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Scottish Gaelic and Spelling

I am enjoying the Scottish Gaelic course immensely except for one thing: the spelling!

I am aware that the spelling of a language is something that just IS. However there seems to be so many letter combinations that either have no sound at all like "th" at the end of words or have significantly different pronunciations compared to their English counterparts.

I've become used to the different ways that French and Italian use the Latin alphabet to form sounds different from English, but Scottish Gaelic seems way off the scale. Either that or some tips could include more information about how to pronounce these sounds. I know there are a few but not many.

Either that or I was thinking what if a more phonetic use of the Latin script could be used along side the Scottish Gaelic to help us with pronunciation? A little like what is used in those small phrase books you buy when travelling overseas? They have an approximation of the sound of the words underneath the native spelling - not pure international phonetic alphabet but 'spelled' in English.

It's a bit like Japanese. I believe you can learn Japanese with the traditional symbols or in romanji which uses the 'English' Latin script to form sounds.

I was wondering if anyone had done something similar for Scottish Gaelic?

May 17, 2020



If you think it would help you to see a phonetic transcription of Gaelic words, I suggest you buy a copy of ‘Gaelic Gold, a learner’s dictionary’ which has phonetics and lots of useful information about usage.


I learned pronunciation from the Scottish Gaelic in Twelve Weeks book (Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh). For me it did a really good job of setting out how to pronounce the different vowel and consonant clusters as well as showing when consonants are used to indicate hiatus.


You may want to read this article. It goes over the basic pronunciation rules for Scottish Gaelic: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Gaelic_orthography.

As for why the spelling is so weird, it’s because the Latin script really doesn’t suit the phonology of the Goidelic languages. The current system is actually pretty consistent, it just has a bunch of rules that aren’t obvious.

While it can help you learn some basic words and phrases, providing an English phonetic approximation is pretty much useless for serious language learning. It renders you functionally illiterate, and that makes the language learning process so much harder.


Thanks for the reply. I get it about serious learning but I’m not sure I want to be serious yet! It’s a bit like training wheels. Get a bit of confidence then let go and get into the serious learning then.


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