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Bunús na Gaeilge - Basic Irish Language

There is no other way to revive Irish than for a crowd of people to spread it.
- Douglas Hyde

On these pages, we will make a valiant effort to provide you with useful words and phrases. One of our subscribers, Aideen, grew up speaking Irish at her mother's knee. She has generously agreed to help us with our lessons. We have put her comments and pronunciations in green.

Note: The spellings and pronunciations used by Aideen are based in her own natural use of Connemara Irish but they have been kept simple, so as to be readily understood in any part of Ireland where there are differences in the language.
For example, the word 'feicfidh' is used only in Connemara Irish; in Leinster, Ulster and Munster the word is 'cífidh'. There are two pronunciations; Leinster/Munster - kee-fee; Ulster - chee-fee.

The biggest problem for people whose native language is English is that the soft 't' and 'd' are in the Irish language, but not in the English language; it's difficult to 'reproduce' them in writing in English. Where I use 'th' and 'dh' here, they are best achieved by putting your tongue gently behind your front upper teeth."

Click here for our words & phrases Index.

So, it's late and dark. You are in a Gaeltacht in your rental car. The car has a flat tyre. You look in the boot and there is no spare. From out of the gloom comes a voice. Whatever you heard was in gaeilge and now he is asking you if you need help (but you don't know that's what he said). You studied well but you don't know many who speak Irish and you are now talking to the only non-English speaking Irishman for twenty miles. You will need the following phrases.
How we came to forget them, we can't say. To make amends we will leave them here; no matter what the latest offering may be.

Note: In case you think I am taking shortcuts with some of these, I am! These phrases would be used as very simple responses by a person who had little Irish, therefore, they would not generally use full sentences. So, 1, 3, 5 and 6 are pithy phrases which are easy to use, are 'conversationally correct' and would be immediately understood. Much better for a person to use these rather than struggling with a full grammatical sentence.

Phrase: I don't speak Irish
Irish: Níl Gaeilge agam
kneel gway-il-geh ah-gum (literally 'I don't have Irish')

Phrase: I only speak a little/very little Irish
Irish: Níl ach beagán/beagáinín Gaeilge agam
kneel okh bweeuh-gawn/bweeuh-gawn-een gway-il-geh ah-gum

Phrase: Please speak a little more slowly
Irish: Níos moille led thoil
kneess mwell-eh ledh hell (literally 'more slowly please')

Phrase: I don't understand you
Irish: Ní thuigim thú
knee hig-im hoo

Phrase: Could you say that in English please?
Irish: As Béarla led thoil?
oss bayr-lah ledh hell? (literally 'in English please?)

Phrase: Could you repeat that?
Irish: Arís?
ah-reesh? (literally 'again?')

Phrase: Did I say that right?
Irish: An raibh sin i gceart agam?
ah row (as in cow) shin ih gih-ah-rth ah-gum?

Lesson #30 - Spring Cleaning

We now have a lesson with appropriate words for all those chores we love to hate. As always, we are indebted to Aideen, our native speaker, for translations and pronunciations; and also for correcting us when we make a faux pas as in the word 'immaculate'. In Ireland this is reserved for the Blessed Virgin. So, she insists that we settle for spotless!

Phrase: Spring Cleaning
Irish: Glanadh an earraigh
glahn-ah on ahr-ee

Word: Clean
Irish: glan

Word: Wash or launder
Irish: ní

Word: Polish or shine
Irish: snas

Word: Sweep or broom
Irish: scuaib

Word: Dust
Irish: deannach or smúit
djahn-ukh or smoo-ith

Word: Dustcloth (dust rag)
Irish: ceirt deannaigh
kertch djahn-ee

Word: Scrub
Irish: sciúr

Word: Mop
Irish: mapa

Phrase: Vacuum-cleaner
Irish: folúsghlantóir

Word: Soap
Irish: galúnach

Word: Sponge
Irish: spúinse

Word: Scour
Irish: sciúradh

Word: Tidy
Irish: slachtmhar

Word: Spotless
Irish: gan smál
gon small

Word: Wax
Irish: céir

Phrase: Paper Towels
Irish: tuallaí páipéir
thoo-all-ee paw-payr

Phrase: Help me to turn the mattresses.
Irish: Tabhair cabhair dom na tochtaí a iompair.
thohr cowr dhum nah thuk-thee ah um-purr

Phrase: Two of us will be needed to wash all the windows.
Irish: Beidh beirt againn ag teastáil na fuinneoga uilig a ní.
bye berch ah-ginn egg thas-thaw-il nah fwinn-yoga ill-ig ah nee

