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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Imperfect and perfect tenses

All Gaelic learning that I've ever dipped into seems to start with what I would call imperfect tense verbs. ("I am seeing" as opposed to "I see", for example, and similar for past and future forms), because Gaelic does seem very fond of these. Indeed, it's been said that Scots speakers of English use imperfect verbs more frequently because of the influence of Gaelic on the language.

It's remarkably easy. You only need one form of the verb (the participle, I was taught to call it back in the day), and it doesn't change. Seeing, running, buying, wanting, whatever. Plus all these forms of our "Gaelic bestie", the verb to be. And you can do a lot with that in Gaelic, and that form of sentence is extremely common.

But perfect-tense verbs do exist in Gaelic.

I've been watching quite a lot of BBC Alba, especially the kiddie cartoons, and it's fascinating. Lots of words jump out at me (and don't they say "sgòinneil!" a heck of a lot!) Phrases also jump out at me, and sometimes sentences. "Tha mi a' faicinn" and "Tha fios agam" and "Càit a bheil thu?" and "Tha mi ag iarraidh Teddy!" (yes I said this was kiddie cartoons) in one show earlier this evening. And if that seems simple, bear in mind I've been doing this for less than four weeks. But a lot of the speech is impenetrable, just some familiar words in a bunch of grammar I don't understand.

I think a lot of this involves perfect-tense verbs.

I've also been watching that blast-from-the-past Can Seo on YouTube, from the Decade that Taste Forgot. Get about half way through the series and they start introducing the perfect-tense verbs. Starting with the imperative, which the Duolingo course has also just started to introduce. ("Stad, Iain! Na tog sin! Thig a-steach" and so on.) And that's when I lose it. Not so badly as with the raw broadcast speech of course, as we have dear Mairead explaining it, and they introduce the verbs a few at a time, but it's still a big jump.

I now find myself fairly desperate for some Duolingo lessons using these perfect tenses. I don't think I have much hope of understanding the language in the wild without them. I need to start typing them into the answer forms. Watching Can Seo is not going to get this into my head.

So here's hoping this is in the next section of the course to be released, and that it doesn't take too long. But what I wanted to ask was, how have the people here who have progressed further with Gaelic (and I know there are some around here) handled this transition? How do you move from expecting every sentence to be in the form of "I was going" and start understanding it when someone says "I went"?

February 16, 2020

47 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CIMacAonghais

Ciamar a tha thu, a Mhòrag? I can confirm that we absolutely will be covering more tenses in the expanded course. A good amount of content has been written that deals with this. Looking forward to it being ready to show to folk. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Tha gu math, tapadh leibh. I was wondering if it was difficult for learners to get up to the next level with this different use of verbs, and whether indeed it is the lack of knowledge of these uses that was hindering me from following the TV broadcasts a bit better.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

I'm remembering when I quit my German lessons back in 1975. I was a student at the uni and the German teacher at the Goethe Institut was the wife of my surgery professor. I went with a friend from school who was a medical student. The teacher was very strict with pronunciation, and unfortunately there was one French girl and one English lad in the class. The ten or so Scots just said the words as we went round the table and she was happy. She then spent about half of each lesson trying to get the French and the English students to say it as she wanted it. It drove me mad. I was keen to get on with the language and the lessons were going at the pace of cold treacle. I quit.

I kind of feel the same thing here, although I'm not going to quit. I want more material but because of circumstances outwith my control, there is no more material here yet. Fortunately this is not 1975 and there is the TV and the internet and DVDs and I'm not short of places to go to hear more advanced Gaelic.

But I do find the Duolingo repetitive exercises method suits me very much better than any other way I have ever tried to learn a language. So hopefully there will be more for me to do in due course. No pressure or anything!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CIMacAonghais

They aren’t really difficult at all, there are very few irregular verbs and even they follow regular patterns some of the time. It was just an issue of what we could do in the timescale for the first outing, not because of difficulty reasons. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

That's good to know! I guess I was thinking, when these verbs are used the whole sentence structure must be different (to a beginner's ear) and perhaps that was why I was struggling with a lot of the broadcast material, rather than just vocabulary.

