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Scottish Gaelic. Understanding spoken Gaelic

Fellow learners, do you have the same problems as I understanding spoken Gaelic. Especially perhaps the lady. It's a real test and I get a bit downhearted trying desperately to understand but perhaps if there are more of us in the same boat on Level 2 I might get a bit more courageous. Writing is not bad but I would like to understand a bit more but I guess it's always there where one has in learning another language!!

April 1, 2020



"The audio bug has been fixed, but we'll have to deal with the backlog of audio issues in Tree 1 before recording audio for Tree 2. Also, it takes a good few hours to record audio for just one skill, so unfortunately it's not the easiest task. We have lots of audio to record. We are working on getting folk on board at the moment to help us out with some audio recording though :)"


Personally I wouldn't worry about it.. it'll get better over time, and the softer spoken ones are to be exchanged for new ones if I recall correctly. On the other hand, isn't it like life where some speak more understandable than others? ;-)


Yes, especially when I was just starting out. I think sometimes it is easier for beginners to learn a language when the speaker speaks more slowly (rather than normal conversation pace). As you learn more it will become easier to understand native speakers.

There is a youtube channel called "Gaelic with Jason" with a number of videos and playlists for beginners. This teacher speaks very slowly and clearly. You could start with the playlist "Get Started with Scottish Gaelic."


LearnGaelic.scot also has a lot of resources. This page has videos about the sounds of letters in Scottish Gaelic words.


LearnGaelic also has a set of lessons that start at beginner level called Little by Little (Beag air bheag). Each lesson has a bit of grammar (to read), recordings of individual phrases, and 2 or 3 conversations with both Gaelic text and English translations. Here:



Dear all of you...….my spirits are much higher. It's just great having news so quickly. Yep, as my grandsons would say things are simpler when we're sharing. Many thanks, perhaps I'll keep going after all!!


The audio bug was truly not a problem, just had to have a wee bit of patience! Thank you nevertheless for all your efforts as in spite of everything I'm really enjoying these courses.....saves me getting dementia??!!


I really enjoy it too.. it's the most fun one of those I'm learning.

I've added you as a friend. If you like you can follow me back.

Nice to meet you, Agnes.


The audio bug was truly not a problem

The audio bug I referred to in another post was a problem we were having in the incubator that meant we couldn't record new audio. It was a complex issue and so Duolingo staff took a wee while fixing it :)


You are all just great and I'll be trying just everything. I guess you're all kids in comparison to me, and I, too, am very happy to meet you all. My dear family think I'm a bit crazy in my efforts to learn Gaelic (maybe to the side they're quite proud of me....I hope!) so I'd really like to continue even if it gets a wee bit more complicated from day to day. For that reason I am really delighted to have your encouragement! Getting Gaelic News from Switzerland might be a trifle difficult but it's worth trying. Great luck to you all in your learning.


I must be in my second childhood then. I retired over a year ago. But I'm sitting here watching "How to train your dragon" dubbed into Gaelic and enjoying it enormously.


Not sure whether you meant to, but you're now only following one of my friends instead.. which is okay if that was your intention. She has 2 cute dogs in her profile picture and is learning Spanish.

I wish everyone would be as open to learning something new regardless of their age. Staying curious and active as well as you can during your lifetime is key to health and happiness and don't let anyone (including yourself) tell you otherwise. And yes, it does work wonders for your brain too. Hopefully. ;-)


Don't worry! Unless you are well over seventy, you are in good company - 54 for me. The trouble with audio is - at least in the beginning - that nothing makes sense. It's always different from what you would expect, and in some cases they actually have funny accents. There is one who speaks "thu" very much like "i", and I always get it wrong. They drop a lot of the letters - and, to compensate - speak letters that are not there (Alaba, for instance) or turn things round (why on earth is "dearg" pronounced as "derag"?). It takes time to understand that they really mean it, and it's not a problem with your ears ...


The "alaba" and "derag" are actually the same process at work. Gaelic doesn't like to run consonants together, so you often hear small vowel sounds put between them.


Yeah, I got that by now ... My native language is straight forward with spelling - you can easily predict the pronounciation except for a few foreign words. Therefore it really drives me crazy. I guess it's part of the fun, reminds me of inventing secret languages in childhood. We should have used Gaelic instead, it's a safe bet.


OH YEAH!! This I have noticed after 80 lessons.!


Beat you Morag....I'm going to be 82 on the 11th of September this year!! You know, reading all your wonderful messages I've hardly time for my lessons, as well as all the other things us women do in a day (eventually some men too?!). I am so enjoying reading them in these troubled times. Be careful all of you, it seems to be so easy to catch this horrifying virus. My grandson, back from China 6 weeks ago says, if possible, wear masks, as , in spite of what they say, they do help. With these famous last words, I'm jumping away, excited as can be, to start my lesson.


Well, congratulations and stay safe. I'm pretty much isolated in my comfortable house on the edge of a village with fields and hills on my doorstep and ample supplies so I'm very fortunate. Summer holidays cancelled but it's a small inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.

The benefit of masks is largely that they lower the chance of an infected person passing the virus on, rather than protecting the uninfected, but since people can be infected and not know it, it makes sense. I'm not going near anyone so I don't have to bother. I do have a couple of old respirator masks I took home from work about 10 years ago when people were stressing about H1N1 (we used a lot of them when doing post mortems of birds because bird flu), and I can use them if need be. I do have a repairman coming on Monday to fix my oven which decided to die last night, so I'll use one when he comes, and wipe everything with bleach when he goes.


No need for using bleach (unless it makes you feel better).. the virus is to be destroyed by warm soapy water.. hence the handwashing instructions preferably with soap and water and otherwise alcohol based hand sanitizer if no water available.

