An update: A compilation of the Tips and Notes for the first 8/30 skills with tips and notes :-)
Hi there! Thought I'd make a quick post with all the tips and notes for the first 6 skills of the Scottish Gaelic course, so that people who haven't started the course or haven't unlocked the skills yet can see them. So here we go! :D
Welcome to Scottish Gaelic on Duolingo! Fàilte gu Duolingo na Gàidhlig!
Gaelic, although it may appear quite different at first is a very regular language with consistent grammar rules and a sensible spelling system that accurately represents Gaelic sounds.
There is no indefinite article in Gaelic. The word cù which means dog could be translated as either "a dog" or simply "dog". Nice and easy, so far so good. This skill does not explore words with the definite article (equivalent to "the") at all.
The basic word order of Scottish Gaelic is:
Verb | Subject | Object
The important thing to remember at this stage is that the verb (doing word) generally goes at the start of a sentence.
In a basic descriptive sentence the adjective would come at the end.
Tha | Anna | snog
Verb | Subject | Adjective
This sentence translates as "Anna is nice."
Using "tha" and "chan eil"
Tha and *chan eil" are both present tense forms of the verb to be. This verb is your friend. Think of it as your Gaelic bestie. There are lots of ways to use it that will unfold as the course progresses.
Seo is a useful word. It can mean either "this is" or "here is" although for consistency we have tended to translate it as this is.
As a general rule, words are spelled as they're pronounced in Scottish Gaelic. Once you are comfortable with Gaelic spelling (don't worry, we'll help), then the system will be a learner's best friend. Generally, stress is on the first syllable in Gaelic. We are lucky to have recordings from a range of speakers. Dialectal differences are actually quite small in Scottish Gaelic and our recordings are an example of the most standardised form of Gaelic. You will hear some small variations in accent, which will help prepare you for Gaelic in the wild. Pronunciation challenges found throughout our course will help accustom you to Gaelic sounds not found in English.
An 18 Letter Alphabet
The Gaelic alphabet contains 18 letters. This is the perfect amount of letters. Anything more would be frivolous and wasteful. There is no J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y, or Z. This is a major inconvenience during games of Gaelic Scrabble, but otherwise presents no difficulty.
IRN BRU is Scotland's best selling soft drink. It is fizzy and orange and comes from Cumbernauld.
Leat vs. Leibh
In this skill you will come across some simple ways of thanking people. Like many European languages the form you use will depend on who you are speaking to.
- Tapadh leat - When thanking one peer or one child.
- Tapadh leibh - When thanking someone older or more senior.
- Tapadh leibh - When thanking more than one person, regardless of age or formality needed.
This distinction runs through the language and although it can seem a little confusing at first, practice will embed it very quickly. You are very unlikely to offend anyone by choosing the wrong form, and even if you did they probably wouldn't have much craic anyway.
The Adjective follows the Noun
The adjective almost always follows the noun in Gaelic.
- cat mòr - a big cat
- cù snog - a nice dog
Masculine or Feminine?
All nouns in Gaelic have a gender, masculine or feminine. We used to have a neuter gender too but we lost it on a ferry in the middle ages.
The Magic of Lenition
The gender the noun often causes a special type of consonant mutation called lenition. You can see an example of this with the words like madainn and oidhche (both feminine nouns) and feasgar (a masculine noun).
- Feasgar math - Good afternoon / evening
- Madainn mhath - Good morning
- Oidhche mhath - Good night
Singular feminine nouns usually cause this lenition (in writing) in adjectives starting with the consonants:
- b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, and t
But not in those beginning with:
- l, n, r, sg, sm, sp, st, and vowels.
You don't need to memorise this now, the best way to become comfortable with is is gradual exposure throughout the course. Lenition happens for lots of reasons.
The Vocative Case
The vocative case is used when addressing something or someone. It is cool and sounds great and is absolutely worth learning. We do not go into it in (forensic) detail at this stage, but it helps to be able to recognise the vocative case in action at this stage, before we go to town on it in the Names 1.
Here are some examples:
Caraid is the Gaelic for "friend":
- caraid - nominative Case (the basic form) = Seo caraid (This is a friend).