Having learned the basic Bha mi - Tha mi - Bidh mi stuff many many years ago I've always felt a bit intimidated when I saw a sentence beginning with something that wasn't in that form.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/silmeth

I’ll allow myself to be very nitpicky and just chime in to comment on terminology. ;-)

It's remarkably easy. You only need one form of the verb (the participle, I was taught to call it back in the day), and it doesn't change. Seeing, running, buying, wanting, whatever.

You mean verbal nouns (or sometimes gerunds – but that word means different things depending on the language in question, context, or the speaker, while verbal noun is unambiguous) – those words (like faicinn, ithe, ceannach, etc.) are nouns and grammatically mostly act like nouns.

In English the -ing forms have two different functions:

  • One is – as you wrote – (present active) participles, which basically are verbal adjectives describing someone or something as performing an action, eg. an eating cat a cat that eats or is eating at the moment, a seeing person – a person who sees, etc. or verbal adverbs meaning ‘while doing action…’, eg. in going down the street I saw…. This is not what the Gaelic words are.
  • The second one is verbal nouns – nouns that name the actions of their underlying verb, eg. eating is my favourite thing – here eating is the subject. The Gaelic words are verbal nouns.

In older English those two forms used to be different, the participles used to end in -and or -ende (eg. Old Eng. feallende snāw for falling snow) while verbal nouns ended in -ung and -ing. They merged in Middle English period (but are still different in other Germanic languages, eg. German (das) Gehen vs. gehend), but I think there might be traces of the older participles in Scottish dialects and in Scots (eg. goand for going?).

See -ing, -ende and -and on Wiktionary.

EDIT: although, I might have been too nitpicky in my post, as it seems that at least in the context of English, some dictionaries also define participle as a word applied to verbal nouns too. But then, Wikipedia for example does not. Anyway, I still think that keeping terminology unambiguous by differentiating participles (always acting as adjectives or adverbs) and verbal nouns is helpful here – especially when discussing languages where those two have different forms. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Thank you, I was hoping for a nitpicky answer.

I studied both English and French to Higher level and Latin to O grade, so I did a lot of grammar. But I left school in 1971. The term "verbal noun" is one I had never heard before starting the Gaelic Duolingo course, and it is applied to what we were told were "present participles" when I was a kid. So I wonder if the terminology is relatively recent? However I also came across it in a language programme from 1979, so not that recent.

So I will study your post carefully to get the terminology and the distinction clear in my mind. Thank you.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/silmeth

I don’t think the terminology is recent, you’ll find verbal nouns in linguistic books from 19th century or earlier (here an example from 1851 describing Hebrew, Cingalese-English dictionary from 1830, and Gaelic grammar from 1843). In Latin and German context it’s called gerund (from Latin gerundium), in context of other languages (Celtic, Semitic, Slavic…) I think verbal noun is more popular. The problem is that in English present participles and verbal nouns have the same form ending in -ing so they get confused by English speakers and sometimes treated as one in English grammars.

  • present participle (or active participle) is the adjectival form that describes what the attributed person or object is doing: German gehend, Polish idący, dialectal/medieval English goand, or going in the going man…, it works as an adjective,
  • past participle (or passive participle) describes what action the person or object described receives, eg. German gegessen, English eaten, Polish zjedzony, Gaelic ithte,
  • verbal noun (or sometimes gerund) – German (das) Gehen, Polish chodzenie, English going in I hate going there, Gaelic dol.

The word gerund might be also misleading (and thus not used in context of Celtic) as it also can be applied to adverbial participles and not nouns in context of some languages.

And Scottish Gaelic actually don’t have present (active) participles. The only ones Gaelic has are past passive (eg. briste broken from the verb bris – they act like adjectives like in English).

NB: Present and past participles are the common terms but I prefer active and passive more, as English going can be used in any tense (not necessarily describes the present), and eaten can also describe present (something is being eaten at the moment), so active and passive are less ambiguous. And there are some languages that actually have past active participles, present passive participles, etc. (one such language was Proto-Slavic, where active participles were different in the present and past, but that distinction has been lost, I believe, in all modern Slavic languages).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

It may be my poor recollection, of course. I do recognise the word "gerund". Again I will study your explanation carefully. (And I agree, "present" isn't an accurate description, it's just what I remember being taught. But I was a little girl at the time.)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EAber1

Sorry, don't know the answer to your question, but didn't know about Can Seo so will look out for that. Don't know where you are based, but there is a good Gaelic Bookshop in Partick in Glasgow with lots of children's books


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Here's the link to the first lesson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBVb1zbe32k

I remember when it first came out (1979). I watched a couple of times but I was up to my eyeballs in university work and we didn't have a videorecorder, and simply watching it once a week wasn't going to get me anywhere. It's very useful as an adjunct to other learning though, if you can stand the wallpaper.

