What Now?

Hi Moderators . . . What an excellent course the Scottish Gaelic is. I’ve reached the end of module three and, with that, the apparent end of the course. What to do now? I live in the far east of England where there are no Gaelic speakers and consequently no Gaelic clubs or associations. Is this the end of the road for my adventures with Scottish Gaelic?

Regards Graham

February 28, 2020


If you're looking for other things to do until the next phase of the course is ready (that don't involve sweating over grammar books) there are some possibilities

On YouTube there is a very old BBC learn-Gaelic series called Can Seo which has 20 episodes and was made in 1979. There have been changes to Gaelic spelling conventions since then so the written words on the screen shouldn't be taken as gospel, but for an introduction to spoken Gaelic it's a lot of fun. And the signature tune is played by Runrig. The first episode is here.

I watched the last episode the other day and it starts with a 15-minute comedy sketch entirely in Gaelic, and I found I could follow it all. Which was a nice change from live TV which still leaves me struggling.

There is also a newer (but still old - 1993) 72-part series made by ITV called Speaking Our Language which isn't on YouTube [I was wrong about that, see edit below] but is available to buy on DVD. Four seasons, four DVDs in each box, usually priced at about £20 for a season - I got all four seasons for £75. This concentrates on conversational Gaelic and grammar is conspicuous by its virtual absence. It was made after the main changes in the spelling conventions but again I'm not taking the words on the screen as gospel. It can't be too bad though because it's still being repeated on BBC Alba. It's also great for exposure to lots of spoken Gaelic at a level the beginner has some hope of understanding. While the Can Seo integral soap opera is set in a craft shop somewhere in the Western Isles, the Speaking Our Language soaps, and indeed much of the conversational stuff, happens in Glasgow. So it seems as if you can just walk up so someone in a street in Glasgow and address them in Gaelic and get an answer!

There's an American guy called Jason Bond who has a YouTube channel with some Gaelic instruction, although to my mind there isn't a lot of material there and he goes slowly. Worth a look though.

And then there's BBC Alba. It's not on terrestrial TV in England but you should be able to get it somehow - cable, Sky, iPlayer, something like that. I've found that a big leap, from tame language produced for the beginner to the real thing in the wild. Even the baby cartoons leave me struggling, but every week I understand a bit more. I've just watched a plushie monster with crayons and a sketch pad who draws things and brings them to life. She describes each thing as she's drawing it. Suas - tarsainn - sios. Ceann - dà shùilean - sròn - beul - cluasan - bodhaig - gàirdean - casan - aon - dhà... It's great! It's for children just learning to speak, but even there a lot of it is above my level. But as I said I understand more every week. I'm becoming quite addicted to Gleann na Mumain. The later programmes for adults usually have subtitles and that's helpful in a different way.

So there are a lot of ways to listen to Gaelic, both at adult learner level and "in the wild". I find that the bits of Gaelic grammar and the vocabulary covered so far in the Duolingo course are absolutely vital to my ability to understand as much as I do, but I think that listening to as much as possible and trying to pick out words and phrases you understand is vital while we wait for the next installment.

ETA: I discovered at least some of Speaking Our Language on YouTube. I don't know if all 72 episodes are there but there are some at least. The first one is here.

Morag, thank you so much for the Can Seo recommendation. My husband and I have just watched the first episode and loved it! It's going to be such a useful accompaniment to the Duo course.

It's actually very funny, and that comedy sketch at the end had me in stitches.

It takes me back, because I remember when it first came on TV. I tried to watch it on the black and white set in our kitchen, but we had no videorecorder, and you were supposed to buy a book and records as well, and I was up to my eyballs with university work, and it wasn't going anywhere.

It's so nice to see it all now, watchable at our leisure, even though the VHS video quality is a bit dodgy. And with Duolingo and other modern aids we don't need the book or the records. (A scan of the book is available as a download from the YouTube page, but as the spelling is all superseded it's not really worthwhile.) They do eventually give up the irritating phoneticised spellings with the pale blue background, I'm glad to say.

It really was the decade that taste forgot and whoever was responsible for the wallpaper should be taken out and shot, but I love it.

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    Halò, I know nothing about the far east of England, but are you sure there are no Gàidhlig speakers at all in your area? Tha mi a' fuireach ann an Montreal, Canada, a French speaking part of the world. I started a meet-up through Duolingo (they send invitations to everyone is your area) and have been very pleasantly surprised at the number of people who've participated so far (4 the first week and 5 the next). And I second Morag on Jason Bond (Ròna is a gem), BBC Alba, Speaking Our Language and Can Seo - all excellent in their different ways. Good luck to you however you pursue your learning!

    There are definitely opportunities in London itself. However in small towns or rural areas in Norfolk or Suffolk for example, I think Graham might be struggling. I lived in Sussex for a long time and really there was nothing. If he can get into London it would probably be different.

    Hi Mòrag - yes, you’re quite right. Any Gàidhlig speakers in Norfolk will be extremely thin on the ground. People hereabouts think I’m crazy as it is: “why on earth are you learning Gaelic? Do you have Scottish connections?” And to my negative reply they become convinced of my insanity! For the record, my answer is, “ Because it is a language spoken by natives of these islands and it needs new speakers to help keep it alive”. I’m into my eighth decade and not about to start hoofing up and down to London. I have the determination to find a way to carry on with this wonderful, idiosyncratic language.

    Definitely not insanity. And I get some funny looks in Scotland too, so I wouldn't worry about it. And welcome. My maternal grandmother was a Graham.

    If you can find BBC Alba, a run of kiddie cartoons has just started. Padraig Post is involved in a rodeo.

    Halò - I can’t say for definite that there are no Gàidhlig speakers in East Anglia (there are probably a few, somewhere) but it would be like searching for the needle in the haystack to find ‘em! I think I shall have to use the BBC Alba service to keep my hand in, but I imagine that it will be too advanced for a beginner like myself. We shall see. Thanks for your input, Stella.

    Another wee plug for BBC Alba and the kiddie cartoons.

    Earlier this evening I watched Sgriobag and Clann na Cruinne, and realised I was picking up even more than I was the week before. It's still just short phrases, but I can tell my ear is becoming attuned to the language.

    Then the Saturday evening kids' movie - the BFG. I saw this in the cinema in English some years ago, although I realised I didn't remember all that much of it. Right from the start it was extremely clear. "Tha an t-acras orm!" said the BFG.

    The language was straightforward and with a vocabulary geared for children. Even though I was getting ready to go out at the same time I was picking up a surprising amount. One thing in particular struck me, and I really hope I picked it up right. Sophie asked the BFG if he was well, and I swear he replied "Tha mi cho fallain ri fidheall." At which point Sophie corrected him and told him that the correct expression was "Cho fallain ri fiadh."

    Please don't tell me I was wrong about this because I was tickled pink.

    Bear in mind that six weeks ago Gaelic was for me an incomprehensible hubbub punctuated by the occasional "agus" and ending with "oidhche mhath." And all I have done is the Duolingo tree, watched Can Seo, half of Speaking Our Language (some of it rather inattentively) and tried to figure out what was going on in the kiddie cartoons.

    There's a thread here with news about an extension of the course with more skills to come.

    The people who do this for us are all unpaid volunteers though, so however impatient we may be, we can't pressurise them! They're awesome!

    Oh, and I've started to do the tree again from the start - on a second account so I don't lose my crowns and XP on this account, and I can still do the gold-tree practice lessons as well. I find doing some crown-level lessons and some practice lessons every day to be good for retaining what I've learned. Sometimes I turn off the "word bank" tiles so I have to type all the sentence answers blind. This makes me listen and think harder!

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