- a charaid - vocative case (used to address someone) = Halò, a chàraid (Hello, friend).
Tidsear is the Gaelic for teacher.
- tidsear - nominative case = Seo tidsear (This is a teacher)
- a thidseir - vocative case - Halò a thidseir(Hello teacher)
Piuthar is the Gaelic for sister.
- piuthar - nominative case - Seo piuthar (This is a sister)
- a phiuthar - vovative case - Halò a phiuthar (Hello sister)
When using the vocative with a noun starting with a vowel the "a" particle disappears. It is common in most languages when vowels come together like this for one of them to drop off:
Ollamh is the Gaelic for professor:
- ollamh - nominative case = Seo ollamh (This is a professor)
- ollaimh - vocative case - Halò, ollaimh (Hello, professor)
Food and Drink
I like Gaelic
In this skill, you will come across talking about your likes and dislikes.
- Is toil leam – I like
- Cha toil leam – I don’t like
These phrases don’t translate nicely into English word for word so for now, it’s best to just think of the full phrase as one item.
Leam - our first prepositional pronoun
A prepositional pronoun is when a pronoun (me, you, him etc.) comes together with a preposition (with, on, at etc.) to make a beautiful word baby. We will see many more examples of these in the course and you do not need to understand what a prepositional pronoun is at this stage to use leam like a champ.
In this lesson, we’re saying something is, or isn’t, liked “by me” using the prepositional pronoun leam.
Leam consists of two words:
- a pronoun - mi (me/I)
- and a preposition - le (with/by)
Is toil leam Gàidhlig – I like Gaelic (Gaelic is liked by me)
These will become clearer in future lessons so for now, remember the phrases Is toil leam and Cha toil leam to talk about your likes and dislikes, and keep an eye out for future prepositional pronouns.
|with/by you (singular)||leat|
|with/by you (plural)||leibh|
Toil vs. Toigh
It is common to see toigh in place of toil.
Is toigh leam = Is toil leam
We have opted to teach toil as it is more common. These are two very similar but distinct words, and neither is correct over the other.
Guga for beginners
Guga (or the Ness Chicken) is a famous delicacy from the Isle of Lewis. The people of Ness have been taking fledging gannets from a remote rock in the ocean for food since time immemorial. The young birds are salted on the spot and brought back to the island for food. This is one of only two seabird hunts still continuing in Europe. The Royal Society for the Protection of birds regard the hunt as ecologically sustainable.
Guga is generally something you either love or hate. It tastes a bit like mackerel and the smell as it is cooked is generally a lot stronger than the taste. Some love it. It has once between describe as "strong duck stewed in cod liver oil and salt". Blasta! (Tasty!).
Haggis - Scotland's Mystery Mince
Haggis is all the best bits of a sheep (the lungs, heart and liver) rolled up into it's stomach and boiled. It is traditionally eaten on Burn's night on the 25th of January but is popular all year round. Vegetarian Haggis is also popular and worth a try. Neither variety roams free on the hills. The wild Haggis is extinct.
Now It's Personal (Pronouns)
A personal pronoun is a word that replaces the name of a person or persons, and we are looking here at the basic forms of these. Gaelic also has forms used to show emphasis, which you will stumble upon on your quest in due course.
Personal pronouns in Gaelic are nice and simple. There is no distinction between "I" and "me", "he" and "him", "she" and "her", or "them" and "they" as we find in English. There is an informal singular word for "you" (thu ) and also a formal / plural (sibh ). This follows the same pattern we explored with leat and leibh.
|mi||me / I|
|e||he / him / it (when standing in for a masculine word)|
|i||she / her / it (when standing in for a feminine word)|
|sinn||we / us|
|sibh||you (to show respect to someone older or more senior, or for more than one person)|
|iad||they / them|
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Just before anyone gets freaked out, saying sorry in Gaelic is pretty easy. We just wanted to shoehorn an Elton John reference in here.
In this skill we explore the use of "duilich" and "gabh mo leisgeul". Both of these can be used to apologise in different contexts:
Tha mi duilich - You would generally use this when you are actually sorry i.e. when you are experiencing the actual emotion of sorrow, are sympathising, or are apologising with sincerity. Use this when things get real.
