How To Do An Irish Accent

In this blog post we will look at how to do an Irish accent, comparing Irish to English accents in an interview between an Irish native, Jo and our head teacher, Anna.
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Below you will find the video of the interview on Irish accents, as well as the transcript.

Features of an Irish Accent

Anna: In today’s episode, we are going to be diving deep into the Irish accent. Now I’ve already covered the Northern Irish accent with my friend Joel, but there isn’t just one version of the Irish accent. There’re many different versions and we are today joined by an expert, a lovely English teacher from Dublin and her name is Jo.

Irish Accent Video

How to do an Irish accent

Hi, Anna. 

Anna: Thank you so much for joining me. How are you today? I’m very good, thank you. And thank you for having me. 

Anna: Oh, you’re welcome. So I’ve already mentioned there are many different versions of the Irish accent, depending on where you are in Ireland you’re going to hear a slightly different accent, aren’t you?

Jo: That’s true. 

Anna: And so could you talk us through some of the common features of an Irish accent, your accent and Irish accents in general? 

Jo: Of course. I think that one of the funny things is when people first meet me, they always try to get me to say 33 and a third, because they want me to say 33 and a turd. And turd is excrement. So definitely one of the most prominent features of the Irish accent is that we don’t say the th sound like the /θ/, or the /ð/ sound. We normally just say a /t/ or a /d/ sound. 

Anna: The ‘th’ which is tricky actually for many. And so in Irish and in your accent, you are changing that th, the voiceless /θ/ and the voiced /ð/, for a /t/, and a /d/ sound, a T and a D sound, right?

Jo: Yeah. It’s easier. And actually, I think I learned, really, how to say it when I began teaching English. So to teach it properly, I had to learn how to say it, but it doesn’t mean that I always follow the rule. 

Dis is my mudder

Anna: How would you say “this is my mother” then? 

Jo: Well, this is my mother is how I would say it. But, also if I’m speaking to friends or family, I might say, ‘dis is my mudder.’

Anna: Nice. I do like it actually. It’s really nice. Dis is my mudder. Okay. So there’s another interesting feature of the Irish accent and that’s that it’s rhotic. So you would say mother and really push into that R sound at the end. Wouldn’t you? 

Anna: Yeah. Correct. You did a good imitation, mother. Yeah, there’s definitely an r at the end, but in Ireland we call Rs Rs.  So how would you say hair as in, I love your hair?

Jo: Hair. I love your hair. 

Anna: Right.

Jo: It’s true. I love your hair. 

Anna: Thank you. I love your hair too. You’ve done it very nicely. 

Jo: Thank you. 

How to say poor in an irish accent

Anna: And what about the word poor? To have no money, to be poor.

Jo: I would say poor. 

Anna: Nice. Nice. I actually covered it in the Northern Irish accent video with Joel.

Jo: I think we looked at the words poor – to have no money. Pour – to pour water or to pour liquid. The paw of an animal. Could you do that for me? So poor, pour, and animal paw. 

Anna: Sure. So I would say poor – I have no money – pour and paw. 

Jo: Ah, okay. So they are different. All of them are different. 

Jo:: Yeah. All very different.

Anna: Yeah, mine’s more /ɔ:/. So we don’t say that R sound at all. It’s just this /ɔ:/ vowel. Like my tongue is down, there’s lots of space inside my mouth /ɔ:/ And this is actually the sound that so many of my students struggle with this vowel /ɔ:/, but for you guys much easier or, or, 

Jo: Yeah, exactly because often that /r/ sound is followed by an R.

Anna: The letter R.

Jo: The letter R, exactly, in English and I have a rhotic accent. So I add that R on, so it’s, I think it’s kind of easier. 

Anna: Yeah, absolutely. So what other features can you share with us about the Irish accent? 

Jo: I always think that the Irish accent is sort of a cross between a British and an American accent. I think that the American accent is heavily influenced by the Irish one. Like when we say little, pretty bit. Sometimes we drop the T, like with British accents, and sometimes we have a very, very soft T like Americans. So I might say I’m pretty good. That’s the soft T in pretty, or I might say. Give me a little bit of that.

