And one can tell how a word is pronounced from the spelling!
That's as true for Irish as it is for Welsh.
Is it? I remember looking at several descriptions of what Irish vowel digraphs do and still being unsure of what actually went on. I'm pretty sure that ea
is [_ja] and ai
is [a_j] (palatalization goes on following consonant -- sorry, I'm being sloppy with transcriptions), but then some people seem to say that ea
is actually [j_E], [j_æ] or something, and that confuses the heck out of me. Can't anyone make up her mind?! And don't even ask me what ia
do; I thought I knew at one point, but I just couldn't get a clear picture from anything I ran into. Maybe I should do some more research on this subject, but I'd probably just get overwhelmed and run away making vague noises of consternation.
And then, of course, just when you think you know what's going on with all those vowels and slender/broad consonants, you run smack up against the inevitable dialectal variation. I know, I know, dialects are so great and wonderful and we mustn't squash them because they show the character of the region or whatever, but they're so confusing if you don't know which is which or which one you're learning or reading about. They also result in countless variant spelling schemes, regardless of whether someone's already devised a unified orthography. Welsh and Irish both have lots of dialectal variation (yes it was hard for me at first with Welsh but soon I got it all straightened out), and I think Irish has some sort of unified orthography too, which Welsh doesn't seem to, but my impression was that whereas Welsh spelling varied slightly based on local pronunciation, Irish spelling varied greatly based on how the writer felt like spelling it. Admittedly both their spelling schemes probably vary based on both factors, but I think one is predominant for Irish and the other for Welsh. Correct me if you think I'm wrong, as I may well be.
So, in short, I've read up almost equally well on Irish and Welsh pronunciation and spelling rules, but I was frightened away by the former and I've pretty well mastered the latter. (My r's are still a bit of a mess and I struggle with ll's at the ends of syllables, but at least I know roughly what does what.) If I really wanted to verify that one was in fact "easier" than the other, I should try to learn Irish, but somehow I don't really want to. This is why you may not want to trust what I have to say.