The Irish Language has Dialects, Here’s Why it Won’t Stop You

Bill was hesitant about learning to speak Irish because he noticed there are differences between Irish dialects. He kindly emailed us recently:

I’d like to learn to speak some Irish, but am hesitant to learn it on my own, as some websites that teach the language give 2 or 3 ways to say the same word or phrase, and can also be spelled differently due to the specific area of the country or the dialect spoken there. The pronunciation can be very different between the three.

If I’m learning on my own, how do I know that I’m not mixing different dialects together and creating another language that NO ONE will be able to understand?

This is my major concern at this point.

If you’re thinking like Bill, then I have good news for you. First, let’s quickly cover the different dialects.

The three Irish language dialects

There are three major spoken dialects of Irish (in no particular order of importance!):

  1. Munster (spoken in the southern part of Ireland)
  2. Connacht (spoken in the western part of Ireland)
  3. Ulster (spoken in the northern part of Ireland)

The Irish dialects are really not not that different

This may seem daunting, but here’s the good part: these dialects are NOT all that different one from another, and if you understand/speak one, you can understand/speak to/be understood by people who speak a different one.

In other words, if you end up speaking a mix of dialects like Bill, then you will still be understood wherever you visit.

English has dialects

Think of it this way: you already know dialects.

If you’re an American from Texas, you can communicate without much difficulty with a Canadian from British Columbia, an Australian from Sydney, or an Irish person from Dublin, right?

You have different accents.

You pronounce certain things a little differently or use different expressions.

Sometimes you may have to ask one another to speak more slowly or to explain a term.

But you all speak the same language.

You can communicate without difficulty.

If you speak to one another often enough, you may even find elements of one dialect creeping into your own!

Irish dialects are no different.

The good news: Why dialects won’t stop you learning Irish

So, which dialect should you learn?

The simple answer is: it really doesn’t matter.

Most learners pick up a mixture of dialects, and that’s perfectly fine.

If you decide later that you want to specialize in one dialect or another, you can easily do so.

If you get that far, we’ll be proud of you!

Now you know about Irish language dialects, and you shouldn’t be worried about them.

So what’s stopping you? Join Bitesize Irish Gaelic, and start learning to speak Irish.

If you have any questions, please reply below.

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Comments

  1. Paul says:

    Appreciated, but you didn’t really explain what the differences are. It’s more than just the difference between English speakers’ accents; looking at the greetings shows that to me. Does the difference go deeper than the greetings? Are there different vocabularies for simple things, simple verbs, word orders, conjugations and declensions?

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