Gabh mo leisgeul - This means "excuse me" and would translate word for word into English as "take my excuse". You would more likely use this when you bump into someone or spill their IRN BRU. You can also use it to flag someone down and get their attention.
Gaelic's Golden Rule - Broad with Broad / Slender with Slender
The Gaelic spelling can seem intimidating at first glance, although it is on the whole very sensible and regular, once you are accustomed to the rules. This golden rule however will help you know if you are going in the right direction. Gaelic shares this rule with the Irish language.
In Gaelic, vowels are regarded as either broad or slender:
Broad - a, o, u
Slender - i, e
When vowels are split by a consonant, they will either be broad and broad on both sides, or slender and slender. This won't tell you exactly how to spell a word, but will generally rule out many wrong combinations.
Examples in the Feelings skill include:
Broad with Broad - brònach, spòrsail, ciamar, Seumas
Slender with Slender - leisgeul, duilich, toilichte
There are a few exceptions, but let's ignore them for now. These are usually words that were formerly a composite of two words that have been squished together.
Sibh - Shiv or Shoo
Most pronunciation differences in Gaelic are fairly mild. However, there are two common ways to say this word:
Sibh (pronounced as shiv) - The most frequently heard in this course by far.
Sibh (pronounced as shoo) - Common in Lewis and the North of Scotland. This occurs in a couple of places in the course. Bonus points when you spot it!
To Be Or Not To Be - Using the verb "Bi".
Like Spanish, Gaelic has two verbs which mean "to be". We have encountered two presents tense forms of bi so far:
Tha - The present tense positive form:
E.g Tha Mòrag snog. - Morag is nice.
Chan eil - the present tense negative form:
E.g. Chan eil Mòrag snog. - Morag is not nice.
I Am From - Using "Bi"
To describe where you are from you in Gaelic you can use the verb "bi" in combination with a preposition:
à - from
- Tha mi à Alba. - I am from Scotland.
- Tha IRN BRU à Alba. - IRN BRU is from Scotland.
- Chan eil mi à Alba. - I am not from Scotland.
- Chan eil IRN BRU à Sasainn. - IRN BRU is not from England.
None of the place names you come across in this unit have a definite article in front of them, we will explore this later on it the course.
To ask someone else where they are from you would use:
- Cò às a tha thu? - One person who is not significantly older or with more seniority
- Cò às a tha sibh? - More than one person or someone older or with more seniority
Is Mise Duo
The other verb that means "to be" is the copula is. Forms of bi like tha and chan eil are more often used to describe things. The verb is is often used to define things:
- Is mise Mòrag - I am Morag
Morag knows who she is. We hear ya Morag. Morag is not describing, but defining herself as Morag.
Spoiler: We can, and will do a lot more with this verb as we explore further.
To ask someone who they are you would use:
- Cò thusa?_ - One person who is not significantly older or with more seniority
- Cò sibhse? - More than one person or someone older or with more seniority
There is also a phrase for "what is your name" that we will encounter, but for the moment this will do the same job.
Emphatic Personal Pronouns - a first glimpse
Mise is the emphatic form of the personal pronoun mi. Likewise, thusa is an emphatic from of thu and sibhse is an emphatic form of sibh.
Emphatic forms will be explored in detail, but remembering these as part of these common phrases will be really helpful at this stage of the tree.
Congratulations, you have used the two most common verbs in Gaelic! You are smashing this out of the park!
Shoes on Me, Pants on You - Orm and Ort
Remember the prepositional pronouns leam (with me) and leat (with you)? Remember how fun that was? Good times, those were the days.
This skill introduces two new prepositional pronouns to conquer. They are really useful for describing what you are (or aren't) wearing, as well as having loads of other uses.
Orm - on me
This is a combination of the words air (meaning on) and mi (meaning me / I). Although in English we might say "on me", in Gaelic we must combine these words into one mighty superword:
- Tha drathais orm. - I have underpants on.
- Chan eil lèine orm. - I do not have a shirt on.
Ort - On You
This is a combination of the words air (meaning on) and thu (meaning you). There is also another word we use to show respect or when talking to more than one person, but probably best to begin with telling one person what they are wearing before moving on to crowds.
- Tha drathais ort. - You have underpants on.