Anna: And there’s also something funny that you guys do sometimes with the T at the ends of words, you want to share that feature? 

How to do an Irish accent

How to say right in an irish accent

Jo: Oh. Yeah. Well I think this is one of the dead giveaways of an Irish accent. We sometimes will say right, instead of saying the word, right. You, you will hear people saying right.

Anna:  Right. 

Jo:  It’s very common. Mm-hmm yeah, like it’s like a S H like the shower at the end of the word, right? Yeah. 

Anna: Yeah. I have heard this in some versions of a scouse accent, but Liverpool and Irish actually have a lot of overlapping features. mm-hmm I think it makes sense. 

Jo: Yeah. And I think that Liverpool is the closest city to Dublin so a lot of people from Dublin went to Liverpool, in search of work, like 50 years ago, maybe a little bit more now. So I think, yeah, the scouse accent is influenced by the Irish accent too. You also find that we have that, like the, instead of saying the T, we’ll say the sh sound in the middle of words. So we say like, right, fright, start. But people may also say starting or getting. Like he’ll be getting here around five.

Anna: Okay. So that was an interesting sentence. And there are a few other things there we can discuss. So you dropped the G, so we didn’t have an NG and /ŋ/ sound at the end there you changed /ŋ/ for /m/ so you said rather than getting, you said, getting, getting but with your sh I can’t say it getting, getting? 

Jo: Yeah. It’s strange. It doesn’t sound like the word getting, but it’s getting, if, and when you say it quickly in the middle of a sentence, that’s perfectly normal for an Irish person, especially someone from Dublin, getting. 

Funny things to say in an Irish accent

Anna:  So say the sentence he’ll be getting here around five once again, please? 

Jo: He’ll be getting here around five.

Anna:  Fantastic. There’s another little piece of this sentence. That is probably my favourite aspect of an Irish accent, which is the/ɔɪ/ /ɔɪ/ sound that you, that you used when you said the number five. So I think of it as a, the diphthong /aɪ/, /aɪ/ like the eyes that I used to see, but you make it much more rounded. 

Jo: Mm-hmm it’s more like /ɔɪ/ 

Anna: Like ‘Oi what you doing?’

Jo: Yeah, exactly. Like it’s not so pronounced as like /ɔɪ/ five, but, sometimes it can be, but usually it’s like a softer /ɔɪ/ like five, five. And we do it with other words as well, like, like and people from Ireland often say like at the end of sentences, I’m not sure. But if you watch any interview with Saoirse Ronan, the actress you’ll hear her saying it like, it’s almost like something we do when we’re nervous or just to show that the sentence is finished, like.

Anna: Right. Like, like is that, is that right? 

Jo: That’s it. That’s it. Yeah. Good. Very good. 

Anna:  Fantastic. 

Jo: Yeah. That’s another way to distinguish the Irish accent for sure. 

Anna:  Fantastic. And another thing I’ve noticed Irish people saying is film, film.

Jo: Mm-hmm 

How to say film and girl in an Irish accent

Anna: Whereas we say, or I say film, film, have you seen the new Pixar film, for example, are there any other words that you, that you treat in this way? So you got film mm-hmm anything else 

Jo: We’ll sometimes add a vow sound to the word ‘girl’. So it becomes ‘girl’. I think ‘middle’. Yeah, girl also see if you can tell me what word this is ‘down’.

Anna: Down?

Jo: Down, yes. 

Anna: Yeah. To go down. 

Jo: Exactly. Very good. 

Anna: To go down to the town. 

Jo: Yes. Oh, town we might also say Town. Yeah. 

Anna: Okay. 

Jo: Alone. 

Anna: Alone. 

Jo: Yeah. 

Anna:  Yeah. That was harder. I had to think about that one for a second. 

Jo: What about ‘phone’? 

Anna: I’m assuming ‘phone’? 

Jo: Yes. Good. 

Anna:  Fantastic. 

Jo: I have one more for you. What do you think time means? 

Anna: Time? What time is it? 

Jo: Yeah. 

Anna: And would you do that every time you say these words or is it only occasionally? 

