Irish-American Language Barrier

When I moved to Ireland, I knew a slight language barrier would exist between our English’s, but nothing prepared me for what it truly was. I’ll be in the middle of a conversation with a local and get completely lost. Admittedly, sometimes I quit listening to their words and just listen to the accent. It’s beautiful. However, the majority of the time, I am truly lost with what they are telling me. Words fly out of their mouths in warp speed usually slurred together with everyday vernacular that I am not familiar with. My eyes go wide, my head tilts to the side, my mouth falls open, and all I can muster to say is, “What?” They then proceed to chuckle and slow down their sentence to a snails crawl before I figure out the message.  It has even happened that people have had to repeat the same sentence multiple times before I fully understood.  I’ve lived here for over four months, and I still get confused.

I have included small list of words and phrases that the Irish use daily and the American equivalent. I have adopted a few of these into my vocabulary and hope to bring them back to the States with me!

Irish Term or Phrase : American Equivalent

Your Man : That Guy  *  Jumper : Sweater  *  Boot  : Trunk

Pants : Underwear *  Chips : Fries  *  Cheers! : Thanks!

What’s the craic? : What’s the plan?  *  Trainers : Tennis Shoes

Crisps : Chips *  Trousers : Pants  *  Mental : Crazy

Toilet : Bathroom  *  Dodgy : Rough  *  Barman : Bartender

That’s grand! : That’s great!  *  Cheers! : Thanks!

Culchie People : Country People *  Give Out : Argue

Another difference between the way the Irish and Americans speak is in our names.  I remember one of the first days I worked in an office.  Like a normal day at the reception, I answered the phone and transferred calls. A gentleman phoned in the afternoon and asked, “Could I speak to Neeve please?” I replied, “Sure,” and began to look for a Neeve in the computer system.  I couldn’t locate the name so I asked the gentleman to spell the surname.  He spelled out the surname, and I continued to scan the screen.  No Neeve to be found.  I then proceeded to ask the man, “Could you please spell the first name?” The man spelled the name letter by letter, “N-I-A-M-H.” Sure enough, there was a Niamh on the screen, and I transferred him through without any further trouble.

Irish names are different because on many occasions, the names are Gaelic. Gaelic is the native language in Ireland, and it possesses its own letter combinations and sounds. In the case of the female name “Niamh,” it comes to sound like “Neeve.” Countless Irish names are like this, and the struggle continues to learn the spelling and pronunciation of these names. Below I are several male and female Irish names that I have encountered.  Both the Irish spelling and how to pronounce the names are presented.

Boys Names

Ciaran : Keer – an  *  Colm : Col – lum  *  Eamon : Ay – man

Eoghan : Oh – wen  *  Michael : Mee – haul  *  Padraig : Paw – rick

 Girls Names

Aislin : Ash – ling  *  Ciara : Kee – rah  *  Grainne : Grawn – yah

Maire : Moor – rah  *  Roisin : Roh – shin *  Siobhan – Shi – vahn

About travelmorgantravel

Morgan is a travel blogger and columnist who loves chocolate and a cheesy rom-com. She spends her time reading self-help books in attempt to reassure herself that she isn't all that crazy. Follow her on her wild adventures around the world.

0 Comments

  1. Hello There! Glad you found me so I could find you. I am please to tag along virtually on your adventures! I think it is brilliant you are courageous enough to follow your dreams! It will be an awesome ride! I can relate with the need for translation with the Brits or the Irish. I have had a lot of wonderful contact with both. Roommates and friends and travel adventures gave me quite the education,” Culchie people” and “give ou”t were the only two words I didn’t know. But there is always more to learn!

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