Gaelic in modern Scotland
Gaelic in modern Scotland

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Gaelic in modern Scotland

7 FAQs

1 Where does Gaelic come from?

Answer

Gaelic is one of Scotland’s national languages. Scottish Gaelic is a language of the Celtic family—it is a close relative of Welsh, Cornish and Breton, but shares a more intimate relationship with Irish and Manx Gaelic. These three Gaelic or Goidelic languages descend from a common ancestor, spoken in Ireland in the late first millennium BC and early first millennium AD.

Writers in Latin referred to the inhabitants of Ireland, and thus the speakers of this ancestor language, as Scoti, and to Ireland as Scotia, but early in the middle ages, they adopted a name for themselves from their British cousins—Goídil, Gaels. Gaelic had spread to north-western Britain, to Argyll, by the 6th century at the very latest.

It is generally thought that Gaelic arrived through the migration of Gaels, of Scoti across the Sea of Moyle, though this is the subject of some debate. By the 6th century it was the language of the rulers of Argyll, and of their kingdom of Dál Riata, which still included parts of County Antrim in the north of Ireland. It was the language also of its churchmen, who still had close kinship and political ties to Ireland.

2 How many Gaelic speakers are there?

Answer

The total number of people recorded as being able to speak and/or read and/or write and/or understand Gaelic in the 2001 census was 92,400 (1.9 per cent of the Scottish population). Of these, the total number of people who could speak Gaelic was 58,652 (1.2 per cent of the Scottish population).

Table 12 Census 2001 Data

All persons aged 3 and over (=100%) Able to speak the language Speak, read or write Speak, read, write or understand
Scotland 4,900,492 58,652 (1.2%) 65,674 (1.3%) 92,386 (1.9%)

While the number of Gaelic speakers declined overall in the last census, the number of people able to speak and also to read and write Gaelic increased between 1991 and 2001 reflecting a growth in Gaelic literacy and growing numbers of Gaelic learners. The number of children aged 5-15 able to speak Gaelic also increased between 1991 and 2001.

3 Where is Gaelic spoken now?

Answer

Gaelic speakers are spread throughout Scotland. Of the Gaelic speakers identified in the 2001 census, just over half lived in the Highland counties (the Highland Council, Argyll & Bute Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar areas) and just under half (45 per cent) in the Lowland areas.

Gaelic is spoken by a majority of people in the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar area and in the parish of Kilmuir in the Isle of Skye within the Highland Council area. Only just over a quarter of speakers live in localities where Gaelic speakers form a majority.

There is a high degree of urbanisation within the Gaelic speech community with large concentrations of Gaelic speakers living in Greater Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen. For example, 11,211 Gaelic speakers, or 19 per cent of all Gaelic speakers, live in Greater Glasgow according to the 2001 census.

There are also some Gaelic speakers world-wide, mainly through families emigrating for employment and historical reasons such as forced emigration. Gaelic is still spoken in Cape Breton in Canada where there is significant activity in education and the arts; there are also a significant number of people new to the language learning Gaelic in countries such as Germany, Spain, the Eastern European states and North America. Japanese scholars have also shown interest in Gaelic.

4 Where can I find out about Gaelic organisations?

Answer

There are a number of key organisations involved in Gaelic affairs. The Scottish Government publishes information about its own activities and has links to other organisations. Local authorities do likewise.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (the Gaelic Board) is the principal publicly funded agency charged with developing the language and it has specific responsibility for education.

BBC ALBA is the new television channel and along with BBC Radio nan Gàidheal provides information about programming and related content. The BBC site has very helpful material for learners, as well as archive material.

The universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh all have Celtic Studies or Gaelic Departments and Scotland’s Gaelic College Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, is the main higher education establishment offering a wide range of courses and research facilities.

5 Where can I find out about Gaelic place-names?

Answer

Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba - Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland - is the national advisory partnership for Gaelic place-names in Scotland. Its purpose is to agree correct forms of Gaelic place-names for maps, signs and general use. It draws on the expertise of member organisations, local knowledge and historical sources to agree authoritative forms of Gaelic place-names.

