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How to Speak English Like the Irish

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with some Irish turns of phrase.

By
Benny Lewis, read by Mignon Fogarty,
March 15, 2012
Episode #267

Page 1 of 3

How to Speak English Like the Irish

Happy St. Patrick's Day! To help you get closer to your Irish heritage or simply celebrate as if you were Irish, I’ve asked Benny Lewis to help us speak English like the Irish.

How to Speak English Like the Irish

Benny is an Irish polyglot I met at BlogWorld who travels the globe while helping people learn new languages.

Why Do the Irish Speak Like That?

Despite there not really being a single Irish accent, there are commonalities that stem from a combination of factors, the most important being that just a few generations ago, “Irish Gaelic” (Gaeilge) was the dominant language of the country. Even though fewer people use Gaelic these days, its influence on their English is huge.

How to Sound Irish

English grammar is pretty consistent, but the standard spoken form in Ireland takes on a life of its own.

For example, rather than rely on "to have just done" for a recently completed action, we would say "to be after doing." For example, instead of saying “I’ve just found a Euro on the road!” an Irish speaker would say “I'm after finding a Euro on the road!”

Why Don’t the Irish Use “Yes” and “No”?

Another interesting influence from Irish Gaelic is its absolute lack of the words “yes” and “no,” so when our ancestors were speaking English as a second language, they would speak English as they would speak Gaelic--without these words!

Although international English influences mean young people do this less nowadays, a lot of us Irish still simply don't use these words. In the Irish language (and in other languages, like Thai, for example), the issue is resolved by simply repeating the verb of the question. Can you swim? I can! Do you like tomato juice? I don't. Are you coming? I amn't.

Amn’t

Yes you read that right: amn't. It’s a contraction of “am not.” This is one I'm surprised other English speakers don't use! You say “isn't,” “don't,” and “aren't.” “Amn’t” is logical if you ask me!

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