- Chan eil lèine ort. - You do not have a shirt on.
Is it a verb? Is it a noun? It's sort of both, and it is super useful. This is the first time we come across a verbal noun in this course. These are similar to "-ing" words in English. This is a common way of forming the present tense in Gaelic. If you can use one verbal noun (you can, you've got this), then you can use any of them.
Verbal Noun 1 - ag iarraidh
- Tha mi ag iarraidh fèileadh. - I am wanting a kilt.
- Tha mi ag iarraidh IRN BRU. - I am wanting IRN BRU.
- Tha mi ag iarraidh taigeis. - I am wanting haggis.
Verbal Noun 2 - a’ ceannach
- Tha mi a’ ceannach fèileadh. - I am buying a kilt.
- Tha mi a’ ceannach IRN BRU. - I am buying IRN BRU.
- Tha mi a’ ceannach taigeis. - I am buying haggis.
This pattern repeats with almost all verbal nouns. Once you know one, it's just a case of learning new ones!
I am wanting a kilt
Those of you from outside of Scotland may find these structures a little strange, but they more accurately reflect what is going on in the Gaelic than "I want a kilt". This type of structure is actually pretty common in Scotland, possibly in part due to the influence of Gaelic.
Phrasing it in this way will really help us to teach the differences between things that are happening more immediately (I am wanting) and things that happen regularly or as a matter of habit as the course progresses (I want).
Fèileadh - Kilt
A kilt is a piece of cloth and SO MUCH MORE. Traditionally worn by men as part of Scottish Highland dress, they are also worn by women and children. Each family (or clan) has their own tartan (or several). Underpants are optional.
- Tha fèileadh orm. - I have a kilt on.
- Chan eil drathais orm. - I don't have underpants on.
Congratulations, you have just learned how to tell people if they are wearing clothes or not!
Agam - At Me
Agam is another prepositional pronoun and consists of the words aig (meaning "at") and mi (me / I). It would be wrong to say aig mi. We have to combine the two words into a superword - agam.
We don't have a verb like "have" in Gaelic (totally unnecessary, honest) but we can use combinations of aig to show possession.
Tha peata agam. - I have a pet. (There is a pet at me)
Tha cù agam. - I have a dog. (There is a dog at me)
Agad - At You
Agad is a combination of aig (at) and thu (you - informal / singular).
Tha peata agad. - You have a pet. (There is a pet at you)
Tha IRN BRU agad. - You have IRN BRU. (There is IRN BRU at you)
We can use lots more combinations of aig to show what we have and don't have.
Glè - Very
Lenition (adding an h after the first consonant) is part of what makes Gaelic so funky. The word glè causes lenition in the adjective that follows it whenever possible:
- Glè + beag = Glè bheag (Very small)
- Glè + math = Glè mhath (Very good)
You can't lenite a vowel. Just try it. It's impossible.
- Glè + òg = Glè òg (Very young)
Is it a verb? Is it a noun? It's sort of both, and it is super useful. This may be the first time we come across a verbal noun in this course. These are similar to -ing words in English. This is a common way of forming the present tense in Gaelic. If you can use one verbal noun (you can, you've got this), then you can use any of them.
Verbal Noun 1 - a’ faicinn
Tha mi a’ faicinn cat. - I am seeing a cat.
Tha mi a’ faicinn muc. - I am seeing a pig.
N.B See the notes for Clothes 1 to see why we use "I am seeing" and not "I see".
Verbal Noun 2 - a’ cluinntinn
Tha mi a’ cluinntinn cat. - I am hearing a cat.
Tha mi a’ cluinntinn tunnag. - I am hearing a duck.
This pattern repeats with almost all verbal nouns. Once you know one, it's just a case of learning new ones!
This is the Gaelic for "spider" and it means "a fierce little stag". Another much less common word for spider is "poca-salainn" which means a bag of salt. Top class words. 10/10.
Currently the audio for damhan-allaidh doesn't work when the word appears on one tile, due to the way the software reads the hyphen. It is read as normal in the recorded sentences.
The Weather (is Frequently Awful)
Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. To balance this out, it was afflicted with some interesting weather! This is often a hot topic in Gaelic conversations, and this skill will teach you how to describe rain, snow, wind, and also the word for sunny (in case you happen to be using your Gaelic abroad).
