In this set of articles, I've talked a lot about learning English, and that's great. English is a universal language it's useful and versatile, yet it differs from country to country.
You see, if you're going to be living in Ireland it's important to understand that we speak the English language a little bit differently... We speak what is often referred to as Irish-English...
"We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English."
- Winston Churchill
Is Irish English different to Academic English?
This looks like a simple question but it depends on who you ask...
Put simply, Irish English and the English you are thought to be correct are the same languages, the grammar is pretty consistent, but the standard spoken by Irish people takes on a dialect of its own!
One of the reasons the Irish speak English with such a Celtic twist is because even though English is the new predominant first language of our country, a lot of our place names, road signs and official documents will have both the old and new language featured on them. So our old native tongue still features heavily in our daily lives, which really does impact our pronunciation of words.
Possibly the best example I can give is the letter S. We pronounce almost all words that start with the letter S differently from our English, Scottish and Welsh neighbours, especially the many native speakers who live in more rural areas, they only speak English on a rare occasion.
Most Irish people tend to pronounce the start of these words with the sound “SH”, for example in regular words such as “sheep” or “ship”. But us Irish would add this "SH" sound to other S words, so don’t be surprised if instead of “start” and “stop”, you hear “shtart” and “shtop”. It is strange, but we are 100% guilty of it on a daily basis.
Another good example of a letter would be A. We also tend to draw out the sound of this letter, A is pronounced as an “ah” in Ireland. “How are you?” would sound like “How ahre yah?” or "What time is it at?" might sound like "wh-aht time is it aht?".
Of course, these are only generalisations, not every single accent on the island of Ireland is as strong as it used to be. Some have become more Europeanised because we work on a more international scale and our larger towns like Athlone and cities like Dublin have become more multi-cultural leading to more neutral accents.
However, the further away from the cities and towns you go, the more natural the Irish accent will be, so it might be more difficult for those learning English to understand the accents around those parts of Ireland.
This is because, Ireland is a country where the towns and cities are quite densely populated and not just multicultural, but also multilingual. Meaning it would be easier for newcomers to understand the English spoken there. Whereas the countryside and more urban areas are still very sparsely populated almost untouched in many ways so the accents are way stronger, and in a few areas they still even speak Gaeilge (Irish) as their first language.
Words and Phrases to Say Hi and Bye in English
Being Irish we have waaay too many words for everything! We have several ways to say Hello and Goodbye. So let's start with some of the many ways we say Hello:
- Are ya well?
- Ya Alri?
- What's the Craic?
No, here is the interesting part, they all look like questions but they're not. Yep, we really are just saying hi, nothing else we don't want to know anything it's just hey.
With so many ways just to say Hi to each other, you might wonder when we get time to say anything else! But now that you know how to say Hello we should probably check out a few of the most common words and phrases to say Goodbye in Ireland:
- See ya
- Go on
- Bye bye bye bye bye (this one is mostly over the phone, we feel the need to repeat until the other person hangs up)
- Catcha later
- Alri then
- Sure that's that (don't forget to use your "SH" sounds)
- Sure that's it then (don't forget to use your "SH" sounds)
- I'll let ya go
Common Phrases Ireland
As I've mentioned already, technically and academically speaking it is the same English language that you will have learnt during your studies, which is spoken in Ireland. The native English speakers of Ireland have their own dialect.
So, why don't we take a look at some of the most common phrases that you will hear in Ireland and what people mean when they say them.
Usually people might ask 'How are you doing?' in Ireland you could hear any of the following as a substitute:
- How's she cuttin'?
- How ya now?
- What's wrong with ya?
- Well, are ya alri?
As far as responding to this question goes, if you're Irish or applying to be Irish you know the following to be true, there are only 2 correct responses:
- I'm Grand
- Ah sure can't complain (don't forget to use your "SH" sounds)
It could be the best day of your life, you may have just won the lotto, had a child, gotten married, met batman or it could be the worst day of your life your arm could be hanging off, it does not matter, I repeat, YOU ARE GRAND.
Now that we know everyone is grand, let's get a little more involved in the conversation.
This one is important, it's the first word and question I always learn first when I visit a new country, how to ask where the toilet is, and yes it is perfectly fine to ask where the toilet is we will understand we're not completely feral in Ireland. But depending on whether you're staying in Dublin or Connemara the locals have different nicknames on the toilet it could be referred to as any of the following:
- The Jacks
- The Bog (Only in Dublin does this word refer to the toilet, country people have a very different meaning for this word, it's where they do a very intense form of manual labour in the summer to harvest peat in order to keep their homes heated in the winter.)
- Leithreas - LE-RIS
Finally we have a few handy notes that will help you understand words spoken by Irish people and engage in day-to-day conversations:
- "I will yeah" - Said when the person has no intention of doing what you just asked them to do, it is most definitely sarcasm!
- "Arseways" - To do something the wrong way, or for something to go wrong on you.
- "The press" - A press is what we call a cupboard in Ireland.
- "I'm after doing that job now" or "he's after making a gobshite of himself "- when Irish people say they're "after" doing something it means they have just finished or the event just occurred.
- "Gobshite" - Is a word we regularly use to describe foolish people.
- "Was it any use?" - Simply means "was it any good?".
- "The guards" - the police are called the Gardaí, but when speaking in everyday conversation, we just call them the guards.
- "Deadly " - Despite what this word sounds like this is a good thing, it means something was great or you really enjoyed it.
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