To ensure consistent spelling it uses established principles such as the Gaelic Orthographic Conventions and the guidance it has produced on Gaelic place names.

AÀA has been working with Ordnance Survey, local councils, roads authorities and other public bodies since 2000 to provide Gaelic names for maps and signs. To meet the growing demand for reliable information on Gaelic place-names, it is setting up the national Gaelic place-name gazetteer referred to in the National Plan for Gaelic.

6 Is Gaelic a difficult language to learn?

Answer

There is no straightforward answer to this. There is no language which can be identified as the easiest or most difficult, the best to learn or the least useful. Nor is there any guide or limit as to how long it takes one to learn a language or even become fairly proficient.

The single most important factor in learning any additional language is application (persistence in the face of challenges) and patience (maintaining a reasonable sense of perspective on what can be achieved in particular circumstances).

Frequent practice is very important and if a learner can become immersed in a language, by living and or working in a community where the language is used on a regular basis then the chances of picking up a language are better.

Listening to television and radio output helps, as does reading, particularly if a language is being assimilated to study literature.

A useful source of information on how to learn a new language, is Omniglot.

For a Gaelic-specific perspective on language learning, see Bilingualism Matters.

The Gaelic learners’ support organisation Clì Gàidhlig is a good starting point for Gaelic learning. My Gaelic is also a useful place to visit for advice and information linking to social network sites.

There are a number of other websites such as Bòrd na Gàidhlig or the BBC’s Gaelic services which have advice on where and how to learn the language. A number of institutions and organisations offer distance or on-line learning courses. The Gaelic Books Council (Comhairle nan Leabhraichean) can offer advice also on learners’ tools such as DVDs, CDs and other materials.

7 Are there separate Gaelic schools?

Answer

There are two Gaelic schools at primary level which also have secondary departments, in Inverness and in Glasgow, which was the first to be established. Demand for places at the schools continues to grow. Glasgow had 311 pupils in 2007 and this increased to 509 and by session 2010/11 the number had risen to 580.

There are around 2,500 primary and secondary schoolchildren in Gaelic-medium education (GME) nationally at present, with a further 700 children in Gaelic-medium nurseries.

The number of pupils who are in GME at primary school level has risen from 24 in 1985 to 2,256 five years later in 2010. There were 390 pupils in GME at secondary school level in the school year 2009/10. In 58 nurseries run by local authorities, there were 856 children registered in the school year 2009/10.

Within English-medium education between 2,500 and 3,000 learners study Gaelic as a secondary subject each year between S1 and S6. Many children in English-medium primary schools also take part in the Gaelic Language in the Primary School scheme each year.

The number of students who are in Gaelic further or higher education, or who are taking a Gaelic course at that level, has continued to rise also.

Parents should contact their local authority or Bòrd na Gàidhlig for advice on matters relating to Gaelic education provision.

8 Is Irish Gaelic the same as Scottish Gaelic?

Answer

Scottish Gaelic is a language of the Celtic family—it is a close relative of Welsh, Cornish and Breton, but shares a more intimate relationship with Irish and Manx Gaelic. These three Gaelic or Goidelic languages descend from a common ancestor, spoken in Ireland in the late first millennium BC and early first millennium AD.

In modern terms, it is perfectly possible for some speakers of the Irish version to communicate directly. A great deal of vocabulary is shared and the linguistic challenges of developing modern lexicon and registers are common. Indeed broadcasting organisations have teamed up to produce radio programming using presenters from both sides of the Irish Sea.

Due to its geographical proximity and for historical reasons, the Gaelic spoken on the Scottish island of Islay is probably the nearest to modern Irish.

9 What is the legal status of Gaelic?

Answer

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 was passed by the Scottish Parliament with a view to securing the status of the Gaelic language as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language.

One of the key features of the 2005 Act is the provision enabling and agency Bòrd na Gàidhlig (the Scottish Government’s principal Gaelic development body) to require public bodies to prepare Gaelic Language Plans. This provision was designed to ensure that the public sector in Scotland plays its part in creating a sustainable future for Gaelic by raising its status and profile and creating practical opportunities for its use.

