Here are the top 10 most common anti-Gaelic language arguments and why they’re daft:
1. Scottish Gaelic is an SNP Nationalist plot!
It was the Scottish Secretary in Thatcher’s 1980s Government, George Younger, who began funding Gaelic TV and Radio, with gradual increases supported on a cross party basis from then on. This culminated in the Gaelic Language Scotland Act 2005, introduced by the then Labour and Lib Dem coalition with cross party support. This is the legislation which requires public bodies to produce Gaelic Language Plans, the results of which are increasingly apparent.
One of the biggest supporters of the language is Prince Charles who often speaks in favour of Scottish Gaelic, it is called the ‘Royal National Mòd’ after all. The majority of Scottish Gaelic speakers are Protestant, and Rangers supporters clubs are plentiful particularly in Harris and Lewis. There are a broad mix of identities, religions and political views among Scottish Gaelic supporters and speakers, as you would expect from any group within society.
2. Scottish Gaelic costs too much money!
Scottish Gaelic speakers have jobs, pay income tax and contribute to the economy. The value of Scottish Gaelic’s cultural assets represents hundreds of millions to the Scottish economy. Through tourism, marketing Scotland abroad, Harris Tweed, Whisky, traditional music and tartan, Scottish Gaelic and it’s culture help define Scotland at home and internationally.
Regardless of this contribution, the argument that bilingual signs are costing millions is absurd! Sign manufacturers don’t charge by the letter. If a sign is being replaced or a new vehicle purchased, the fact that bilingual signage is included will not alter the cost of ‘a sign’ or ‘a van’. Gaelic schools likewise are educating Scottish children who require that education regardless of what the language of instruction is. The running costs of paying teachers or providing school books and buildings will be the same per child, whether that child ends up bilingual or not is a choice for parents to make.
The argument that non-Scottish Gaelic speakers “don’t want their taxes spent on X,Y or Z” is irrelevant. The citizens of Stornoway or Lochboisdale don’t have the same opportunity as residents of Edinburgh or Glasgow to visit Scottish Opera, or a National Theatre production, or to visit a National Museums or National Galleries building, but they pay for them through their taxes. You pay for the NHS, the police, for schools regardless of whether you are ill, a victim of crime or a parent!
3. Scottish Gaelic was never spoken here!
This claim is heard so often, made by Scots from Dùn Phris (Dumfries = hill-fort at the thicket) to Ceann Tòrr (Kintore = head of a hill), from An t-Sròn Reamhar (Stranrear = the broad headland) to Dùn Phàrlain (Dunfermline = Pàrlan’s fort) or Baile Àirneach (Balerno = sloe-tree-stead). It is a fact that Scottish Gaelic was spoken over the vast majority of modern Scotland at one time, with place name evidence also extending into the north of England. Either as a majority language, or as a minority amongst a range of other languages, native Gaelic speakers have lived and left their mark on every part of Scotland. Scotland as a nation was founded by speakers of Scottish Gaelic who defended and shaped the nation’s identity as the majority culture for hundreds of years.
Scottish Gaelic belongs to all of us in Scotland, those born here and those who choose to make their home here. Nobody is forced to learn it or even read it on signs, but it is part of our rich culture, history and contemporary identity, the language and it’s speakers should be respected and acknowledged as such.
4. Everyone can speak English anyway!
Speaking more than one language is a good thing regardless of what language that is, did you know 56% of the world is bilingual? So bilingual people are not strange or unusual. Bilingualism is a positive in itself;
- It has cognitive benefits – a bilingual brain is a better brain, with better memory, a better attention span, an increased ability to multitask, and enhanced executive function
- There are health benefits: it can delay the onset of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and lead to faster recovery from a stroke
- It gives you a different way of seeing the world and a deeper understanding of your own and other cultures
- It makes it easier to learn other languages
- It’s an added skill that can give you an edge in the job market
People who speak Gaelic want to speak it and enjoy doing so.
5. Children should focus on learning English!
Gaelic Medium Education is a bilingual education, so children end up completely fluent in both. They get all the education children in English language schools get, and Scottish Gaelic ability with all the advantages of bilingualism listed above. Evidence shows that GME children outperform their monolingual peers, including in English. Learning the more complex European grammar of Scottish Gaelic gives a far greater understanding of the grammar of other European languages, including English.
6. Learning Scottish Gaelic is insular!
Scottish Gaelic is often branded insular by those claiming to be international ‘citizens of the world’, in the vast majority of cases these people are monolingual English speakers. A Scottish Gaelic speaker has access to all the culture an English speaker does, and everything in Scottish Gaelic too – books, music, poetry, history, a whole other cultural heritage. Frankly, if you’re an English-only speaker and are offended by a living language and culture on your own doorstep it says a lot about the open mindedness of your own outlook.
7. They should learn a useful language instead!
In Scotland, Scottish Gaelic is a useful language. It would be great if we could all learn Spanish, German or Chinese too, but opportunities to use them in Scotland are rather limited. Scottish taxes pay for the education of Scotland’s children and to equip them to leave our shores rather than to seek work in Scotland, to identify with their country and history seems counterproductive. Children in Gaelic Medium Education (GME) are fluent Scottish Gaelic and English speakers, their English will be as good, if not better, than their monoglot peers. However, they are also taught foreign languages at GME schools and unlike children in English only schooling, GME children are far better equipped to learn additional languages.
8. The bilingual signs are confusing!
There is no evidence whatsoever that bilingual signage is dangerous or confusing to drivers. The vast majority of countries in Europe and the wider world provide signage in multiple languages as a norm. English speakers who complain about the dangers of bilingual signage on the A9 will no doubt manage fine off on holiday in France or Spain! The majority of Scottish place names are anglicised, meaningless translations from Scottish Gaelic, we’d happily accept all English origin names remain that way, provided all Scottish Gaelic origin names are presented monolingually in their correct form!
9. Scottish Gaelic is gobbledygook that sounds funny or doesn’t make sense!
That’s because you don’t speak it. No languages make sense to those who can’t speak them which leaves non-speakers with no context or meaning for the sounds heard, what does English ‘sound like’? You don’t know because you understand the sounds as words. This seems a fairly obvious and fundamental explanation of language.
10. Scottish Gaelic is a dead language!
People who say this mean they wish it were dead. If Scottish Gaelic were a dead language they wouldn’t be making the effort to fulminate against it in the papers! Scottish Gaelic is a living native language spoken continuously in Scotland since Scotland was established as a nation (by Gaelic speakers).
Mòran taing do Nation.Cymru airson an liosta acasan a chur a-mach agus a thug oirnn seo a dhèanamh! Cùm suas i! https://nation.cymru/2017/top-10-most-common-anti-welsh-language-arguments-and-why-theyre-stupid/
[Anti-Gaelic Bingo was created by Emily McEwan – original here: http://gaelic.co/anti-gaelic-bingo/ – reproduced with thanks]