It's a funny thing. The other, longer TV course that I've just acquired on DVD, Speaking our Language is also quite old now, dating back to 1993. It's still in 4x3. They're still taking a ferry to Skye (no bridge), prices are silly cheap (as they are in Can Seo) and people smoke indoors. But the actual styles don't really jar as being all that dated compared to the '70s stuff. You can watch it and forget that it's over 25 years old. Not so with Can Seo, which is actually only 14 years older than Speaking Our Language.

Thanks for the heads up about the bookshop in Partick. I'm occasionally in Glasgow, so I might try to find it.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kerrrrobbie

Well, I started distance learning courses at SMO 8 years ago and still ploughing on. The early courses [cùrsa intrigidh and cùrsa adhartais] are excellent and will give you more grammar than you might wish......What they can't give you is the daily repitition that leads to real fluency, which is why I like DUO so much......


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

I agree, I really take to the repetition. However there are three problems which mean that I will probably be giving Duolingo a rest soon. One is that the Gaelic tree is so short and I now find myself wanting new material. That's just because it's a new course and hopefully more material will appear and I'll come back and do it.

But the other two are more fundamental. One is that the typo algorithm passes over so many serious mistakes as mere "typos", meaning that the question is not re-presented to be done right. Indeed, sometimes mistakes are simply passed as correct without even a typo notification! This is not good for learning. If they could provide an opt-out for individual users to turn off the typo forgiveness entirely I would be a lot happier. If that ever happens I would be very pleased.

The other thing is the real deal-breaker at the moment. Lots of people are complaining about this and there have been multiple threads moaning about it. The practice lessons are far too easy. I've been doing ten or more every day since I gilded my tree, and while at first they were quite good revision, they have become stale, boring, repetitive and not good for learning. They have way too many easy multiple-choice questions, or they ask you to type in easy words (never hard ones), and the rest of the questions are simple sentences. They don't offer the level of challenge that the 4-5 crown questions offered. I can't see much point in going on doing this low-level repetition, except maybe a lesson a day. If they could push the practice lessons up to the same level of difficulty as the 4-5 crown level lessons it would be much better but apparently they have been promising this for at least six months and nothing happens.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kerrrrobbie

Have to agree they're too soft on mistakes, but then it's sometimes better not to criticise beginners too much or they run the risk of discouragement? On a 90-day streak now, but by using the "timed" option I find I can still make it challenging enough, however, there will surely be a lot of disappointed folk unless more content is added fairly soon....


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

I've only been here 26 days, and if it wasn't that I opened a new account to do the entire tree again from the start, I'd possibly be packing it in about now, at least to wait for the new material. I hadn't tried the timed test though, so I should probably do that. I don't think assessing speed in the easy questions is what I want so much as access to the harder levels that we're locked out from when we get the gold tree. My second account should provide that.

I think as far as the typos are concerned, that an option to turn off the typo forgiveness entirely would be the easiest way to address it. Then the beginners wouldn't be being constantly dinged but people who know that tha isn't a typo for bha would get the practice they need to stop doing that. I don't blame them about the restricted material, it's a lot of work for unpaid volunteers. We just have to be patient on that one.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

As an aside, I realised there's nothing worth watching on BBC Alba this afternoon (ball-coise again, what can I say) and I'm sick of low-level repetition on Duo, so I decided to progress with Speaking Our Language. I'm on the 5th episode now.

