The sounds of the letter “r” in Irish differ from those of the “r” in English. When next to an “a”, “o”, or “u”, the sound is usually rolled. To pronounce this “r”, bring the tip of the tongue near the hard ridge behind your upper front teeth and vibrate the tongue as you say the “r”. Keep the tongue relaxed. Then try: rá (raw*), rón (rohn), rún (roon).
If the “r” begins a word and is followed by “e” or “i”, it usually has this broad sound, too, as in: ré (ray*), rí (ree).
The rolling or vibration of the tongue is in the front of the mouth, not in the back as in some other European languages.
Inside a word, the broad “r” sound may not be rolled or trilled as much as it is at the beginning of a word. A double “r” next to an “a”, “o”, or “u” is more likely to be rolled, as in: carraig (KAHR-rig).
When the “r” is next to an “e” or “i” inside a word or at the end of a word, it gets its slender sound. To make this sound, which is a difficult one for most Americans, place the tongue tip close to the top of your upper teeth and form a shallow pocket or hollow in the tongue tip. Don’t make the hollow too deep. Then pronounce “r” by blowing air at the tongue tip and dropping the tongue tip down. Try this several times, and try saying “tír” (teer).
Notice how you start with your tongue tip on the hard ridge behind your upper front teeth and then move the tongue tip forward into position for the slender “r”. The “r” sound may remind you somewhat of the slender “d” of Lesson 2, but there is a clear difference.
Now try: fir (fir), mír (meer). Next, try it beside a consonant: trí (tree), briste (BRISH-te), creid (kred). Work on the “t” and “d” in these words, too. See Lesson 2.
For a little more help with this sound, think back to the way in which some Irish persons pronounce the sentence “Where is it?” You may have heard this imitated on radio or television by persons attempting to speak with an Irish accent. The sound is the slender “r” of the Irish language, brought by Irish from their own language into the foreign language of English.
mac (mahk), son
bóthar (BOH-uhr), road
carr (kahr), car, automobile
doras (DUH-ruhs), door
nuachtán (NOO-uhk*-taw*n), newspaper
ceacht (kyahk*t), lesson
athair, an t-athair (A-hir, un TA-hir), father, the father
ag scríobh (uh shkreev), writing
ag caint (uh keyent), talking
ag rith (uh ri), running
ag léamh (uh LAY*-uhv), reading
máthair, an mháthair (MAW*-hir, un VWAW*-hir), mother, the mother
iníon, an iníon (in-EEN, un in-EEN), daughter
sa bhus (suh vus), in the bus
sa charr (suh k*ahr), in the car
sa stáisiún (suh STAW*-shoon), in the station
sa chathair (suh K*AH-hir), in the city
sa tsráid (suh traw*d), in the street
sa train (suh tray*n), in the train
Táimid sa bhaile anois. Níl aon duine sa tsráid inniu. Tá an aimsir go dona (DUHN-uh). Tá sé fuar fliuch, agus tá sé ag cur báistí. Sa teach, tá an seomra seo te tirim. Tá bord sa seomra, agus bord eile sa chistin.
Féach! Tá fear ag teacht isteach. M’athair, is dócha, agus tá mo mháthair ansin, freisin. Nach bhfuil siad fliuch? Tá, go cinnte.
(TAW*-mid suh VWAHL-e uh-NISH. neel ay*n DIN-e suh traw*d in-YOO. taw* un EYEM-sheer goh DUHN-uh. taw* shay* FOO-uhr flyuk*, Ah-guhs taw* shay* uh kur BAW*SH-tee. suh tyahk*, taw* un SHOHM-ruh shuh te TIR-im. taw* bohrd suh SHOHM-ruh, AH-guhs bohrd EL-e suh HYISH-tin.)
(FAY*-ahk*! taw* far uh tyahk*t ish-TYAHK*. MA-hir, is DOHK*-uh, AH-guhs taw* muh VWAW*-hir un-SHIN, FRESH-in. nahk* vwil SHEE-uhd flyuk*? taw*, goh KIN-te).
We are at home now. There is no one in the street today. The weather is bad. It’s cold and wet, and it’s raining. In the house, this room is warm and dry. There is a table in the room, and another table in the kitchen.
Look! A man is coming in. My father, probably, and my mother is there, too. Aren’t they wet? They are, indeed.
Notes: In Irish, the word “agus” (AH-guhs), and, is often omitted between adjectives starting with the same letter.
“Fuar fliuch” and “te tirim” are examples.
Liam (LEE-uhm): A Shíle, seo dhuit nuachtán (uh HEEL-uh, shuh git NOO-uhk*taw*n).
Sheila, here’s a newspaper for you.
Síle (SHEEL-uh): Nuachtán Éireannach, an ea? (NOO-uhk*-taw*n AY*R-uh-nahk*, un a)
An Irish paper, is it?
Liam: Ní hea, ach nuachtán Meiriceánach, agus tá ceacht Gaeilge ann (nee ha, ahk* NOO-uhk*-taw*n mer-i-KAW*-nahk*, AH-guhs taw* kyahk*t GAY*lig-e OUN).
It is not, it’s an American paper, and there’s an Irish lesson in it.
Síle: Cá bhfuair tú é? (kaw* VOO-ir too ay*)
Where did you get it?
Liam: Sa siopa sin, thíos an tsráid (suh SHOHP-uh shin, HEE-uhs un traw*d).
In that store, down the street.
“Ní hea” does not mean “no”. Irish has no words for “yes” and “no”. Instead, the verb or form of the question is always in the answer. For example, you answer, “An bhfuil ___?” or “Nach bhfuil ___?” by “Tá ___” or “Níl ___”.
“Gaeilge” means “Irish language”, or “Irish” for short.
The adjective “Irish” is “Éireannach”. “Leabhar Ghaeilge” (LOU-wuhr GAY*-lig-e) is an Irish-language book, but “cóta Éireannach” is an Irish coat.
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