A little bit of Irish English
When you read this post I’ll be in Ireland, where I usually spend at least some of my Christmas holidays with my partner’s friends and family. Many of our students also take the opportunity to pop across the water to the Republic of Ireland during their stay in the UK so I’d like to offer a bit of advice to help them and you tune in to Irish English and culture.
In Dublin, I’ll be visiting the Guinness Storehouse to sample the Emerald Isle’s most famous export (by the way, I’ve never heard a real-life Irish person refer to their homeland as ‘the Emerald Isle’, or as ‘Eire’ or ‘Erin’ either) but actually the Irish themselves are just as likely to drink Beamish or Murphy’s. If, as a foreigner, you go to a bar and ask for either of these stouts, the barman or barmaid may well be impressed by how well you fit in. And if you don’t really like the ‘black stuff’, you can always ask for a Beamish Red instead. Having said that, Guinness is of course at its best here (the Irish always claim it ‘doesn’t travel well’) so you should definitely try a pint or two.
I’m looking forward to Ireland’s famous hospitality. When I’m with Irish friends it’s pretty difficult to buy my own drinks and if you’re lucky enough to be invited to an Irish person’s home you’ll generally be plied with food, or at least endless cups of tea. The bad news for those of you who don’t like traditional UK food is that Irish food is pretty similar to British!
The Present Perfect tense isn’t used as much, so for example where a British person meeting a friend who has been waiting for them would ask ‘How long have you been here?’, their Irish counterpart would enquire ‘How long are you here?’
Also, I’ve never heard any of my Irish friends ask ‘How old is he?’ Instead they use the less common structure ‘What age is he?’ Maybe you prefer this form too?
Listen out for the word ‘yoke’ – it just means ‘thing’, as in ‘where’s that yoke for the camera?’ Here it could mean battery, case, lens or tripod!
Unlike in the majority of British English accents, Irish English pronounces the final ‘r’ on words. Also, the vowel sound in ‘car’ is pronounced more like in American English than British English. In fact, to my English ears at least, an Irish accent often sounds much more similar to an American accent than an English one.
Don’t forget to say ‘Cheers’ in Irish Gaelic – it’s ‘Slàinte’! To me it sounds like ‘shlahntuh’ but an Irish person would probably disagree. By the way, the accent on the vowel sound, called a fada, lengthens it.
If you pop round to an Irish home you’ll definitely be offered a cup of tea. But if you say that you don’t have time for one, because you’ve only popped over for a quarter of an hour or so, you’ll be offered a ‘cup in the hand’ instead. This basically just means that you’re getting a cup of tea whether you like it or not and that you can hold it in your hand while you’re standing up ready to leave.
Finally, the most important thing for any night out in Ireland is ‘the craic’, (pronounced ‘crack’) an Irish Gaelic word that has no direct English translation but that basically means ‘the good times’. You often see it above Irish pub doorways. So, I hope you manage to find the craic this Christmas and New Year, and any time you visit Ireland!
- pop across the water - (phr.) to visit another country which is overseas
- ROI - (acr.) The Republic of Ireland
- The Emerald Isle, Eire, Erin - (n.) poetic names for Ireland
- stout - (n.) a traditional dark beer
- the black stuff - (n.) an informal name for Guinness
- to be plied with - (phr.) to be given large quantities of something, especially food or drink, even if you don’t want it
- counterpart - (n.) equivalent
- pop round - (phr.v.) to visit someone at home for a short time, especially for a specific reason and/or without being invited
- pop over - (phr.v.) the same as to pop round
- doorway - (n.) an opening into a building or room, especially one that has a door
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