One of the first things we were taught was the Gaelic for "please", and it occurred to me (for the second time) that this isn't in the Duolingo material at all! (It's "mas e do thoil e" if anyone wants to know.) It's an odd omission, because my SOP when going abroad is to find out the local lingo for "please", "thank you", "excuse me", and "do you speak English?" So odd that the very first one is missing here. (I'm a bit past needing "Where is the Youth Hostel?" but I could once do that in an impressive range of languages.)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kerrrrobbie

Yes, it appears strange to luchd-beurla I know, but Gaels hardly ever say "please". It's a cultural/idiomatic thing. "Mas e do thoil e" or "Mas e ur toil e" translates literally as "if it is your will" and that sounds just as clunky in Gàidhlig as in english......


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tj4234

We also don't say hello.

Halò is borrowed from English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

How interesting! I must remember not to bother trying to say it! (I guess the English equivalent is "If it pleases you" or "If you please".)

Anyway, Robbie, do you have any comment on the perfect-tense thing? Is it a hurdle? Is it something you have to get a handle on before you can follow conversations in the wild as it were? (I was kind of hoping that one of the Mods might come in with their view, but no luck as yet.)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

I'm remembering that in many languages, please and thank you also double as indicators of whether you want the proffered item or not. Yes please, and No thank you. So if you are given something and say "thank you" the implication may be that you don't actually want it. I force myself to say "s'il vous plaît" or "bitte" in case my food is suddenly snatched away! Obviously that is not the case in Gaelic as the presenter just said "Tapadh leibh" (this programme is big on the formal usage) when she got her cuppa and it wasn't snatched away!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tj4234

Saying "I went" will require a couple of lessons dedicated to it I think. Went is an irregular verb, of which there are 11 in total (way less than English). You have to memorise them as they are totally different to other verbs.

For example a regular verb, such as a' leughadh (reading), uses leugh as the past tense.

The past tense of a' dol (going) is chaidh (went). Which you will notice is also irregular in English.

As for the other part of your question you use passives. For example "I understand you" isn't tha mi a' tuigsinn thu, it's tha mi gad thuigsinn.

The passives are really easy to learn when you get to them to be honest.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

I only used that as an example; I picked one where the past perfect was a completely different word from the present participle in English. I think it's a combination of these irregular verbs you mention probably being used quite a lot, and unfamiliarity with sentence construction when a perfect tense is used, that is throwing me with the "wild input" from the TV at the moment.

Speaking Our Language seems to be going more slowly than Can Seo at the moment - I'm on programme six and not a hint of grammar as yet. There are 72 programmes altogether as opposed to only 20 of Can Seo, and the fourth-season ones that are being repeated on BBC Alba at the moment seem quite advanced.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/junkming1

To come back to your original question, hopefully the various past tenses apart from past continuos (Bha mi a' seinn), which we have already met, will be in the next iteration. Clearly they have to be very selective as to what they put in the first iteration. As someone has said, once you get beyond the current level, you are into irregular verbs. There are not many of them, but they cover most of the main actions - hear, see, go, come, do, get, give and so on. The course constructors are right to hold them back. So leaving aside the irregulars, here's my take on the past tense.

Sheinn mi - I sang ie root of the verb lenited

Tha mi air seinn - I have sung

Bha mi air seinn - I had sung

(And very tentatively:

Tha mi air a bhith a sheinn - I have been singing

Bha mi air a bhith a sheinn - I had been singing)

As ever I stand to be corrected, but that gives you a sneak preview of the way it works in the world of regular verbs. Then of course there is the conditional and the subjunctive, but that's enough for a Sunday evening!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tj4234

Not to mention there is also the "rach passive" as it's called (rach is the root word for "go").

Which visibly looks nothing like what it means. For example:

Chaidh sin a leughadh - that was read


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

I've encountered "chaidh" in both Can Seo and Speaking Our Language but this is beginning to sound complicated.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Thanks! I completely understand why the course is constructed as it is. It's just that I seem to have got to where they're up to, now - with the caveat that the higher-crown stuff that's hidden behind the gold skills isn't being practised and I'll have to cover that again with my second account which I'm taking more slowly. (I'm only up to "About Me" with that.)

