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is Scottish Gaelic Being Revived

I'm Scottish and obviously speak english as they don't teach you Scottish Gaelic in School anymore unless you live far far up north and i'm learning to speak German, and wondering if Scots Gaelic is being revived or killed, i see some saying its dead no point and its got no speakers and some saying its a lovely easy language that is being revived in scotland but i'm not sure

March 5, 2020



I started a real-life Gaelic class last night, and there is a Welsh speaker in the class also which makes this even more poignant. I already knew how Gaelic was discouraged in schools 60 years ago. Gaelic-speaking teachers, chattering in Gaelic in the staff room, would teach Gaelic-speaking children who spoke Gaelic at home, in English. And they themselves were not speaking Gaelic to their own children, and disapproved of any suggestion of Gaelic-medium education, because only English would get children ahead in life.

Our teacher then pointed out something even worse to the class. The children who lived in town (Stornoway) generally spoke good English, but the children from the smaller villages and farms to the west, in the countryside, very much had Gaelic as their first language. They were teased and mocked and bullied and looked down on by their own peers as oiks who spoke a barbarous tongue. There is still a feeling of shame about being a Gaelic speaker in the islands, in some quarters, said our teacher. Ingrained early learning is hard to shake.

Going back further, my own family lost the Gaelic when my grandfather was caught by the compulsory introduction of English-medium education in the late 19th century. He himself wasn't fluent as a result of this, and passed very little on to my father before he died when my dad was only eight. Dad taught me only a few phrases, which might have been all he knew. (But baptised James, he was addressed as "a Sheumais" - Hamish - all his life.)

This is how it goes when a dominant culture wants to assert its dominance. It turns the country's own people against their culture. See Scotland. See Wales. See India. And I better shut up now before this gets political.


This is very much how it worked in Nova Scotia many years ago - children would get the strap for speaking Gaelic in school and parents stopped speaking it at home because they thought English would get the kids further in life. Very sad. We did the same thing with the French-speaking Acadians and much worse to the Mi'kmaq people and all other aboriginal peoples in Canada. A shameful part of history to be sure. It does my heart good to see any revival of the Gaelic language here in Alba Nuadh - I see many people on here from my province and it makes me very happy! <3


This is all so interesting.


You know, you're not entirely right about Gaelic not being taught in school in Scotland unless you live up north. There are Gaelic-medium primary schools in several towns and a couple of Gaelic-medium secondary schools. See the Wiki page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Gaelic_medium_education There is a sizeable Gaelic-speaking community in Glasgow. Due to increasing demand the numbers of these schools is increasing. Of course Gaelic-medium playgroups are the very start.

It's hard to know how this works. As provision for children who are brought up speaking Gaelic in the home by Gaelic-speaking parents the schools are obviously essential to allow children to retain and mature in their mother tongue. But there aren't very many of these children. However, parents who are not themselves native Gaelic speakers also send their children to these schools, for various reasons. If the parents themselves have learned enough Gaelic to be able to speak Gaelic to their children at home from the earliest years then I can see how this works, but I'm not sure it is always the case. I have heard of parents who are barely learning Gaelic sending their children there.

I have noticed sequences in Speaking Our Language (which was mainly filmed in Glasgow) where Gaelic-speaking schoolchildren are involved, and often the children seem a bit hesitant and you can almost see them thinking in English. I wonder how it might be to be pitched into primary school in a language that isn't your native one - even if you have been to a Gaelic playgroup. But on the other hand studies seem to show that children in these schools do well. Also, Speaking Our Language is 25 years old and the medium seems to have strengthened since then.

I think there is a long way to go before the language takes root again in the country, if it ever does. But if it does, then these children and their successors are the way it will happen. And we can look to Ireland where there is some success, and where Irish is a compulsory subject for school-children, even if it is to them a "modern language" subject rather than their own tongue. There are places in the west of Ireland where they don't even bother putting English on the road signs. (Just as well my rudimentary Gaelic was good enough to get me the basic gist, even if to my eyes they couldn't spell for toffee.)