The principle of equal respect was incorporated into the 2005 Act by the Scottish Parliament as a positive statement about the value and worth of Gaelic, in recognition of the fact that users of Gaelic aspire to use Gaelic as normally as possible in their lives, that there should be a generosity of spirit towards Gaelic across Scotland, and that the language should not suffer from any lack of respect either at an individual or corporate level.

10 What is the Gaelic Mod?

Answer

The Royal National Mod, to give it its full title, is Scotland’s main Gaelic festival and the equivalent of the Welsh Eisteddfod. The word ‘mod’ itself means a ‘gathering’ or ‘event’.

The Mod is organised by An Comunn Gàidhealach, which is one of the oldest and most respected Gaelic membership-based organisations. Founded in Oban in 1891, it has long been a leading light in the teaching, learning and use of the Gaelic language and the study and cultivation of Gaelic literature, history, music and art.

Through the organisation and running of the Royal National Mòd and grass roots community development work, An Comunn Gàidhealach continues to further its aim of supporting and developing all aspects of the Gaelic language, culture, history and heritage at local, national and international levels. The Mod takes place annually (in October) at various venues throughout Scotland.

11 Where can I find out about Gaelic books and publishing?

Answer

The Gaelic Books Council (Comhairle nan Leabhraichean), which is based in Glasgow, was set up to encourage and promote the study, teaching, knowledge and appreciation of Gaelic writing and the public performance of creative works in Gaelic.

The Books Council can advise on all matters relating to Gaelic books, publishing and learning resources. Its stated vision is to secure a sustainable future for Gaelic literature and publishing in Scotland, increasing the number and readership of Gaelic books in a variety of genres, helping to increase the number Gaelic learners and users to achieve fluency.

12 Where can I find out about children’s books and school books?

Answer

Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig (the National Gaelic Resource Centre) co-ordinates the production and distribution of curriculum resources for Gaelic education. They produce and distribute teaching resources to nurseries, primary schools, secondary schools and lifelong learning groups.

Some of Stòrlann’s resources are available for purchase by the general public and a range of free interactive resources for families can also be found at Gaelic 4 Parents, where families can also access support with homework and other issues relating to Gaelic education.

13 Where are the Gaelic radio and TV channels to be found?

Answer

BBC ALBA, which was launched in 2008, is the Gaelic television channel. It is a partnership between the BBC and MG Alba.

BBC ALBA is available on the following platforms:

  • Freeview channel 8
  • Cable channel 188
  • Sky channel 168
  • Freesat channel 110
  • Live on BBC iPlayer
  • 10 hours of content per week is also available to view on demand via BBC iPlayer.

BBC Radio nan Gàidheal is the BBC’s award-winning national Gaelic radio service which broadcasts on FM. It broadcasts a mix of speech based, music and sports programming with extensive news coverage seven days a week.

Radio nan Gàidheal is available on FM transmitters in Scotland (except the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire, Orkney and Shetland); it can also be heard on digital television platforms, DAB Digital Radio, and online. Radio programmes can also be sourced live or for seven days after transmission on the BBC’s iPlayer.

BBC Radio nan Gàidheal broadcasts alongside a graphical overlay on the Scottish Gaelic digital television channel ALBA during periods when the TV service is not broadcasting programmes.

BBC Radio na Gàidheal can be found on FM: 103.5-105 MHz, DAB, Freeview: 720 (Scotland only), Freesat: 713 (110), Sky: 0139 (168), Virgin Media: 934; RDS: BBC GAEL

Some local or community radio stations such as Moray Firth Radio, based in Inverness, broadcast Gaelic material as do community radio stations such as Isles FM in the Western Isles, Oban FM in Argyll, Cuillin FM in Skye and Nevis Radio in the Lochaber area.

14 Can you study Gaelic at universities and colleges?

Answer

There are a number of courses available related to Gaelic at colleges and universities in Scotland and others abroad in places such as Canada. Courses are available which are taught entirely through the medium of Gaelic – such as those on offer at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye and Lews Castle College on Lewis, both of which are parts of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). There are also degrees in Celtic and Gaelic in the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with Gaelic a key element of many of those degrees. There are also teacher training courses at Strathclyde University and Northern College in Aberdeen.

