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Friday Fact: How to pronounce Gaelic

My latest books, Daughters of Alba, have a lot of Gaelic (Gaidhlig) in them.  A lot.

When I wrote them I was having fun with learning the language and trying to make my work as authentic as possible.  But some of my early readers begged me for a pronunciation guide.  So, in honour of D of A coming out yesterday, I’ve started putting together a list of names and common terms I’ve used in the books.  I’ll keep adding to the list.

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Here are some general notes on pronouncing Gaelic that might help you out.

There are a lot of “extra” letters in Gaelic.

Blends of as many as 3 vowels at a time usually end up sounding like “uh”.

Any time you see an “h” in a word, the letter before it is softened, or sometimes even cancelled out altogether.

For example:

“ch” = a hiss in the throat like at the end of “Bach”

“mh” and “bh” = “v”

“dh” and “th” = disappears entirely

Consonants are different than what we’re used to.

“S” alone at the beginning of a word = “sh” (like the Irish “Sean”)

“T” alone at the beginning of a word = “tch”

“C” = always hard sound like “K”

If you want to sound like a pro, say it with an accent.

Seriously.  There’s a reason the Scots and the Irish speak with that lilting rhythm: it comes from their native tongue.  To get the rhythm of Gaelic down, you’ve got to get away from the rhythm of English.

gaelic_in_scotland

If you’re reading D of A and want to know how to say the names and words properly, then check out the new Gaidhlig guide.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Friday Fact: How to pronounce Gaelic”

  1. Just one comment, from my beginner’s knowledge …

    You wrote: ““S” alone at the beginning of a word = “sh” (like the Irish “Sean”)”

    Actually, S is pronounced as in English, unless immediately followed by the letters i or e (slender vowels), in which case it is pronounced “sh”. So Sile is pronounced sheela, but sona is pronounced “son – er”.

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