How to speak Gaelic - Lesson 2: All the sounds

Right, so we focussed on those vowels (slender and broad) last time.  In lesson 2 let's look at those consonants and get all the "rules" in our heads for those that might change when preceded or followed by an e or i:

b - at the start of a word as b in "boat", in the middle of a word as p in English "post"

bh - at the start of a word as v in "vent", elsewhere as v or w

c - at the start of a word as c in "cup", elsewhere like chk as in "Loch Katrine"

ch - as ch in "loch"

d - at the start of the word as d in "dad", elsewhere as t in "tin"

dh - like gh below

f - as f in "fish"

fh - usually silent (don't say it!)

gh - a kind of blurred version of ch

h - as h in "hotel"

l - similar to the l's in "pulled"

m - as m in "mouse"

mh - as Gaelic bv or v as in "van"

n - similar to the n in "kindred"

p - at the start of a word as p in "pin", elsewhere preceded by a h sound

ph - as ph in "photon"

r - as r in "ring"

s - as s in "socks"

sh - as h in "hat"

t - at the start of a word as t in "tin", elsewhere preceded by an h sound

th - as h in "hat"

Now the slender consonants are changed when preceded or followed by an e or i:

c - at the start of a word as in "kilt", elsewhere as in German "ich kenne"  e.g., Ceòl

ch - as in German "ich" e.g., aice

d - as in "jet" e.g., deiseil

dh - as in "yet" e.g., dheth

g - at the start of a word, like g followed by y, elsewhere as ck in "neck" e.g., geal and aige

gh - as in "yet" e.g., gheal

l - as the l's in "allure" e.g., leabhar

n - as the n in "new" e.g., nighean

s - as the s in "shin" e.g., sin

t - as the ch in "chin", elsewhere preceded by an h sound e.g., cait

That's quite a lot to remember, so we'll not bother ourselves too much with trying to commit all that to memory right now since we can come back to this lesson to recall the pronounciation rules any time we like, but instead let's go for a very useful phrase that you might already have heard or seen written if you've ever encountered Gaelic before...

Question:  Ciamar a tha sibh?

Answer: Tha mi gu math, tapadh leibh

Which means:

Question : How are you?

Answer: I'm fine, thank you.

So, let's break down that pronounciation!

The c of "Ciamar" is simply a "c" as in cat.  The i and a kind of run together to form a "i" (as in tin) and the ar is as expected - so that's k-i-mar

The a of "a" is a - so that's a

The th of "that" is hand the final "t" is followed by an "h" sound - so that's h-a

The s of "sibh" is a sh sound (since followed by an i) and the bh is a v sound since at the beginning of the word - so that's sh-i-v

Put it all together and you get:

Question: k-i-mar a h-a sh-iv

Now for the answer.  Oh fiddle sticks - now that's going to take me a while!  Instead of me making a meal of this why don't you try and work it out for yourself with the rules above?  And when you think you've got it right, I found somewhere where you can check yourself out online.

Simply go to this rather lovely BBC page and click on the little megaphones next to phrases we're interested in (you'll need real player for this).

And that's how it's done.  That wasn't too difficult was it?

Now, will you promise to practice, won't you?

Mar sin leat, an dràsda! (Cheerio - for now!)

Previous lessons:

Lesson 1: The Gaelic alphabet