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International student problems: working out the Irish accent!

November 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

Kevin, our Malaysian UCC ambassador discovers the nuances of the Irish and our language…

Let’s start with a little background…I’m studying at a Master’s in Management and Marketing at UCC with full scholarship for one year in Ireland. When I arrived in Ireland, I was freezing! Where I come from there is only sun with occasional rain, it’s an average 30-32 degrees all year round. I’ve been drinking hot chocolate since I stepped off the plane at Cork Airport! Despite the cold here, I’ve loved making Ireland my home – it’s hospitable, and the people here are really friendly, approachable, and great fun to talk with. I speak five different languages including Malay ( my native language), English, Mandarin, Hokkien dialect, and Cantonese, but while studying here, I have learnt so much from Irish people around the spoken word! Here are some words and phrases that have stuck with me, I hope they help with your transition into the Irish language…


So normally, when you meet someone for the first time, you would say ” hi, how are you?” Right?When I arrived in Cork, they asked me ” hey, what’s cracking?” I was stunned for few seconds, and said “Oh! My head is cracking!”. Everyone began to laugh out loud and then explained the phrase to me! “What’s cracking?” Ain’t that fun? Haha..


Irish people are really unique in how they speak English, and a lot of it centres around this word ‘grand’. It’s a multipurpose word in Ireland! Most people will use this word and even my lecturers too. It can be an endless list of meanings depending on the context including thank you, it’s lovely, it’s okay, don’t worry, it’s fine, it’s perfect, the list goes on.. It took me almost one month to get used to this word and start to speak like an Irish person proudly! For example:

  • What’s cracking?
  • I’m grand.
  • How’s class?
  • Ah, it’s grand.
  • How were your holidays?
  •  Grand!

“Two seconds” or “two minutes”

What’s this about? The Irish love to say two seconds! Whenever they say two seconds, it means five minutes and above. When they say two minutes this means more than 20 minute! When I was in Ireland, it took me awhile to understand this. Let me give a practical example, if there is a meeting held at 2pm and someone says they are going to be late, they will text to the person-in-charge and said will arrive in two seconds (which means 5 minutes). So, don’t get upset with them as it’s just an Irish thing!

“Like.. Like.. Like..”

As most Irish people always have the word “like” at the end of their sentence. It’s part of their culture here. It’s pretty amazing to see in every conversation, there surely will have lots of “like” word mentioned with at least three times. Their favourite sentence “You get what I mean, like?”. It ends at the end of the conversation. Next example is “I don’t know, like” or “You know what’s that, like?”

“Thanks a million”, (said at speed)

I always find it funny when the Irish say “thanks a million”. It’s just a simple “thank you” but the Irish love to say these words! They make it sound so simple and just combine three words together as we know Irish people speak in a fast pace. Lol..

Thanks a million for taking the time to read my blog!

Do you want to study in Ireland? Check out the Education in Ireland website for all the info you need.

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