You can also get more information from the Gaelic Teachers site, or the Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

15 Where is Scotland’s national Gaelic college?

Answer

Founded in 1973, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (the Great Barn of Ostaig,) on Skye has become internationally recognised as a National Centre for the Gaelic language and culture. The College is an academic partner within UHI, the University of the Highlands and Islands www.uhi.ac.uk and provides high quality education and research opportunities through the medium of Scottish Gaelic.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is a modern, innovative college and has excellent learning resources on-campus including an exceptional library collection, broadcast and recording facilities, residential student accommodation and a Gaelic-medium childcare facility. In Session 2011/12 student numbers stand at approximately 90 on full-time courses, 260 on distance learning and access courses, and up to 800 on short courses each year.

The College's activities are greatly enhanced by co-operative links within the wider Gaelic community and the College is home to a number of creative and cultural projects such as Tobar an Dualchais (The Kist o’ Riches), Faclair na Gàidhlig (The Gaelic Dictionary), Soillse, the new research centre and the multimedia and design company Cànan.

The College also plays a leading role in the promotion of the Gaelic arts and culture and hosts a programme of residencies for artists in music, literature, drama and the visual arts.

16 Can you get software in computers for Gaelic?

Answer

There are a number of software programmes which have been developed to enable Gaelic to be used on computers.

The Microsoft Captions Language Interface Pack (CLIP) is a simple language translation solution that uses tooltip captions to display results. CLIP can be used as a language aid, to see translations in various languages and dialects. CLIP is designed to enable and support indigenous languages and native dialects and is the result of collaboration between Microsoft and local communities. Users are able to download multiple languages, switching target translations quickly and easily. Translations are available between English and Scottish Gaelic.

There are a number of software products available for teaching grammar and vocabulary, for both DOS and Macs.

There are spell-checkers available, for example, An Dearbhair, which was developed originally for Microsoft Word 2003 and can be downloaded here.

There are spell-checkers available, for example, An Dearbhair, which was developed originally for Microsoft Word 2003 and can be downloaded here.

Gaelic can also be used to Google. There is also a Gaelic interface for Firefox.

The Gaelic terminology database Seotal has published a list of Gaelic terms which are useful relating to internet use and the management of websites. It is available from Seotal.

17 What are the most useful Gaelic dictionaries?

Answer

A good Gaelic dictionary is a key component of any learner’s toolkit for their studies. Gaelic-English translation and English to Gaelic translation are both essential tools. Free online Gaelic translations are also available on some websites.

The Teach Yourself Essential Gaelic Dictionary, updated and re-published in 2010, is the most accessible and useful modern dictionary.

A number of other dictionaries by Angus Watson, Gordon MacLennan and Colin Mark are also useful and information on all of these is available at Comhairle nan Leabhraichean.

A number of online dictionary resources are also available such as Dwelly/ Dwelly online which is a version of Edward Dwelly’s famous Illustrated Dictionary, which was for many years the standard tool.

The Stòr-data Briathrachais Gàidhlig or Gaelic terminology database produced by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig contains a wide range of vocabulary

The Scottish Government’s Faclair na Pàrlamaid (Dictionary of Parliamentary Terms), published in 2001, contains a list of vocabulary relating to the use of Gaelic in local authority and government areas.

Faclair na Gàidhlig (The Dictionary of the Scottish Gaelic Language) is an inter-university initiative by the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI. This will be an historical dictionary of Scottish Gaelic comparable to the multi-volume resources already available for Scots and English, the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, the Scottish National Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary. The Dictionary of the Scottish Gaelic Language will be published initially in electronic format.

The dictionary will document fully the history of the Gaelic language and culture from the earliest manuscript material onwards, placing Gaelic in context with Irish and Scots. Of equal importance, it will show the relationship between Scottish Gaelic and Irish.