Jo: Occasionally it’s very marked. But yeah, my /aɪ/ is not, it’s not like the AI sound like you said that, that phoneme time /aɪ/, that, I have to open my mouth really wide to say that? That sounds strange. I wouldn’t say yeah, what time is it? I’d say, what time is it? What time is it? 

Anna: Yeah. What time is it? Yeah, it’s, when I’m teaching the received pronunciation lessons I’m often referring to that sense of having marbles in your mouth, you know, it’s that very old… I think they actually used to do that in the old days when teaching elocution, I think they used to make people practise with physical marbles in their mouth, which I think is a terrible choking hazard. If, if nothing else, probably bad for your teeth. Yeah. But I did used to, when teaching face to face, sometimes ask my students to use what’s called a bone prop, which is a little tiny piece of plastic that would hold your teeth apart. Just to try to open the jaw more, to allow more space in the mouth. So the RP accent definitely is about having more space. 

Jo: Mm-hmm it doesn’t feel natural to me. Maybe I need a bone prop as well. 

Anna: So we’ve got time and film, film. And 

Jo: mm-hmm you sound Irish now. 

Irish vowels are softer

Anna: So in general, I think I can always tell an Irish accent because of the vowel sounds they’re softer. They’re sometimes shorter, like, I’d say calm, but you’d say? 

Jo: Calm!

Anna: Calm! 

Jo: Very short.

Anna: Nice and short. Yeah. Brilliant. 

Jo: Yeah. People in Lancashire say that too, don’t they? 

Anna: Oh, thinking, thinking of my Lancaster accent now. Right. Well, I’m up here now and I’m calm. No, actually Lancaster would still say calm. It still be long calm, but there are, 

Jo: It’s not as long is it? 

Anna:  There are shorter vowels, I know what you’re referring to this switch between /ɑ:/ and a and it’s the same for American English. They have the shorter vowel more often. But it’s things like bath and bath, past and past, last and last.

Jo: Yeah, I would always say ‘past’, ‘last’. Yes. 

Anna: But what you are saying is for, in other instances where you would have a, a long /ɑ:/ vowel you would probably treat it in a, in a shorter way. You’d have it as a, like, calm, rather than calm. What about the, the palm of your hand would say, palm. 

Jo: Exactly. That’s the palm. 

Features of an Irish accent

The Irish accent vs. British RP accent

Anna: Yeah, on the subject of vowels, there is a short vowel that I think of as being the very posh RP vowel, which is the /ʌ/ sound and the reason I think of it as being the RP posh vowel is because we, we don’t have this in Northern English. Naturally I’m a Lancashire girl. We didn’t ever say. bus love cup. We’d say bus love cup, but what about you guys? Do you say bus? 

Jo: That’s it? That’s the accent in Dublin, too. Bus, cup. Yeah. This, /ʌ/ sounds was one that I really had to learn. I didn’t just have to perfect it like with the other /ŋ/ and, and /ð/ sound that I perfected when I started teaching English, but I really had to learn this one and I don’t think I can do it really well because it’s kind of unnatural for me as well.

Anna: Yeah, bus, cup. I have to do this, I can’t just do it normally I have to make a strange face when I say it as well. 

How to pronounce ‘nothing’ in an Irish accent

Jo: Right. We’ve covered quite a lot, but I can’t end this interview without asking you how you pronounce the word. Nothing.

Anna: Nothing. Nothing. I love that. I love that. So nothing, nothing, nothing is that every single time you say the word or just when it stands alone? 

Jo: Every single time when I say the word. It’s really hard for me to say nothing, because it has so many of the 

features of the Irish accent. It has the /ʌ/ the th that becomes /t/. And then the /n/ sound at the end, instead of /ŋ/. 

How to pronounce something in an Irish accent

Anna: Fantastic. So is that the same for something? 

Jo: It is something! 

Anna: Something, 

Jo: I think that’s very difficult for, especially learners, but even people who come to Ireland as like first language speakers to understand. Yeah. Something becomes something. 

How to pronounce anything in an Irish accent

Anna: Something. How about anything? 

Jo: Anything! 

Anna: Would that become anything with a ting rather than a thing? 

