Speak Irish: Is Breá Liom Mé!

Speak Irish: Is Breá Liom Mé!
by Bob Carney

I really like it! We’ve come along way in just a couple of months in getting to know someone using the Irish language. We’ve learned to say hello, introduce ourselves, ask someone their name, inquire how they are and even where they’re from.

Another way to build a friendship is to share our likes and dislikes. We’ll review some of what we know, plus add a few new words and phrases and talk about what we like. In Irish there is no equivalent to the english “yes” or “no”; we have to reply using the same verb that was used in the question.

Also, keep the pronunciation guide from the Jan. 2019 issue handy, it can help make sense of our phonetic translations.

Conversation Example:

Norá: Dia duit.   (jee-uh ghitch) God to you.

Aoife: Dia’s Muire duit. (jee-us mor-ah ghitch) God and Mary to you.

Norá: Conas atá tú? Is mise Norá, cén t-ainm atá ort? (kuhn-us ah taw ort? Iss mee-sha Nora, ken tan-im ah-taw ort?)   How are you? I’m Nora, what’s your name?

Aoife: Níl mé go dona. Is mise Aoife, tá sé go deas bualadh leat. (neel may guh dun-uh. Iss mee-sha ee-fah, taw shay guh jess boola laht)

I’m not bad. I’m Aoife, it’s nice to meet you.

Norá: Tá sé go deas bualadh leatsa! An maith leat ag léamh?  (Taw shay guh jess boola laht-sa! ahn mah laht ah lee-uv) It’s nice to meet you! Do you like to read?

Aoife: Is maith liom bheith ag léamh agus is breá liom bheith ag seinm ceoil. (Iss mah lum veh ah lee-uv ah-gus is braw lum veh ah shen-im kyool) I like to read and I love to play music. Agus freisin, an éisteann tú le ceol? (ah-gus fresh-in, ahn ay-stahn too leh kyool) And yourself, do you listen to music?

Norá: Éisteam. Is breá liom ceol traidisiúnta. (Ay-stahm. Iss braw lum kyool trah-dih-shoon-ta) Yes. I love traditional music.

Aoife: An bhfuil ceol agat féin? (Ahn will kyool ah-gut fayne) Are you musical yourself?

Norá: Tá. Seinnim an fhidil. (Taw shen-im ahn ih-dil) Yes. I play the fiddle.

Aoife: Maith thú! (mah who) Good job or fair play to you!

Norá: Feicfidh mé thú. (fek-ay may who) I’ll see you.

Aoife: Slán. Tóg go bog é. (slawn. Toeg guh bug ay) Goodbye. Take it easy.

Notice that when Norá asked Aoife if she likes to read, “An maith leat ag léamh?”, the g was not pronounced in the word ag. It is omitted when preceding a word that starts with a consonant, but pronounced when it precedes a word starting with a vowel. Aoife responded by repeating back the verb that Norá used when asking the question, “Is maith liom bheith ag léamh.”.

Vocabulary and Phrases:

Is maith liom… (iss mah lum…) I like…

Ní maith liom… (nee mah lum…) I don’t like…

Is maith liom Guinness! Ní maith liom báisteach. (bawsh-tawhk) rain

Tá dúil mhór agam. (taw dool vor ah-gum) I really like it.

Is breá liom é. (iss braw lum ay) It’s fine with me. (also a way to say you really like something)

Ní maith liom ar chor ar bith é. (nee mah lum ar cor ar bih ay) I don’t like it at all.

Is fuath liom é. (iss foo-ah lum ay) I hate it.

Tá sé ceart go leor. (taw shay kyart guh lore) It’s allright or ok.

If you wish to talk about something you like to participate in you would phrase it slightly differently.

Is maith liom a bheith… (iss mah lum ah veh) I like…

An maith leat…? (ahn mah laht…) Do you like…?

Is maith. (iss mah) affirmative reply to An maith leat…?

Ní maith (nee mah) negative reply

An maith leatsa é? (ahn mah laht-sa ay?) Do you like it? (emphatic)

An maith leat féin é? (ahn mah laht fayne ay) Do you like it yourself?

Is fearr liom.. (iss far lum) I prefer…

Ag léamh (ah lee-uv) reading

Ag seinm ceoil (a shen-im kyool) playing music

Ag snámh (ah snahv) swimming

Ag canadh (ah kah-nah) singing

Ag rith (ah rih) running

Ag garraíodóireacht (ah gar-ee-ah-dor-ahcht) gardening

An amharclann (ahn ah-ver-clen)   the theater

An phictiúrlann (ahm fic-tchoor-len)  the  cinema

An scannán  (ahn scan-an) the film

An teach tábhairne (ahn chawhk tah-vern) the pub

The on-line dictionary can be extremely helpful if you find pronuciation difficult, it is easier to hear the words along with a phonetic example than to rely on just the phonetics. Finally, here is an excerpt of the poem “Anois Teacht an tEarraigh” “Spring is Coming”, written by Antaine Ó Raifteirí and translated by Frank O’Connor.

“Anois teacht an tEarraigh                     (ah-nesh chawhk ahn ehr-ahgh)

Beidh an lá dúl chon shíneadh,             (veh ahn law dool kon she-nay)

Is tar eis na féil Bride                               (iss tar esh na fayl breedj)

Ardóigh mé mo sheol                              (ar doe may mo hole)

Go Coillte Mach rachad                           (guh cah-leeta mahch rah kayd)

Ní stopfaidh mé choíche                          (nee stop fay may hwee-ha)

Go seasfaidh mé sios                                 (guh shesh-fay may sheesh)

I lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo”                        (ih lar hawn-day may oh)

Now with the springtime

The days will grow longer

And after St. Bride’s day

My sail I’ll let go

I put my mind to it,

And never will I linger

Till I find myself back

In the County Mayo.


*Bob Carney is a student of Irish history and language and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday @Pj McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhounds and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary and hounds Cian and Morrighanand terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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