Monday, 24 February 2014

On Learning Gaelic...


Bilingual road sign in the Highlands


As some of you may know, I am studying Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, to be exact. I am currently approaching the half-way point of the online course that I am taking –Learngaelic.net, and one of the activities now is to listen to people talk about why they started and continued to learn this language, in fluent Gaelic. I am still nowhere near that point, but I have learned to understand a great deal, and gradually worked up to understanding it at the normal speaking pace. The course gradually builds up to that, and this helps you come to grips with listening to people just engaging in everyday conversations.
But why did I start learning it?
I have always been fond of learning languages. At quite a young age I became interested in French and English and in school I was always enjoying these lessons as well as taking classes in classical Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well! Besides that I taught myself bits of Spanish and Italian.
Later, I discovered the Celtic languages with their often very quirky spellings and enigmatic –and mysterious!- “look”. First Irish, but after a while I became frustrated with the –at that time- rather uninspiring learning materials. And now, Scottish “GĂ idhlig” which I find grammatically easier than Irish and there are also some superb learning materials available.
Bilingual welcome!
Our first vacation to Scotland sparked this interest, as “Gaelic” is quite visible there, even in cities like Glasgow or Edinburgh, but more so as soon as you are approaching the Highlands. All of a sudden, the road signs are bilingual, with yellowish words that at first glance seem unpronounceable. And in several places you actually hear people converse in it, on the Isle of Skye for instance. And then there is always the music, from the classical and vast Gaelic folk repertoire to the contemporary rock songs by Runrig.
Still, this is just the interest, but there’s more. By learning Gaelic on a regular basis I also ‘make contact’ with at least an important part of the Scottish ‘group-soul’. The material that I use, on Learngaelic.net, is made by Scots, and performed by Scots at locations in Scotland, some of them very familiar. And there is also a lot of local news and interesting articles communicated through the medium of Gaelic, which you gradually learn to appreciate first-hand. The language has an intricacy and exhibits a special world view that cannot be adequately put into English. And it is a great feeling to actually be able to follow at least some of that.
"Keep Calm and Speak Gaelic"
There is one wish only, and that is that I actually need to learn how to speak it. And unfortunately, that needs someone with whom I can speak it! I could always tape some monologues and study them, and maybe I will just do that to get practice in that area. For now, my focus is to complete this course within a year or so and then maybe delve deeper by taking immersion courses in Scotland itself. First things first, though…

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