But accepting that I still need higher-level revision on the stuff lower down the tree, I'm also at the stage where I want to move on to some slightly more advanced material. I'm keen to get better at understanding broadcast material and I think it's the grammar we haven't learned yet that's getting in the way. I find the Duolingo repetition so useful that I'll be very pleased when there are exercises to do in these topics.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Well, I'm getting better at the kiddie TV stuff, although I'm pretty much at the level of "Ag ionnsachadh le piseag is cuilean" (it's hard to get that ditty out of your head...) I swear I heard "Chunnaic seo" from the mouth of a cartoon kitten this afternoon.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Interesting wee example. I went to look at "Gaelic with Jason", a YouTube channel someone recommended, and it has a lot of very good content. (He tells you how to make an educated guess as to whether a Gaelic noun is masculine or feminine, and for that I could positively kiss him.)

Anyway he does these wee stories where he tells it very slowly, drawing on a whiteboard and repeating words, and I think it's a good way to get things into your head. Comprehensible input and all that. I started looking at his intermediate stream because the beginner stream seemed a bit basic. And came across this. It's the start of a haunted house story for Hallowe'en.

An Taigh air Oidhche Shamhna

Dithis ghillean, Calum agus Iain. Bha Calum agus Iain a' dol dhachaidh. Bha iad a' dol dhachaidh air Oidhche Shamhna, agus chuala iad ceòl, agus chunnaic iad taigh. Bha ceòl anns an taigh. Bha daoine a' dannsa anns an taigh, agus bha daoine a' seinn. Bha pàrtaidh anns an taigh. Agus chaidh iad a-steach.

So here we have "chuala iad ceòl" (they heard music) and "chunnaic iad taigh" (they saw a house) and "chaidh iad a-steach" (they went inside).

So, jumping several guns here, can anyone tell me why one would choose that form of the sentence, rather than "bha iad a' cluintinn ceòl" and "bha iad a' faicinn taigh" and "bha iad a' dol a-steach"?

I know why one would make that choice when writing English, but Gaelic seems so very fond of using the latter construction when English would use the former, and I don't understand what the reason is in Gaelic for picking one over the other.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kerrrrobbie

Chaidh iad = they went. Perfect tense, completed action.

Bha iad a' dol = imperfect tense, continuous action.

This pattern of tenses is across all verbs.

It's not that GÀIDHLIG is fond of the Imperfect, LEARNERS are fond of the Imperfect because it's so easy. Over-use of the Imperfect is a very clear marker of a beginner, even if their accent is perfect......

Example Bha i a' dol suas an rathad [imperfect] nuair a thachair i ri losgann [perfect] = she was going up the road when she met a frog.....


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/junkming1

Agus phòg i an losgann ‘s i a bhidh toilichte cho fad ‘s bhiodh i béo…

(And kissed she the frog and she to be happy as long as she would be alive - ie she kissed the frog and lived happily ever after…)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Makes sense, except what you describe is exactly the same as English usage, and indeed other languages so far as I know. And yet when teaching English we don't, so far as I know, teach students "I am seeing" and have them using this exclusively for some time before we move on and reveal "I see". Same thing is other languages, again as far as I know.

But any Gaelic teaching I have dipped into has always started the beginner with "tha mi a' faicinn - bha mi a' faicinn - bidh mi a' faicinn", as if this was the default usage. English has "I am seeing - I was seeing - I will be seeing" in just the same way, and again it's undeniably easier because the participle doesn't change, but we don't start beginners on that. We start them on "I see - I saw - I will see".

I'm inclined to give the beginners a pass here. You default to the construction you learn first. In Gaelic, unlike English, that is the imperfect tense. Always. So it's hardly surprising if learners over-use it.

I think it's a truism that Gaelic speakers tend to use the imperfect more than English speakers. It's evident when they speak English - or was, anyway, with older people. It's practically SOP in fiction set in the Highlands, to have the trusty local guide say things like I was seeing this and I was hearing that.

So I don't think it's quite that simple. I know I'm jumping the gun here but I'm ready for new material and it isn't there yet and my impatience is showing.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

And good grief, have you seen this? It's a wonder anyone ever opens their mouth in Ireland.

https://www.cic.ie/en/books/published-books/glance-card-leabhair-cloite


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kerrrrobbie

I've seen a similar product for Scots Gàidhlig......

Personally I prefer the learning-by-using DUO approach as I can't remember well too many "rules" at real conversation speed......


