimes spelled 'bean' and sometimes 'bhean'? I know that this sort of thing happens a lot in Irish, but if I knew the rule that applies, then I could try to get it right. Thank you.


    Feminine nouns like bean are lenited after the singular definite article an. Lenition (indicated by that h after a consonant) can occur in a number of different situations, but in this case, it marks the gender of the noun.


    Why isn't it bhean here?


    The Irish for "woman" is bean.

    "Initial mutations" such as lenition (an bhean) and eclipsis (ag an mbean) only occur when there is something to cause them. In the case of bean, it is a feminine noun, so it is lenited after the singular definite article an in the nominative case, but there is no definite article in this exercise, so there is no lenition.


    I always used to get these types of question wrong, but then I realised that bean woman was spelt differently depending on whether it has 'the' infront of it!

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