18 Where can I find out about Gaelic personal names?

Answer

Some traditional Gaelic names have no direct equivalents in English. Oighrig is rendered as Euphemia or Henrietta and Diorbhal is ‘matched’ with Dorothy simply on the basis of a certain similarity in spelling. Gormul, for which there is nothing similar in English, is rendered as 'Gormelia' or even 'Dorothy'. Beathag is ‘matched’ with Becky or Rebecca, or even Betsy or Sophie.

Some names have come into Gaelic from Old Norse. For example Somhairle, which is conventionally rendered in English as Sorley or, historically, Somerled.

Some traditional Gaelic names have become so well known that English versions of them are used outside Gaelic-speaking areas. These include Ailean, Aonghas, Dòmhnall, Donnchadh, Coinneach, Murchadh (Alan, Angus, Donald, Duncan, Kenneth, Murdo). Iain (John), Alasdair (Alexander), Uilleam (William), Catrìona (Catherine), Raibert (Robert), Cairistìona (Christina), Anna (Ann), Màiri (Mary), Seumas (James), Pàdraig (Patrick) and Tómas (Thomas) are also used. The well-known name Hamish, and the recently established Mhairi (pronounced [vaːri]) come from the Gaelic for, respectively, James, and Mary.

The book Gaelic Personal Names by Donncha O'Corrain and Fidelma Maguire, published in April 1981, is a useful starting point for further information.

19 Are there any Gaelic newspapers?

Answer

There are no Gaelic newspapers as such but a number carry weekly opinion columns, features or news coverage, such as The Inverness Courier, Press & Journal, Oban Times, Stornoway Gazette and West Highland Free Press.

An t-Albannach (The Scotsman) is the only national paper which carries any Gaelic material.

A number of community newspapers, particularly in the Western Isles, carry Gaelic material on a regular basis and this material is now also appearing on websites.

20 Does Gaelic have a different alphabet from English?

Answer

There are 18 letters in the Gaelic alphabet and each of them was traditionally linked to the name of a tree or plant. The letters which are not used are : j, k, q, v, w, x, y, z.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority’s guidance document on Gaelic orthography advises on how to deal with the adaptation of words using any of these letters.

21 Are Gaelic and Scots similar in any way?

Answer

Scots is not to be confused with Scottish English or Scottish Gaelic. It is spoken in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. A Scottish Government study found that 85 per cent of respondents (being a representative sample of Scotland's adult population) claimed to speak Scots to varying degree.

Classified as a ‘traditional language’ by the Scottish Government, Scots is classified as a ‘regional or minority language’ under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, ratified by the United Kingdom in 2001. It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic.

Since there are no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing languages from dialects, scholars and other interested parties often disagree about the linguistic, historical and social status of Scots. Consequently, Scots is often regarded as one of the ancient varieties of English, but with its own distinct dialects. Alternatively, Scots is sometimes treated as a distinct Germanic language, in the way Norwegian is closely linked to, yet distinct from, Danish.

In the 2011 Scottish census a question on Scots language ability was included for the first time.

22 Is Gaelic spoken abroad or just in Scotland?

Answer

Gaelic has been spoken continuously for more than 200 years on Cape Breton Island and in Nova Scotia and these are now the only places where Gaelic is to be found on a daily basis beyond Scotland.

To a lesser extent the language is also spoken on nearby Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Glengarry County in present-day Ontario and by emigrant Gaels living in major Canadian cities such as Toronto.

A Gaelic Economic-impact Study completed by the Nova Scotia government in 2002 estimated that Gaelic generated over $23.5 million annually, with nearly 380,000 people attending approximately 2,070 Gaelic events annually. This study inspired a subsequent report, The Gaelic Preservation Strategy, which polled the community's desire to preserve Gaelic while seeking consensus on adequate reparative measures.

Oifis Iomairtean na Gàidhlig (Office of Gaelic Affairs), the provincial department was established in December 2006, charged with promoting and engaging the province's Gaelic-speaking community.

Over a dozen public institutions offer Gaelic courses, (such as a Canadian History course in Gaelic at North Nova Education Centre, Nova Scotia) in addition to advanced programmes conducted at Cape Breton, St Francis Xavier, and Saint Mary's Universities, and the Atlantic Gaelic Academy.

The Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts in St Ann's offers Gaelic summer classes.

23 Are Gaelic road signs safe?

Answer

In many countries such as Belgium, Finland, Ireland and Switzerland bilingual road signs are accepted as a normal feature of daily life and attract little or no undue comment or attention.

In other countries where multilingualism is not the norm, the issue of multilingual road signs has been controversial at times. The issues most frequently cited are safety and cost.

There is no evidence to support any suggestions that multilingual road signs are unsafe. Gaelic signage is regarded as being very important in terms of raising the visibility and normalisation of the language in everyday life.

For a comparative study of the use of minority languages in road signage in Norway, Scotland and Italy, which deals with related issues, see the following article.

24 Is there such a thing as ‘standard Gaelic’ (different dialects)

Answer

Gaelic is a rich and expressive language which, like every other dynamic language, including English, has absorbed a wide range of words from other languages through the ages. Latin, Greek, French, Norse and English have all been mined as the language continues to grow. But it is also true that a significant number of Scottish and Irish Gaelic words have been borrowed by other languages, especially English.

You could almost say there’s Gaelic galore, or gu leòr (‘plenty, enough’), in our everyday speech. Do you twig, or tuig (‘understand’)? Great, maybe you fancy a nip of whisky, or uisge-beatha (literally the ‘water of life’)? And after a dram (drama) or two, you might be ready for a ceilidh, or a cèilidh (‘a concert or visit’).

25 What qualifications could I get in Gaelic to help get a job?

Answer

More and more companies around the country are looking for people who can use Gaelic. The public and private sector alike are increasing the number of vacancies where it may be of benefit if the candidate has Gaelic or a basic grasp of the language.

Gaelic is seen as a major advantage in areas such as tourism, teaching, broadcasting and in many other related roles. As well as being an interesting language and an integral part of Scotland’s culture and heritage, Gaelic is part of the modern way of life for many. Learning Gaelic will not only allow you to have an understanding of history, songs and literature but can also help your career. There are now hundreds of jobs throughout Scotland for those who speak Gaelic, and as the Gaelic community continues to grow, so is the expected number of Gaelic related jobs available.

Universities offer a variety of degree courses in Gaelic and/or Celtic Languages with combinations of many other subjects. The main institutions teaching Gaelic are the Universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, along with the national Gaelic College Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye, Lews Castle Colge in Stornoway, Telford Colge in Edinburgh and Stow College in Glasgow.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) offers separate courses for fluent speakers and learners, with those for fluent speakers entitled ‘Gàidhlig’. SQA's Gaelic (Learners) and Gàidhlig courses offer candidates the opportunity to acquire or increase oral fluency and literacy in Gaelic. Candidates also develop awareness of historical and contemporary aspects of the culture, ethos and environment of the Gaelic-speaking community.

26 Can Gaelic be called a national language of Scotland?

Answer

In that the language was spoken throughout most of the country over time, Gaelic has a legitimate case. That is not to say it is the national language. Gaelic is a language central to the importance of Scottish cultural life. Gaelic was the language of the old kings of Scotland. MacBeth and Robert the Bruce both spoke Gaelic; and many place names still bear testimony to the spread of Gaelic speakers throughout Scotland after their arrival from Ireland.

There are very few regions of Scotland that do not boast at least a smattering of places originally named by Gaelic speakers, from Balerno (baile airneach, ‘hawthorn farm’) in Midlothian to Baile Màrtainn in South Uist; from Craigentinny (creag an t-sionnaich, ‘fox craig’) in Edinburgh to Aultivullin (allt a’ mhuilinn, ‘mill burn’) in the far north of Sutherland; and from Drummore (druim mòr, ‘big ridge’) on the Mull of Galloway to Cairnbulg (càrn builg, ‘gap cairn’) near Fraserburgh.