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

I agree. I have been reading up on language learning and I think all this rules stuff is vastly over-rated. And I'm going to take the reply out to the left because this is getting silly.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joannejoanne12

And yet when teaching English we don't, so far as I know, teach students "I am seeing" and have them using this exclusively for some time before we move on and reveal "I see".

This is mainly because 'to see' is a stative verb in English. Stative verbs aren't usually used in the present continuous. Others include 'to want', 'to love', 'to hear', 'to like' etc. 'I am seeing' is pretty acceptable (certainly in Scottish English), but sentences such as 'I am liking...' don't sound as natural.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

I'm sure I'll pick this up eventually. I'm doing pretty well for four weeks in! Mainly I want to be doing Duolingo exercises in the grammar I'm hearing but not understanding yet, but at the same time thinking that it's just as well there isn't anything more available at the moment because I need to consolidate what we've covered so far.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kerrrrobbie

You are doing really, really well, your passion is obvious, but impatience is not your friend. You still have to cover perfect, pluperfect, future perfect, conditional tenses. Then modal verbs and inversion. Then impersonal forms and the passive voice, then the dative and genitive cases including agreement of article and adjectives. Then you will be ready to start on idioms..... Definately not trying to discourage but you need to accept this is a long-haul business, years rather than weeks or months....Robbie


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Oh, I know that. The gulf between the wee playlets written for learners and the language in the wild, even that aimed at toddlers, is all too obvious. But I have also been reading some interesting stuff about methods of language teaching and we'll see how things progress.

Given how advanced you are and how long you've been learning, do you really find any benefit from the Duolingo course as it is at the moment?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

I've been reading up on some language-learning theory, and I'm attracted by the theory that points out that children don't learn to speak by being taught grammar rules. They soak up a lot of speech that is geared to their level, and then try to express themselves - at first imperfectly - using what they've picked up. They don't learn grammar, or indeed to read and write, until they're already pretty good at understanding speech and speaking. The theory says that adults can still do this, and indeed do this in situations where there is no mutually understandable language. (A late cousin of mine spent most of her career learning the languages of isolated tribes in the Amazon jungle, with no common language between them.)

I remember as long ago as 1963, I changed primary schools. I was about nine. I was pitched directly into a class where the teacher was, even then, attempting to teach the kids French by what I now realise was the comprehensible input method. I was baffled, because I'd come in in the middle and it wasn't comprehensible for me. Also, it was like once a week! It put me off the whole idea. I learned nothing. When I got to secondary school I started again in the traditional manner learning grammar. I felt safer because there was never a point where I didn't understand. I slogged through the lessons, painstakingly constructing sentences like a puzzle. I got an A in my Higher French. But I can only speak haltingly, and read with difficulty, and I can't follow French TV or an actual French person talking to me.

I think my German is now about as good as my French. On the back of a handful of long-forgotten lessons, a passion for German opera including poring over the texts, learning to sing German Lieder, and several visits to Germany. I aced the Duolingo German placement test, not because I understood the grammar, but because I instinctively knew which was the right word due to repeated exposure to sentences.

Now I'm not a toddler any more, and I'm not nine either. But I think I'm going to do better by listening to as much Gaelic that I can sort of follow as possible. I'm not knocking grammar. But I'd rather access that by finding out why that word takes that particular form there, than by studying the grammar of how it should appear before I ever encounter it in a sentence. I like the way both Can Seo and Speaking Our Language approach it, by exposing the learner to real speech at an appropriate level with little snippets of grammar explanation where appropriate, rather than by handing out lists of irregular verbs to commit to memory. I think I'll end up listening repeatedly at least to the later programmes, because I think you get more out of it each time you are exposed to the material.

And like you I like the Duolingo method of getting the grammar into your head. By the time you've corrected fada to fhada or dearg to dearga for the tenth time you're beginning to remember why! You're also getting the association into your head of which words have to have fada and which fhada so it comes more naturally than learning long lists of masculine and feminine nouns.

