THE BLOG

In Ireland: English as a Foreign Language

26/11/2015 15:43 GMT | Updated 24/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Generally when I've moved to a new place I am in language learning mode: learning new words everyday, being puzzled by expressions, and dealing with the frustrations of not being able to express exactly what I want.

Oddly I have come to enjoy this process and so considered learning Irish, but this hasn't happened and not many people really speak Irish here in Dublin anyway.

That said, I have been getting my dose of linguistic educational experiences as speaking English with the Irish has its own set of puzzlements and quirks. Here are some key pieces of vocabulary for any English speakers that find themselves learning English as a foreign language in Ireland:

The Lads

In my mind, lads = a group of young males who are probably loud, sometimes offensive and have their lad identity continually confirmed by banter and group antics with their other lad friends. The Oxford dictionary has 'lad' down as "a boy or a young man"; "a group of men sharing recreational, working, or other interests"; "a boisterously macho or high spirited young man".

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In Ireland, people use lads to refer to any assortment of individuals. Your nephew, great aunt and her cat are also 'the lads'.

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The Conditional Tense

Another quirk is the frequent, sometimes misleading and seemingly unnecessary, use of the conditional tense. The comment "He would be a good friend of mine" leaves you thinking that something has happened. He would be a good friend of yours if... he hadn't burnt your house down, crashed your car, stolen your girlfriend...? But no, nothing so dramatic, it just means that he is a good friend, generally. No conditional meaning intended.

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Your man

Being told that a man I had met once was "mine" was quite a surprise the first time I heard it. The Irish like referring to people in conversation as "your man" which is actually quite nice, compared to the more distant "that guy", that I'm used to. If the person in question in female then "your wan" may be used. Another variation is 'poor man'.

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Ye

No, 'ye' did not die with Shakespeare. The Irish still use this archaic plural form of 'you'. It makes sense, most languages do it.

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I'm after going....

If someone says "I'm after going to the shop" it means "I just went to the shop", which I guess makes sense because you are now inhabiting a time, after going to the shop.. but when first hearing it I had no idea what was going on. My Irish speaking neighbour Emma explained: "It's pretty much a direct translation of how you'd say it in Irish, Tá mé tar éis x. A lot of Irish English has this feature, like how we tend to answer in the affirmative instead of a straight yes as there is no yes (or no) in Irish."

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Yeah yeah *yeah*

The Irish are very good conversationalists. Part of conversation is reacting to and acknowledging what someone is saying to you. This might be done with a nod, making a sound, saying 'yes', saying 'oh', etc. 'Yeah' is commonly used in this way, and then there is a special 'yeah' which is said while taking an inward breath.

This may actually be more efficient, allowing the speaker to perform two tasks at once: inhaling oxygen (necessary) and responding to the interlocutor (polite). Apart from this, the inhaled 'yeah' is apparently a more intense version of the normal 'yeah', often occurring on the third 'yeah' in the conversation, according to Karen Gardiner, a teacher of English as a Foreign Language in Galway. She said that students from abroad learning English in Ireland are often alarmed at this gasp for breath, or sometimes choking sound, in the middle of a conversation.

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