Welsh very nearly died last century after surviving a pretty savage persecution for centuries mainly due to chapel. When people stopped going to chapel and women started going out to work plaid cymru came up with the idea of Welsh nursery schools. The kids came mainly from non-Welsh speaking homes but spent all their days hearing and speaking Welsh. The idea of making Gaelic obligatory in the schools seems, however, to be less of a good idea. Welsh has been obligatory in schools for years now but it seems there is a lack of "prestige" Welsh being spoken and written. Hence, children speak toddler Welsh at nursery school and, though they receive lessons in high school, there is no use for their 'formal' Welsh among their friends and so it stays at a very primitive level. I'm hoping, with time, that when enough people have a basic grasp of the language they will be inspired to clean up their act and raise the level to what it was even a hundred years ago. Gaelic has suffered much more with forced evictions and deaths in the wars reducing the population. Nursery schools will help, as will duo lingo but there needs to be a bit of a popular movement to really save the sinking ship.


The Celtic languages, more Welsh and Irish than Scottish Gaelic, carry with them tremendous and weighty cultural heritages. The collective humankind would be diminished for the loss of this cultural heritage. We as the common man can help preserve this heritage, even to some small degree, by studying these languages or reading their literature (even if that literature is translated). As a Scot yourself, doing these things, even in some small measure, does more to preserve and continue your own cultural heritage than I could, an American whose family left Scotland after the English Civil War.


I think it's a big loss when a language goes extinct. You can hardly get it back to life. All the Gaelic languages are endangered. Therefore it is worth learning - just to preserve the cultural heritage. Gaelic has some very strange features, e. g. the verb in the first position in a sentence. Although a distant relative of English or German, it often works completely different. It's fun to discover, really. I have seen efforts to revive the language. Seven years ago I saw the first bilingual street signs in the highlands and puzzled over "Glaschu" that was nowhere on my map. As well, they had signs in Gaelic in the coop shop. It looked completely otherwordly to me. Last year on the Hebrides, they had Gaelic-only street signs. This was where I decided to learn at least the basics. Find out how it works. The course is quite funny. It would be worth it just for the crazy practice sentences.


Yes, that was what I meant by asking what the OP meant by "worth it".

The last monoglot Gaelic speakers died when I was a little girl. Nobody will ever need Gaelic to communicate with another human being, given the ubiquitous nature of English, which every Gaelic speaker nowadays speaks perfectly. If there ever comes a time when Gaelic is widespread enough for it to be useful for visitors to learn, it will not be in any of our lifetimes.

There have to be other reasons, and only the individual concerned can decide whether they have a compelling enough reason to begin to learn. You highlight some of these. And yes, grappling with "Ian is stealing underpants again" and "There is not a bear in my house" and "I will be swimming to Stornoway tomorrow" are as good a reason as any!


Here's a list of schools that are teaching Gaelic in Scotland.


Scottish Gaelic is on Duolingo and has more learners than native speakers.


I thought that was Irish Gaelic...?


Probably both. Certainly true for Scots Gaelic.


I am on several sites on Facebook that deals only with things of Scotland. One night, we had a discussion going on about speaking Scottish Gaelic in Scotland. The general drift of the conversation was the language was coming back slowly....and I mean slowly. The Scottish Government is pushing for it to come back but there are few that can teach it. Also, many citizens of Scotland feel it is a useless language, however with the interest in Scotland wanting to divide from the United Kingdom, Gaelic is growing in popularity. One of my friends just outside Glasgow said no one speaks it around that area but as you move more into the islands and into Northern Scotland, you can run into Gaelic speaking Scots more. I al learning it for two reasons, I am a bagpiper and I am curious as what some of my music says. Also, my wife and I want to tour the islands and Northern Scotland. Having a guide that speaks only English vs. a fluent Gaelic Scotsman that knows the area and give us a much better tour of his part of the country. Regardless if the language is growing or dieing I think this is a very special time to go to that part of the country and their culture. It might be the last time.


I've just finished Section 3 and can't get any further. Is that all there is just now?


There are actually four sections but the last skill is "Sayings" so if you have done that one then that's all there is for now.

This thread explains about the second phase in the pipeline, although it's uncleas how long it will be before it is available, especially in the light of an ongoing problem with audio file uploads. https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/36695026

Personally, I can't wait!

Learn Scottish Gaelic in just 5 minutes a day. For free.