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The dialect of Irish in the film An Cailín Ciúin

dialects of irish useful phrases

Have you seen the Oscar nominated film An Cailín Ciúin yet? (The film is called The Quiet Girl in the states). If you have perhaps you wondered what variety, or dialect, of Irish is spoken in the film. Click on the video above to get a little taste of the Irish in An Cailín Ciúin, and read on to find out more about this particular dialect of Irish.


Gaeltacht areas

The term 'Gaeltacht' is used to describe the regions in Ireland in which the Irish language may still be considered a community language, and is spoken on a daily basis. The strongest Gaeltacht areas lie along the rugged west coast, in the counties of Donegal, Galway and Kerry.


But there is also a small pocket size Gaeltacht area in County Waterford, in the south-east of Ireland. This area is known as Gaeltacht na nDéise and it is here that the film An Cailín Ciúin is set. The population of this small coastal community is just under 2,000, of whom some 45% use the Irish language on a daily basis.


On the map below the area in which An Cailín Ciúin is set is circled in red.


Dialects of Irish

Anyone starting to learn the Irish language will be confronted quite early on with the conundrum of deciding which dialect, or variety, of Irish to learn. The language is not spoken uniformly throughout Ireland and instead may be divided into three main dialects (see the map above): Connacht Irish (spoken in Counties Galway and Mayo); Ulster Irish (spoken in Donegal on the northwest coast); and Munster Irish (spoken in the Gaeltacht areas in Counties Cork, Kerry and Waterford). There is also a small Gaeltacht area in Co. Meath, which was set up under a government scheme in 1935 when Irish speakers, mainly from Connemara, were transplanted eastwards.


The Irish in An Cailín Ciúin

The Irish spoken in An Cailín Ciúin is a sub-dialect of Munster Irish, known as Gaeilge na nDéise. There are certain peculiarities of the Irish spoken in this area, and perhaps the most notable feature of the Irish spoken here is the way in which certain vowels are pronounced.

Click on the video above to hear a great example of the pronunciation. In this clip we hear the woman say the word 'im'. 'Im' is the Irish word for 'butter', and is pronounced more like 'Team' without the 't' everywhere else in Ireland. Notice how the word 'im' sounds more like 'eye-m' in the video clip! The way in which this vowel is pronounced is a unique feature of the Irish spoken in this Gaeltacht area, and perhaps its most distinctive marker.

Because this Gaeltacht area is so small in comparison to the other Gaeltacht areas, the Irish spoken here does not get the same prominence on Irish language media as the Irish from the larger Gaeltacht areas.

Not anymore however, a bhuíochas leis An Cailín Ciúin!


Don't let talk of dialects hold you back!

If you're learning Irish don't let the fact that there are different dialects hold you back in any way. Remember, it's all the one language, and there are far more similarities than differences. My view is that it's best to just learn Irish, any Irish....and when you have a good understanding of the structure of the language you might decide to zone in on one particular dialect. I teach Connacht Irish, but always make sure to point out the main differences with the other main dialects so that students are not thrown if they hear a word pronounced differently outside of class.

Just get started, and the rest will fall into place! A great way to start is with one of my courses. I teach Irish language courses online from Beginner level right up to Advanced. Start with the Beginner Irish course if you have never learned Irish before, or even if you have already a few words. The Beyond Beginner courses use real-life conversations in Irish to build confidence speaking Irish. Take a Learning Irish Through Literature course if you want to get lots of listening practice. I also offer a self-study course teaching everything you need to know about how to use the Present Tense in Irish through listening to entertaining conversations in Irish. If you're not sure which course is the right one for you just contact me!

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