Jo: No, that’s very logical, but anything becomes anything… 

Anna: A what? 

Jo: Anything.

Anna: Anything? 

Jo: Yeah. Do you want anything at the shop? 

Anna: Wow. 

Jo: Anything! 

Anna: That’s amazing. Are there any others that I can think of? So you’ve got nothing, something, anything, what about everything? How do you treat that? 

Jo: Everything. 

Anna: Okay. So that one’s…

Jo: That would be close to. 

Anna: Fantastic! I find accents absolutely fascinating. Would you say that your accent’s very different to your parents, grandparents? 

Jo: For sure. Yeah. I mean, I haven’t lived in Ireland for over a decade, so my accent is definitely more neutral than it used to be. When I go home, when I’m around my family, it comes back, you know or just sometimes if I’m very relaxed, I’m not sure. It’s like, I didn’t try to change my accent. It just changed because I wanted to be understood because I teach English for a living and you can’t go around the world saying anything and expect to be understood so … 

Anna: Yeah, we, we naturally try to fit in. We, we do. It’s the same, my Northern accent comes back when I’m in the North or surrounded by other Northerners. It’s just this natural want. We’re very social creatures, we want to fit in with our, with our peers and the people we’re surrounded by. I often hear people when they’re discussing Irish accents, if they’re not Irish going, ah, what’s the craic?

Jo: Yeah. 

What is the meaning of craic?

Anna: Is that something and, and for my viewers and listeners, what’s the craic is supposed to mean like, what’s going on? What’s happening? How are you? It’s that kind of question and craic isn’t spelled, as you would expect it C R A C K. It’s spelled C R A I C that’s right. So is that actually something that Irish people say?

Jo: Well, I think that what the craic is more associated with Northern Ireland, I wouldn’t ask what’s the craic, but I would use the word craic in a different context, but it has the same meaning and it means fun. Cuz that’s actually an Irish word, like a gaelic word. So I would say he he’s no crack.

Anna: He’s no craic ?

Jo: Yeah. 

Anna: Wow. I love that. 

Jo: Or you’re some craic. Anna. Do you know you’re some craic? I really had fun having this conversation with you. 

Anna:  Brilliant. Brilliant. Well you’re a fun craic too. Is it like that?

Jo: Fun is ‘craic’. 

Anna: Oh, fun is ‘craic’. So you’re…

Jo: You’re some craic. 

Top of the morning to you in an Irish accent

Anna: Oh, you’re some craic. Okay. I love that you are some craic. Brilliant, brilliant. And the last one, which is the very, very typical saying that people consider to be what all the Irish say in the morning, which is ‘top the morning to you’. 

Jo: I think only in bad Hollywood films. 

Anna: Okay. 

Jo: We don’t really say that. No. 

Anna: Okay. So if any of you listening, bump into someone from Ireland probably best not to say ‘top of the morning to you’?

Jo: No. No. Say ‘story’. 

Anna: Story?

Jo: Yeah like what’s the story, but you just say ‘story’. 

Anna: Oh, okay. Story. 

Jo: Yeah. 

Anna: Nice. 

Jo: Very good. 

How to perfect your English pronunciation

Anna: Thanks to Jo. We’ve gained some really interesting insights into the Irish accent. Now, if you are an ESL student, your learning English, then pronunciation should be quite high on your priority list, and having some insight into your own pronunciation, your own accent, the sounds that you naturally use and the sounds of your target language, then that can be a game changer. But how do you gain that insight? Well, that’s where I’m here to help. You can have a pronunciation assessment where I break down all the sounds of RP, the British English accent, and measure you against those sounds.

I can give you full detailed feedback and tell you exactly where you need to focus your pronunciation practice. And this method speeds up your improvement. Lots of students thoroughly enjoy the assessment process. And I’m sure you would too, to find out more about my pronunciation assessment or my pronunciation course by following the links. 

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If you like this accent lesson, you'll love my other lessons on beautiful English accents.  Just click on the links below to find out more!

Finally, if you want help with your pronunciation, you can apply for an Accent Assessment with our Head Accent Coach, Anna.

 

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