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First real-life Gaelic exchange since completing the tree. A tale of hope...

It works! I had my first real-life Gaelic exchange since completing the tree a couple of days ago. Driving along near home yesterday, there was my friend Angus’s car coming the other way. In this neck of the woods everybody knows everybody else, and drivers usually stop for a chat, just stopping driver to driver in the middle of the road (I use the word ‘road’ very loosely here…) and rolling down the window. With traffic of about one car an hour, on a bad day, this is perfectly feasible. If another car comes along, the third driver usually gets out and joins the conversation. Anyway, I digress. Angus, a Lewis man, is the only born and bred Gaelic speaker I know. Down went the windows. I launched straight into it. Here is a (slightly idealised) transcription of our short conversation:

‘Ciamar a tha thu, Aonghais?’

‘Gu math. Latha stoirmeil!’

‘Glé stoirmeil! Glé ghaothach!’

‘Tha i fuar cuideachd. Coig puing.’

‘Tha. Ann an Achadh na Sìne bha e ceithir puing. A bheil thu ag obair an-diugh?’


‘Cha bhi thu a’ cadal a-nochd ma-tha.’

‘Cha bhi.’

‘Feumaidh mi a’ falbh. Tioraidh, Aonghais.’

‘Tioraidh. Feasgar math.’

(Two words not on the tree – stoirmeil (stormy) whose meaning was obvious; puing (degree) whose meaning was easily guessed through context. I was interested in the final ‘Feasgar math’, no doubt meant in the ‘have a good day’ sense, which I had not come across before.)

OK, we were not in the realm of the Socratic dialogue there, but it was a conversation with a beginning, a middle and an end. I must point out that I was not a complete beginner when starting the DL course. However I felt much more at ease and fluent than I did before doing the tree.

The moral of the story? Keep at it! It’s worth it! ‘

February 4, 2020



Remember - not every conversation is in the realm of the Socratic dialogue (even in English). A chat about the stormy weather is about as Gàidhealach a conversation as you could get! Well done :)


Oh! I was hoping that next time I run into Aonghas I might pick his brain on some of the less obvious subtleties of the rhetorical style of the Euthyphro. You think it might be better to stick to 'Tha i gu math sgriosail an-diugh'?


I mean, it's a great back-up to have if it turns out the weather is too nice to moan about :)


Gotcha! You mean like 'Tha i grianach an-diugh, ach nach robh na Greugaich gu math glic?' That's an absolute winner! Thanks Joanne!

Can't wait for the next sunny day now. Could be a while...


Meal do naidheachd, a Jhunkming1!

I must admit I'd never heard of Achnasheen nor the Gaelic for it. So if you were wondering too:

Achnasheen (Gaelic Achadh na Sìne) is a small village in Ross-shire in the Highland council area of Scotland.


Many thanks for coming up with what is possibly the first lenited 'j' in the history of the Gaelic language!


I just feels right, doesn't it? ;-D


I am delighted to see Achadh na Sine in your conversation! I have set a large chunk of a novel there near Loch a’ Chroisg.


So glad you spotted that - I put it there especially for you!

Dé a tha an t-ainm a th' air an leabhar agad?


Aw, shucks... ;-).

The novel, Winter Winds, isn’t completed yet. It’s a fan fiction about a young wounded Afrika Korps veteran who ends up in a (fictitious) POW camp set up on the grounds of the Loch Maree hotel. He’s an inveterate hiker (Wandersmann) and the camp doctor takes him hillwalking around Loch a’Chroisg, on Càrn Beag and Meall a’Chorainn as physical therapy after he gets his artificial leg. He wants to bag Fionn Bheinn, but I don’t think he can handle Munros yet...


Tha sin glé inntinneach. 'Gaothan a' Gheamhraidh'. Shreap mi fhìn an Fhionn Bheinn. Bu toil leam a’ leughadh an leabhar agad aon latha. Meal do naidheachd, a 2 Chat Liath!


Wow, I am so impressed. Have a lingot!

What really impresses me is your ability to cope with the grammar on the hoof as it were. Maybe that's because you weren't a complete beginner at the start of the course. I still have to work out which are the first two words I need to use in a sentence to indicate the tense and whether it's a question. I often go back on an answer and fix it before I click the button. I often hear or see a sentence in Gaelic and think I've understood it but then when I see the translation realise I've got the wrong end of the stick because I haven't noticed the tense, or that it was a question, or that it said "agad" or "aice" rather than "agam" at the end. I can get it right if I stop and think and go over it slowly, but I can't pick it up at the first hearing unless it's a simple present tense sentence. I don't know how long it will take for these distinctions to become automatic rather than something that has to be worked out like a puzzle for each sentence.

