Spellings are a nightmare!
I'm really enjoying the Gaelic course but I can't wrap my head around the spelling AT ALL. So many words don't make sense, there's so many unpronounced letters and I don't understand the sounds each letter makes. Any tips on how to get a grasp of the phonics and rules for the spellings?
If it makes you feel any better, once you get the hang of it Gaelic spelling is far more logical and predictable than English spelling. Have you had a look at the Tips and Notes? They're only available on desktop, but here's a link to them all together - https://duome.eu/tips/en/gd :)
Looking at some other sites with very basic lessons might help. Here are two that I know of:
This is a series of grammar lessons where lesson one uses the simplest sentences and words. Later grammar lessons use more difficult words and sentences. On the main page, choose the "taster" site which is the first 10 lessons. You can see these without requesting a password. The first 2 lessons use many of the words in the early Duolingo SG lessons. Something to watch out for though is that the meanings stated might be similar but different - so Duolingo algorithms might not accept them as correct (even though generally speaking they might be).
Another site is a youtube account for "Gaelic with Jason"
There is a playlist for "Getting Started". It is for entry level learners and goes very slowly and shows the spelling of all the words. A lot of the entry level words on this site are also used on Duolingo SG.
This might help:
Definitely make use of the practice function - the more you see the words and hear them pronounced, the more the pronunciation and spellings will make sense (and you'll find they are actually quite predictable!).
It gets better over time. You'll start recognizing patterns that go with sounds, as well as consonants that frequently appear together. And use the hints if you need them (underlined words in the question). And lastly, if you can, install a virtual keyboard for Scottish Gaelic. I'm using Gboard. It gives word suggestions, so you only have to start the word correctly. This helped me a lot at the beginning, and I'm finding I don't need it much now. Personally, the broad with broad and slender with slender rule has not helped me at all. You can still get the wrong broad vowel on both sides of the consonant. But apparently other people use it a lot.
I go back and forth between an Android phone and an iPad and I didn't truly appreciate the phone's keyboard until then - it automatically switches to Gàidhlig and it's made some things SO MUCH EASIER!
Very similar experience - I started off relying on it very heavily and find I rely on it less and less as I practice
Lots of practice and remember that slender vowel goes with slender vowel and broad vowel goes with broad vowel (that rule has saved me more than once).
I do have to admit that when I got a few sentences with Stornoway in the skill I just started a few minutes ago, I thought "oh no, I'll have to spell that one even more often in later levels". XD
Oh right, sorry! Copying this from the tips for the Feelings skill:
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 help you 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.