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From Irish to Scottish Gaelic (?)

For quite some time now I want to learn Scottish Gaelic but it is extremely hard to find any materials on the internet and bookstores in my country does not offer such coursebooks. I know some of the BBC videos on the YT that provides the basics but it is not enough.

So here is my quiestion to those who may know ;-) Are the languages similar enough that if I learn one the other will come easier? And, will Scots (speaking Scottish Gaelic) understand Irish; at least partly?

April 17, 2015



They are similar, in the way Slavic languages are similar to each other.

Here's something to get you started:

That's actually a modified Scottish Gaelic version of "Buntús Cainte" for Irish (so you can even use it to compare the two)


Well Irish and Scottish Gaelic are both Goidelic languages so they are closely related. I would say that learning one would make the others easier. If you want to learn all the Celtic languages why not check out the #celticlanguages campaign?


If you can find resources in the Ulster dialect of Irish that is, not surprisingly, much more similar to Scottish Gaelic. Unfortunately most things I've seen online use Munster or Connacht Irish, but you might be able to find something using the Ulster dialect.


I've been able to have conversations with Gàidhlig speakers in the past, with a little bit of patience and effort, although an interview I was supposed to do with BBC Alba was scrapped for fear of its viewers not being able to understand me. The Islay dialect is the one closest to anything in Ireland. While Ulster Irish is the closest from the other side, the resistance of Munster Irish to official spelling reform and its preservation of some archaic traits is a big help in reading Scots' Gaelic. The grammar is similar on both sides, with a small few differences. Pronunciation can be tricky, more tricky than moving between dialects in Ireland, but not insurmountable. I think the main problem is in the vocabulary, Irish has only about 20 loanwords from Old Norse, Gàidhlig has several hundred. This is further exacerbated by the latter having very different names for any new thing from the past couple of hundred years, Irish tends to formulate a new word, Gàidhlig tends to borrow (although they do that in Conemara too). In terms of courses, BBC Alba is a good place to start, and there are some handy courses on Memrise. Good luck!


Some things will come easier. For example, the verb-first word order. And it will be much easier to understand written Gaelic if you know Irish. But other things will be confusing. You will think you can guess how to say something, but it will be either slightly or very different in Gaelic. I studied Gaelic first, and I have found that while it means I have a pretty good grasp of basic sentence structure, lenition, and eclipsis, it is similar-but-different enough to be confusing when I go to produce Irish.

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