(Of course, having crass errors like "Tha" instead of "Bha" being passed by the software as mere typos doesn't help, but that doesn't seem to be anything the course contributors can fix. But I need to be forced to do the questions again when I do stupid stuff like that, or I won't learn to stop doing stupid stuff like that.)


Highly recommend Gàidhlig Twitter - You can "lurk" reading other posts and plucking up confidence, then when you are ready to say something, just one sentence is fine, and then nobody expects instant replies......


That's a great idea! Who do I follow?


ME!, Alex Mulholland, Angus Campbell, Mark Rae, Wilson Mcleod....I've built up 600+ followers by following ONLY people who post using Gàidhlig.....


Ta. I'm having a wee twitter break at the moment but I'll go in and follow you while I remember. Assuming I can figure out who you are on Twitter...

OK, found you and followed. I like your style.

And I've found and followed Alex Mulholland and Wilson McLeod. The others aren't jumping out at me.


I'm finding the level of Gaelic used on Twitter to be beyond my abilites as yet. Kiddie TV is more my ambition at the moment...


Good strategy. :) I've found all of the above - and you, Morag - with the exception of Angus Campbell...


Coincidentally there is only one born and bred Gaelic speaker around where I live in the south of Scotland too, and coincidentally he is also called Aonghas. The car-stopping thing is less likely, though it did happen once, on a single track road near his house. I was driving and he was on foot, and I had a native Welsh speaker in the car. I stopped for a chat and the two guys had an experiment to see if either could understand the other in their native languages, but the result was a complete bust. Total non-comprehension.

I might fantasise about going up to Aonghas outside the paper shop and saying "Ciamar a tha sibh Aonghais?" to see what might happen, but I fear the result would be humiliating for me! (I imagine I would address Aonghas as "sibh" because he's about 10 years older than me and moreover he's a rather well-known and well-respected Gaelic poet. Kind of in the Ollamh category really.)


Making a fool of yourself is an inescapable rite of passage for any language learner. As for the Prof, I would have a handy gambit all ready and prepared, just in case I came across him in the paper shop:

Madainn mhath, a Bhàrd Mhòr! A bheil sibh a’ leughadh A’ Ghrian a-rithist?


That's a good one! (Or at least the first sentence.) But really, there's a basic level of competence I think you need to be at before you try that, and I'm not there yet.


You just follow it up with a few apposite DL phrases:

Chan eil mi cho fileanta ri bàrd...

and when all else fails, you throw in your pièce de résistance:

Seall! Tha losgann air an làr!


The number of funny clothing sentences I've been through, I might say,

"Seall!, Chan eil drathais orm!"

I can't count the number of times that very sentence has come up!


Don't forget: Chan eil damhan-allaidh snog.


Don't forget to mention IRN BRU! Tapadh leat!


Actually, thinking about it, "A bheil sibh a' leughadh An t-Albannach a-rithist?" might be a lot more apposite (and a lot more pointed).


Could be. I was amused at the image of the Great Poet caught with a copy of The Sun under his arm.


Well yes, but the concept that a Yesser is still reading the Hootsmon, which I think is actually the case, is kind of more to the point and less likely to be misconstrued! (Old habits die hard with some people.)


First real conversation I had was on Twitter: "Is toil leam Alba gu mòr" got me a "sgonneil" back, followed by "thanks to duolingo". I'm afraid there is nor born Gàidhlig speaker in about 1000 km around my home. Makes casual chats a bit difficult.


you have a typo. Should be "no" not "nor".


Congratulations on your first conversation... I would consider that a major milestone! Also, thanks for the encouragement for us newer learners!


My father's family emigrated from Barra about a hundred years ago. I went back there for a visit about 35 years ago and was ecstatic to hear people speaking Scottish Gaelic as a first language, and disappointed that I couldn't join in. Now, in middle age, I've just started the Duolingo course, and discovered Steall (http://www.steall.online/) an online magazine in Gaelic, to help me keep up.


Meal do naidheachd! On yourself. To hear that people are out there using their newly acquired Gaelic is such a great thing.


Loved to read your story, tapadh leat!


'S e do bheatha, a Chairistiona...


Have a ti=on of lingots


Well done!! I shall give you one of my many unused Lingots for having such a great story! It gives me hope!


Tapadh leibh a h-uile duine.


Meal do naidheachd junkming !

Being from Australia, I would have probably said.

Tha an t-sìde glè mhath an-diugh. Tha mi a ’creidsinn gu bheil an t-uisge beagan nas blàithe. Tha mi air bhioran. Chan eil mi bog fliuch idir an diugh!.

I would have probably been told "Mo chreac! Thalla air ais a dh'Astràilia!"


Meal do naidheachd!


Meal do naidheachd, a Junkming. Dìreach sgoinneil!


You could always say to Aonghas: A bheil drathais ghorm ort?

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