In many places where Gaelic is no longer spoken as a native tongue, such as Galloway, Fife, or Aberdeenshire, the landscape is still predominantly one named by Gaelic speakers. In the 12th and 13th Centuries, the high point of the expansion of Gaelic as a language in Scotland, Gaelic speakers could be found nearly everywhere. Research shows that the 12th century was when the most ubiquitous Gaelic place-names, those employing the words baile (‘farm, settlement’), and achadh (‘field’), were coined.

27 How much does the Scottish Government spend on Gaelic?

Answer

The Scottish Government budget for Gaelic and is approximately £23 million in 2011-12. This is approximately 0.07 per cent of the Scottish Government’s overall budget of £29 billion. Of the £23 million, Bòrd na Gàidhlig is allocated £5.1 million; the Gaelic Specific Grants Scheme used to support local authorities in providing Gaelic education has an allocation of £4.6 million, which is shared among 21 local authorities across Scotland; and MG Alba receives support of £11.8 million for the Gaelic television channel BBC ALBA and related activities. The Gaelic Schools Capital Fund has £1.1 million reserved to help local authorities with capital projects such as school building work.

28 Shouldn't children be learning Chinese, or a modern European language instead of Gaelic?

Answer

Scotland is a multilingual country where, according to a recent survey, at least 106 different languages are spoken. In a population of over 5 million, this wide range of languages holds significant potential for cultural diversity, economic opportunity, and enriched education. The Scottish Government has recognised Gaelic as a national asset.

In many parts of the world it is common for children to be exposed to two or even more languages right from birth, but bilingualism is a relatively new phenomenon in most of Europe. As a consequence, growing up with more than one language is often regarded as 'special' and even 'dangerous' for a child’s development, and bilingualism is still surrounded by negative beliefs and misunderstandings. This is largely due to lack of information. The benefits of bilingualism are simply not as well recognised as they should be and the truth of the matter is that learning languages, any number of them, is a very worthwhile activity which can benefit learners in all sorts of way.

29 What are the benefits of bilingualism?

Answer

Research has shown that bilingualism is beneficial for children’s development and their future. Children exposed to different languages become more aware of different cultures, other people and other points of view. They also tend to be better than monolinguals at 'multitasking' and focusing attention, they often are more precocious readers, and generally find it easier to learn other languages. Bilingualism gives children much more than two languages.

Gaelic Medium Education (GME) is available in 14 Local Authorities across Scotland and is seen as one of the most effective ways of achieving fluency. GME has been successful in achieving high levels of interest.

Recent Edinburgh University research shows that children educated through Gaelic are on par with or outperform children educated in one language. Children educated in GME are at an advantage learning other ones. Bilinguals can access different literatures and more ways of thinking and acting. Gaelic bilinguals have a better understanding of their place in wider Scottish culture identity, and are able to access many career opportunities. Children experiencing different languages at an early age tend to be more focussed than monolinguals at 'multitasking’; they are better readers, and generally find it easier to learn other languages.

30 Where can I find out about Gaelic songs?

Answer

The Tobar an Dualchais or Kist o’ Riches website was officially launched in 2010. The site contains thousands of recordings from throughout Scotland in Gaelic and Scots. The material includes stories, songs, folklore, poetry, factual information and lots more. The material has been collected from all over Scotland and beyond from the 1930s onwards.

The recordings come from the School of Scottish Studies (University of Edinburgh), BBC Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland's Canna Collection. The material includes stories recorded by John Lorne Campbell on wax cylinders in 1937, folklore collected all over Scotland by Calum Maclean in the 1950s; Scots songs recorded by Hamish Henderson from travelling people in the 1960s and archival material broadcast by BBC Radio nan Gàidheal

2010 was the Year of Song (Bliadhna nan Òran) on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal and BBC ALBA and throughout the year an unparalleled line-up of music-related programmes were broadcast, including Òran an La, Song of the Day, featuring a different song with contextual information for each day of the year.

The website is the legacy of this project and it allows users to access content/information about the songs, quickly and simply by means of 4 key sections: songs, writers, themes and singers. The site currently offers the opportunity to listen to over 800 songs with supporting lyrics, 360 excerpts from radio programmes, and over 550 video clips. Biographical information is also available for over 500 singers and writers.

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