Phrase: The oven is very dirty.
Irish: Tá salach uafásach ar an oigheann.
thaw sah-lakh oo-faws-ukh err on eye-un

Phrase: Put wax on the downstairs floors.
Irish: Cuir céir ar na h-urláir thíos staighre.
kwirr kay-ir err nah hur-law-ir hees sthye-reh

Phrase: Give all the furniture a good polishing.
Irish: Cuir snas mhaith ar an dtroscán go léir.
kwirr snahs wye err on druhs-kawn guh lay-ir

Phrase: Put shampoo powder for the rugs on the shopping (marketing) list. Irish: Cuir púdar foltfholchadh ar an iosta siopadóireachta.
kwirr poo-dhahr fulth-ull-khah err on liss-thah shup-ah-dhor-ukh-thah

Phrase: I've sent the bedroom curtains to the laundry.
Irish: Táim tar éis na cuirtíní óna seomraí leapa a chur ag an dteach níocháin.
thaw-im thahr aysh nah kut-chee-nee oh-nah shohm-ree lah-pah ah khurr egg on dtjokh nee-uh-khaw-in

Phrase: We must clean out the closets in every room.
Irish: Ní mór dúinn na h-almóir in ngach seomra a ghlanadh.
nee mohr dhoo-in nah hahl-moh-ir i ngahkh shohm-rah ah ghlahn-ah

Phrase: The time has come to put away the Winter clothes.*
Irish: Tá an t-am tagtha éadaí an Gheimhridh a chur ar leataobh.
thaw on thahm thah-gah ay-dhee on yeev-ree ah khur err lah-theev

*A word of caution: According to Bridget’s mother “you should never cast a clout until May is out!”


Thu, Jul 9, 2015
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Eoin is a native Irish speaker who you can listen to in the online lessons.
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Irish Grammar
by Noel Mogonagle

This book is excellent for beginners who are wanting a book that gives basic grammar without all the extra information that confuses beginners. The book is well laid out, with information very easy to find. Amazon Reviewer

Here is a good follow-on to our words and phrases.
Click for Irish Grammar.

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Irish - English
English - Irish

Note: We have yet to see a dictionary with phonetic pronunciations for each word. We suspect this is partly due to the variations. Providing for all four 'green fields' (Connacht, Leinster, Ulster and Munster), would be cumbersome at best. Still, someone may do it some day. Until then, these are all very good and recommended. Serious students will have more than one; they are inexpensive.

These two (either or both) are the handy-references needed to go with a good grammar or 'teach yourself' course.
We would need both (and some other help) if found wandering in a Gaeltacht late at night.
Amazon has an offer of either one combined with a grammar for a reduced price.
Click for Collins Gem
Click for Oxford Pocket.

Children's Irish Dictionary
by Hippocrene Books

As a total beginner in Irish, this has taught me quite a few words. The illustrations are beautifully done, and best of all, each word is given a rough English spelling of its pronunciation. Edited from an amazon review.
Click here for Kid's Irish Dictionary.

Wicked Irish
by Howard Tomb

While I wouldn't recommend you use many of these phrases, this is a terribly funny book. I picked it up after leafing through it at the store and finding phrases about sheep and inns and the hazards of driving in Ireland without insurance. Each little section starts out innocuously enough, then quickly degenerates into truly funny comments. If you like Monty Python or BlackAdder, this will really make you laugh. If you liked the Father Ted tv show, this little book will make you keel over giggling. Ah, go on, ya eejit, buy it already! Amazon Reviewer
(We want this, you may see a few on these pages - watch out).
Click for Wicked Irish

Teach Yourself Irish Complete Course
by Diarmuid O'She & Joseph Sheils

An easy-to-use program for learning on your own, or can be used as supplemental material for your classes. These new editions have been thoroughly revised and updated to include the engaging dialogues and helpful exercises you have come to expect from the Teach Yourself series.
Click for Teach Yourself

Learning Irish
by Micheal O'Siadhail

The Best Irish Course Available! Three years ago I decided to learn Irish, and in the next two years I bought three different courses. The first two were simply useless, (that's the obvious reason for my buying new courses) you could learn some phrases, but not construct sentences yourself. Learning Irish, on the other hand, is an excellent book, which gives you a thorough vocabulary and grammatical knowledge. It consists of 36 lessons, all containing vocabularies, grammar instructions, texts and excercises. Amazon Reviewer.

Click for Learning irish


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