Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Should emigrants learn to speak more clearly?

Voice trainer says emigrants who don’t pronounce their words properly can be made fun of, and experience difficulties in work and social situations

Doireann Ni Bhriain has just produced an audio pronunciation guide for Irish broadcasters. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 11:00


Former RTÉ journalist, voice trainer and voice of the Luas Doireann Ni Bhriain has said emigrants should speak more clearly than they do in Ireland so they can be understood by locals in their new country.

Ni Bhriain was on the John Murray Show on RTÉ Radio this morning, talking about how Irish people’s pronunciation has deteriorated, especially when it comes to our “th”s and “ing”s. She said the problem was clarity when speaking, rather than regional accents. “People with really strong regional accents can be the clearest speakers… One doesn’t contradict the other.”

She said emigrants who don’t pronounce their words properly can be made fun of, and experience difficulties in work and social situations. “That’s the fear, with a lot of people emigrating, if they go abroad as so-called perfect English speakers, people make fun of things like the “th”s [pronounced] wrong.”

She said emigrants should “speak more clearly, and not to say ‘trew’ when you mean ‘threw the ball’, and not to say ‘teme’ when you mean ‘theme’, and not to say ‘tree’ when you mean ‘three’… It will stop people remarking on it. You like people to say what a wonderful guy you are and what a wonderful broadcaster you are. But you don’t want them to say ‘he’s the guy who can’t pronounce his “th”s’.”

Have you ever had difficulty being understood because of your pronunciation or accent where you live? Would you agree that the Irish way of speaking English is difficult for others to understand?

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