A foolproof way to find yourself with the perfect Irish accent
Okay, so you're not going to sound like a true blue Dub (Dubliner) by the end of this article. But you might just get closer than Tom Cruise in "Far and Away," or God forbid Sean Connery in the "Untouchables"
This brilliant guide of top tips for an Irish accent will have you sounding more like "The Commitments" than "Darby O'Gill," and that has to be a good thing.
1. Learn the Irish vocabulary
This is by far and away the most important thing to learn when pulling off a good Irish impression. Vocab is paramount and I don't mean begorrah and diddly-eye. Irish people have a whole different dictionary.
One of the most obvious is the Irish peoples' use of the word “grand.” The question "How are you?" is generally answered with "Grand, thanks," which doesn't mean $1,000 or a big piano, it means "fine".
Here's some other examples -
"Em" - This is generally used by the Irish instead of "um" or "uh" while pausing to think. This is definitely one of the most commonly used noises. Remember this one.
"Cheers" - Although this is a drinking toast it is also an aloha-like multi-purpose word that can mean hello, goodbye and thank you.
"Lad" - this means any male and when pluralized means any group of females or males.
"C'mere" - literally this means "come here" but it also means "listen" and just a friendly "hey." It can be used to get someone's attention or just start a sentence.
"Right" - This is another multi-purpose word. Used like C'mere. For example "Right, yours was a pint?", "Right, I'm off home."
"Bollocks" - this literally means testicles but has become a word with which to express anger. For example, if you missed your train you might exclaim "Bollocks!" It can also mean rubbish. For example, "That lad is talking utter bollocks."
"Bastard" - Although this literally means a child born out of wedlock it can also be used to express anger and as an exclamation. For example "where's my bastard coat?"
"Eejit" - Idiot, but harsher.
"Knacker" - This can be used to describe an undesirable person, or being exhausted. For example "Jaysus look at that knacker" or "I'm bleeding knackered, I need a kip."
Chips = French fries
Crisps = chips
Biscuits = cookies
2. The Irish sound
It's impossible to say what an Irish person sounds like as there are 32 different accents and dialects to boot in this small country. Although there are only 4.5 million people in the Emerald Isle the variety of accents is baffling. The most obvious difference is that between Northern Irish people (think Gerry Adams) and southern (think Bono).
The Irish generally make fun of how the Americans elongate their vowels in the same manner that Americans usually make fun of Texans.
Here some phrases to show you the difference.
Americans say "How are you?" Irish say "Ha-ware-ya?" / "Hawareya?"
The response to this question is not "good" or "fine", by the way, it is "grand" or "grand altogether."
Enunciate, this is the most important thing. Americans have a habit of slurring consonants, while Irish, though they run words together, tend to enunciate their consonants. For example, Americans tend to say "coulda," "woulda," "wanna" or "wahder" instead of pronouncing the whole phrase.
Lyricize your inflection
This is probably the most difficult thing to learn - the rhythm and tone of the accent. This has a lot to do with having an ear for it. Varying pitch accounts for the different feel of the Irish accent and its commonly described as lyrical. This means that a sentence sounds more musical or sing-songy than American English.
The best way to learn is to practice. Although you could hire your very own dialogue coach, a better solution might be to watch some Irish movies and try to focus on their accents and mimicking them. Some great movies to watch are "The Butcher Boy," "Circle of Friends" and "The Commitments."
Try to copy some of these lines. Record yourself saying them and you should be able to find the faults in your own accent.
Warning: you will be lousy at first, but keep trying. It can be quite fun.
3. The Irish spelling
If you're really going for the all Irish experience you'd better change your spellings too. Although mostly spellings in American English and the English from across the pond are the same there are some differences.
Add the U
For some very odd reason the Irish and English use extra "u"s. Just some examples are armour, behavior, colour, favour, honour, humour, parlour and savour.
Change the Z
Another difference is that the English and Irish use "s" more often that "z." For example, crystallized, industrialized, memorize, realized, recognized and specialized all take the letter "s" in Irish English.
Invert the ER - sometimes
Some words that end in "er" in American English end with "re" across the pond, including "centre," and "theatre." At the same time, many others don't! "Letter," "brother," "hunger," and many more are spelled the same in Irish and American English, so use discretion with this one.
Here's an eHow video on how to pick it up:
*Originally published in 2010.