On another note: I have been reading older posts here in the Gaelic forum and found this gem or yours from about 2 months ago and instead of referring to it I'll copy/paste it here for others to see:

"Another point is actually speaking the lingo. You can complete the Duolingo course and be an absolute whizz on all the material without a word of Gaelic actually passing your lips. Obviously we hear the recorded voices, but saying the words for oneself is another matter.

I sing, and my mother was a professional singer, and she talked about having a song "in your voice". What she meant was practising until it was in your muscle memory. I remember when I hadn't sung for a while and I had to do an audition and pulled out something I knew and it wasn't too bad and she said, "the song is in your voice". Muscle memory. My voice already knew how. We need to have spoken words in our muscle memory just the same way, and I don't think that's ever going to work without a live teacher correcting our pronunciation in live time.

I also play instruments (flutes mainly) and I see a parallel with learning a new instrument. At first you just study the fingering and learn the mechanics of the instrument. Then you start to play notes, but for every note you mentally have to work out what the fingering is and do it. If it's a complicated passage there might be quite a lot of figuring out, and even consulting fingering charts. But then the more you practise, the more you get to the point where your eyes see a note on the page and your fingers automatically finger that note on the instrument without you actually having to think consciously about it at all. But it takes repetitive work to get there, and I think languages are the same.

Careful practice. As a tutor said to us, what does practice make? Everyone hesitated, because we all knew "practice makes perfect" and there seemed to be a catch to it. There was. "Practice makes permanent," he said. If you practise it wrong, you're cementing the wrong thing.

So I see this as the preliminaries. Learning the mechanics of the instrument and which fingering makes which notes, and even learning to read music. Then there comes a time when everyone needs a teacher who can listen to them and give feedback and progress them further."

Thank you for sharing.. totally enjoyed reading this and to be reminded that this is just the beginning.. of a wonderful experience nevertheless.


Thank you!

(Bleach is even more effective than soapy water, it's just that you don't want to be continually washing your hands or heaven forbid your face in it. But it's very good for wiping down hard surfaces or indeed the outer packaging of shopping items.)


We are so lucky, passing our free time learning gaelic and not living within the town, or working at home with wee ones around needing attention and even, oh joie, having our messages delivered. 'Tis indeed the small kind things in life like my neighbours offering to help which are so important nowadays.


I think it's a matter of time, but you could look up a tutorial.


I have found that the more I do the exercises the better I understand the spoken words. One thing I found very helpful was once I had the correct transcription, to listen to the recording several more times while actually reading along with it. This helps the ear pick out the small syllables than might not be distinguished the first time.

I also watch Gaelic TV as much as I can. Kiddie cartoons without subtitles are a lot harder to follow than the Duolingo sentences but I'm gradually getting better, especially with the ones designed for the tinies who are just learning to talk. Bing rabaid, Scrìobag, Piseag agus Cuilean and Blàrag a Bhò are current favourites. Then there are some programmes intended to help adult learners, and the News which is not subtitled but guess what Coròna Bhìoras means... And some quite good programmes later in the evening with subtitles.

Someone said it's partly about tuning your ear to get used to the sounds. I'm noticing some quite marked differences in pronunciation (gairdean is one that can vary a lot) and enunciation (ca' bheil is quite common).


Agnes, Yes the audio is a challenge for me too. I keep in mind that this is intended to make me listen with care and is a 'real world' example. Unfortunately we can't tell the audio to "bruidhinn nas slaodaiche" but it will "can sin a-rithist" as often as you like. :)

With a 69 day streak going for you we, your Duolingo family know your persistence will pay off.

Slàinte, Paul


Feasgar math, a chàirdean! Just for info, we swapped out and replaced the bulk of the unclear / quiet audio today. If there is any we missed, we'd be grateful if you could report it, so we can catch it and launch it into the sun! Tapadh leibh!


Welcome all of you to our blethers(?!). What a good idea Phoenix to rewrite Morag's two-month-back message. It was a delight to read. Singing has always played an important part in my life. Whether in working in London or here in Geneva joining a choral helped me fit in, not always easy in an unknown town or unknown country. Indeed it is much easier singing correctly than learning Gaelic correctly! Speaking English and French fluently I do believe, however, that being able to speak it, read it, listen to it every single day is truly essential which means living in the country itself, at least for a few months. These days I keep asking myself why, when my main language at school was German, I am not learning German?! Here in Switzerland we speak 4 languages, German being the principal one! However here I am learning Gaelic and meeting up with all of you and you know I do believe that I'm getting better.


This is a nice one to practise with:



That's lovely, thank you.


Level 2 does seem much harder especially with the introduction of the past tense and a whole load of new verbs. I don't mind the "lady" even though I don't always get what she is saying the first time. It's probably much more realistic to hear her speak.


Take heart! In this world gone mad, it's such a little problem to not always understand spoken gaelic, and I do believe things are beginning to get better and I'm beginning to understand a trifle better. Even although we do not quite understand, our knowledge gets better and we at least realise that what we have written is not quite right.....there's something missing! 'Tis a bit like a jigsaw puzzle! It is a pleasure to know you.


Càisg shona!, mo chàirdean. (Happy Easter, my friends).

It's a pleasure to know you and the others too. Did you have a go at the song I posted in this thread? I found myself humming it a few days ago when going out to get groceries, which made me smile especially when some of the words came to mind. It's so nice to find the next few pieces of that puzzle and it finally clicks, making more sense than it did before.

I do find that checking the discussions for the sentences helps as there is often very useful explanations given by people that know Gaelic already. It'll slow you down (which is likely a good thing, albeit not always) and somehow connects things known already.

Not sure whether you use app or computer, but just in case: https://duome.eu/tips/en/gd

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