31 July 2012
Across the world, hundreds of millions of people are learning English. Some even go abroad to study, with an increasing number coming to Ireland. The country's language schools say they are busier than ever, despite the recession there.
Click to hear the report
Oliver Lyons runs the Swan Institute, which has been a fixture on Dublin's main shopping street for the past decade. His school attracts around 4,000 students a year, from Europe and beyond, with more and more coming from the Middle East and China.
This year, many schools like Oliver's are reporting extra business, due, they think, to the Olympics in London. Some even suggest that reports of higher costs for accommodation and flights into the UK might have led more students to choose Ireland. And the Irish accent, rather than being viewed as a handicap, is actually quite sought after by students, Oliver says: "Irish English tends to be pretty clear in its pronunciation, easier to actually study. People have said that, for example, in the UK, in advertising agencies, the Irish accent is considered attractive because it's got no particular class connotation, and it's a warm, friendly, inflection and tone. I think people find that attractive."
And how do you tell if someone's studied English here or not? The clue is in what Oliver tells me is the rhotic R:
"In Irish English when we speak we simply put the 'r' - we pronounce it when it's actually there, when it's not there, we don't pronounce it."
"So give me an example - a difference between ..."
"Law. When we say 'the law', we don't say 'the law-r'."
So next time you meet an English language student, listen out for that 'r'. Apparently, it's a giveaway.
Click to hear the vocabulary
- a fixture on
a part of
weakness or problem
- sought after
- class connotation
traits that suggest a person's social class
rising and falling of the voice
quality and attitude of a person's voice
piece of information that helps to understand
- the rhotic 'r'
Irish English is 'rhotic', which means the letter 'r' is clearly pronounced in almost all positions of a word (e.g. butter, hard, world).
- it's a giveaway
it makes it very easy to guess