It's probably just as well for me that the tree isn't longer as yet because it's forcing me to practise what I've already covered, whereas if we had more I'd be piling in there eager to access the new material. But I think familiarity so that the phrase you want comes naturally, combined with enough basic exposure to grammar rules that you can understand why the word takes the form it does if you suddenly feel doubtful is the way to go.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kerrrrobbie

In my early years at SMO I hated the "Full Immersion" ethos and used to feel like screaming "Just tell me what you want in english!!!" But it worked, except we did cover ALL the grammar along the way.... We need to remember that even children going through Gàidhlig Medium Education Immersion still only have the grammar and vocabulary of 11 year-olds, at age 11. Most adults just can't accept how long fluency takes, nor the level of committment, which is why the attrition rate is so high. You don't need to be "clever" to learn a language, but you do need "stickability" - in spades.......


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

As a wee aside, and this is not a direct memory I have but something my mother used to tell people with amusement, when I was about 18 months to two years old I referred to myself as "she". The go-to story was of my parents and I arriving at Crieff Hydro for a long weekend, and us being shown to our room. The staff had already installed a small single bed for me in my parents' double room, but on seeing the size of me a discussion ensued as to whether this should be replaced by a cot. This was a discussion between the housekeeper and my mother, nobody asked me. Apparently in the middle of it I piped up, "She'll just have the wee bed if she likes."

I think I listened to more adult speech than the adults realised, and was accustomed to "she" being used to denote myself, so I thought I was "she". I worked it out eventually though.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

I know what you mean about the immersion courses but I think I get the objective. I've often thought I'd like to do that, but that I'd get nothing out of it without getting up to a passable standard first. It takes literally years to get anywhere from scratch without any use of or explanation in your native language and a week is not going to cut it.

One of the lectures I listened to spoke of the number of hours needed to learn a language, as opposed to years, and the point was that it was up to the learner how far these hours were spread out. I'm in a position to be able to give it several hours a day at the moment, so we'll see how much progress I can make. Last week I probably heard much more Gaelic than I did English most days, and indeed spoke it too - even if only to the cat, who tends to be uncritical.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kerrrrobbie

Couple of warnings: 1] Anything pre-1981 [GOC] is totally unreliable for modern spelling/punctuation usage. 2] If you listen to ALBA/RnG be aware that much of the news is given [as in english] in the passive voice or using impersonal forms These structures are confusingly similar to the active voice.....


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Yes, I see there are oddities in Can Seo, like there are acute as well as grave accents and stuff like that. (Bad luck on the BBC making that programme only two years before they changed it all!) But I'm not paying too much attention. Duolingo is keeping me right on all that. It's the comprehensible speech I'm after from the videos, not how to write or spell it. I listened to what Mairead said about the genitive case and thought well fancy that, that's probably why I'm seeing some slenderised endings in the Duolingo course that I didn't understand, maybe I need to go read these tips again, but really, I know there's a wrinkle there and I'll pick it up at some time.

I did download the Can Seo book, but I'm not paying much attention to it and there isn't much written work on-screen at all. I'm more interested in being able to follow what the actors in Na Bonaidean are saying, and understand what it means. Some of it is still too fast for me, and when they use grammar constructs we haven't got to yet in Duolingo I'm less secure.

Of course Speaking Our Language is 1993, and is currently being repeated on-air, so that should be safer as far as the written stuff is concerned, but again there isn't a huge amount of text on-screen and I'm more interested in being able to follow the conversations and the wee playlets.

I can't follow the news yet, but I would assume it would mainly be in the passive voice. I'm doing better with the kiddie 'toons and the subtitled documentaries, but even there I'm not understanding half of it. Just words and phrases that jump out. To me there's still a huge gap between things written for beginners to comprehend, like Na Bonaidean and An taigh againn and the language in the wild, even things written for tinies to comprehend.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kerrrrobbie

At the moment i have to do 4 hours per week at full immersion phone classes on really interesting [!!!] stuff like "research skills " and " language awareness" which is good for polishing skills, but still I find DUO invaluable, not least because it's so easy to use at odd moments. Even though I'm lucky enough to live in the Highlands, hearing Gàidhlig live is a rare happening, so I have to work at it!.....


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

That's really interesting, that Duolingo can still be of use to someone of your level. I admire your dedication. I think we have different outcomes in mind though. I want to be able to understand normal speech, rather than dissect the niceties of the expression. I'm approaching that in a number of different ways, so we'll see how I get on.

There are a couple of Gaelic speakers round here, but I'm not ready to fess up to them what I'm doing, as yet.

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