On my first trip to Ireland my husband and I butchered the pronunciations of Irish towns, counties, provinces and sightseeing venues. The locals looked at us like we were crazy till we pointed at the name on our map. To their credit, most of the Irish were pretty subtle about correcting us. “Oh, you mean Dromoland.” And then the man proceeded to direct us to the castle.
The one that has kept me in stitches after all these decades is the way my husband pronounced Youghal, a small town in Co. Cork. Now, he is originally from Brooklyn NY so I can understand him saying, “Yo! Gulls!” as if he was greeting seagulls. We later learned it is pronounced like the name of a small boat – yawl.
Since 1973 and with over 50 trips to Ireland under our belts we are slightly better at pronouncing Irish place names. However, each and every time I visit Ireland I learn something new and how to pronounce very obscure locations. When I learn a new pronunciation I write it down phonetically and then practice it till I get it right. I’m sure I test the patience of each kind Irish person who very patiently helps me with this process.
I don’t claim to be an expert on pronouncing Irish place names, but I have picked up a few in my travels. After all these decades of learning I compiled a list to help visitors to Ireland navigate the country without confusing the natives or sending them into gales of laughter. You will find the phonetic list on my website: http://www.irelandyes.com/irelandplacenames.html
Just today while surfing the web I found an online site for pronouncing words. You can actually listen to the words being pronounced. Unfortunately, some of the pronunciations on that site gave me the giggles. Take a listen and let me know what you think.
© 2013 Michele Erdvig
“Ireland Travel Expert”
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