Disclaimer: It's not that bad. Just remember a jacket (seacaid).
The most simple way to describe the weather is to use tha + i + an adjective.
- Tha i fuar. - It is cold.
- Tha i fliuch. - It is wet.
- Chan eil i blàth. - It is not warm.
The word for "weather" (sìde) is feminine in Gaelic, and so we teach the personal pronoun i and not e. The word for "day" in Gaelic (latha) is masculine, and so you can also see e used in place of i. Phrases like Tha i fuar are certainly more common than Tha e fuar, but neither is wrong and both would be understood.
Sìde vs. Aimsir
There are two common words for weather in Gaelic:
- Sìde and Aimsir
Both are common, both are feminine, and both are equally easy to use. We have stuck with sìde at the moment so as not to overload your burgeoning Gaelic brains.
Conversation Starters 101: Cò Ris a Tha an t-Sìde Coltach?
This is how you ask what the weather is like in Gaelic. Moaning about the weather is like catnip for Scottish people. This is your in.
This is probably the longest phrase you have come across so far. Don't worry about its constituent parts at this stage, just think of it as a set phrase to remember. Cut yourself some slack if you muddle it up. It is very useful, so it is worth tackling. It is also very fun to say.
You could also say - Ciamar a tha an t-sìde? This is not wrong, but it is a lot less idiomatic and not nearly as common in everyday speech.
Taking "Bi" to the Next Level - A Bheil
This is the question form of bi: Tha i fuar. - It is cold. Chan eil i fuar. - It is not cold. * A bheil i fuar? - Is it cold?
To say "yes", you would respond tha. To say "no", you would respond chan eil.
Taking "Bi" to the Next Level After the Next Level - Nach Eil
This is the negative interrogative form of bi. I like to think of it as a question with an attitude. With most of these questions, you would expect the answer to be yes, as they aren't really genuine requests for information!
- Nach eil i fuar? - Isn't it cold?
- Nach eil Iain dona? - Isn't Iain bad?
Also great for starting conversations about the weather, or how terrible Iain is.
We come across another structure that at first glance looks a little more complicated using the preposition ann.
Ann is quite open ended but we use to indicate that something is present. It is very common when we are discussing the weather. It can mean “present”, “here”, or “there”, depending on the context:
- Tha reòthadh ann. - There is frost. *Tha dealanaich ann. - There is lightning.
This structure can be used for much more than just the weather though:
- Tha Seòras ann. - George is here.
- Tha cat ann. - A cat is here.
Practice makes perfect here. You will see this combination used a lot in Gaelic.
An-Dràsta vs. A-Nis
Gaelic has two common words meaning "now":
an-dràsta - just now, as in right at this moment; implies that the situation could change.
a-nis - a more generalised now; could also mean nowadays.
- Tha Iain snog a-nis. - Iain is nice now.
- Tha Iain ann an-dràsta. - Iain is here just now.
Gu math is a really useful adverb that can be used in a few different ways. We have seen it used to indicate that someone is well:
- Tha mi gu math. - I am well.
We can also use it in combination with an adjective to change its meaning in a couple of ways. Context in a real conversation will indicate which translation is meant, but we accept both translations in the course.
Gu math as "quite" - as in "a little" or "a wee bit":
- Tha i gu math sgòthach. - It is quite cloudy.
- Tha i gu math blàth. - It is quite warm.
Gu math as "really" - as in "very" or "significantly".
- Tha i gu math gaothach. - It is really windy.
- Tha i gu math grianach. - It is really sunny.
See Clothes 1 for an explanation of what these bad boys are.
- Tha mi a’ faireachdainn sgìth. - I am feeling tired.
- Tha mi a’ faireachdainn fuar. - I am feeling cold.
N.B. See Clothes 1 to read why we use "I am feeling" and not "I feel".
Certain exercises in the course involving tiles often render words like a’ faireachdainn as:
This is due to how the code reads the apostrophe, and is a problem shared with other courses. Duolingo staff are working on a fix. The correct form with an apostrophe should always appear first - but please bear this in mind when tile challenges appear.