2007 - 2020

Bithibh coma – stop being so polite

Uill, a’ Ghàidhlig chòir. Tòrr smuaintean a dol aig a h-uile duine, seo beagan meòrachadh bhuam fhìn [A few thoughts on the present situation about Gaelic. This is a very important juncture for Gaelic. English below].

Tha naidheachd mun rannsachadh ùr seo air eagal a chuir air grùnnd dhaoine. Tha tòrr ag radh air na meadhanan-sòisealta, “o bha fios againn gu robh seo a’ tighinn”, ach tha cuid eile (gu h-àraidh feadhain òga) air a ràdh “bha sinn dòchasach leis gu robh e faireachdain mar gu robh suidheachadh na Gàidhlig a’ fàs nas fhearr”.

’S e brath-naidheachd duilich a bh’ann anns na pàipearan, a’ foillseachadh rannsachadh ùr a chaidh a dheànamh air na figearan de luchd labhairt anns na coimhearsnachdan dùthchasail. Ach feumar uile tuigsinn gun deach am brath-naidheachd agus toraidhean an rannsachadh a dheanamh cho dubhach agus cho cianail airson’s gum biodh e buadhmhòr – gun deànadh e ‘stir’ agus gu feireadh sin putadh air a leithid Bòrd na Gàidhlig agus Comhairle nan Eilean Siar gus barrachd a dheànamh a dh’ionnsaigh taic a chumail ri coimhearsnachdan dùthchasach na Gàidhlig.

Chan eil mi ag ràdh nach eil tòrr dhe fìor, ach tha mi dhen bheachd gun bheil cunnart mòr ann bho droch bhuaidh an naidheachd thùrsach seo. Tha cunnart gu feir seo barrachd de dhroch bhuaidh air na coimhearsnachdan Gàidhealach na nì e de dh’fheum dhan na buidhnean sin gu h-àrd (ged a tha moladh an leabhair a thaobh Urras na Gàidhlig na bheachd dhòchasach). Dà eiseimpleir a tha air a bhith air m’inntinn:

– Nam biodh tusa nad phàrant agus tu gun d’ìnntinn a dheanamh suas an cuir thu do chuid chloinneadh dha Gàidhlig neo Beurla, (mur a biodh tu cianail làidir a thaobh a Ghàidhlig) an cuireadh tu do chuid chloinne a staigh do GME le naidheachdan tùrsach mun Ghàidhlig mun cuairt? Carson a bhodraigeadh tu airson cànan ionnsachadh a bhios marbh ann an deich bliadhna?

– Tha mise air a bhith a’ strì FAD MO BHEATHA gus am bruidhinn Gàidheil (eileanaich, bodaich is caillich, luchd labhaist tùsanach na Gàidhlig) a tha air a bhith eòlach orm fad mo bheatha, gu bruidhinn iad rium ann an Gàidhlig – agus fhathast cha bhruidhinn. Daoine a bha eòlach orm bho rugadh mi agus làn fhios aca gu bheil mi ag obair agus beò ann an saoghal làn de Ghàidhlig sa latha diugh, cha bhruidhinn iad rium ann an Gàidhlig air sgàths nach eil luach ann a bhith bruidhinn ri daoine òga sa Ghàidhlig. Chan atharraich sin mur a smaoinich daoine gu bheil i gu feum ’s nach eil i dol a mhaireann.

Tha mise air a bhith a’ feuchainn ri bhith bruidhinn ri seann daoine ann an Gàidhlig fiù’s ma tha iad a’ freagairt ann am Beurla, ach air sgàth’s gu deach innse dhan na Gàidheil nach robh luach sa Ghàidhlig fad ceudan de bhliadhnaichean, cha freagar iad sa Ghàidhlig. ’S tha na Gàidheil fada ro mhodhail. Sin a tha a’ cuir stad air daoine bho bhith bruidhinn ri daoine eile sa chànan. Tha an aon teachdaireachd de dì-luach a’ nochdadh a rithist a lùib an rannsachadh ùr seo (ged nach iarradh an luchd rannsachaidh sin). Stad dheth. Dìreach bruidhinn ri daoine sa Ghàidhlig. Seann daoine. Daoine òga. Daoine is aithne dhut neo srainnsearan. Bodaich is cailleachan nan eilean, fiù’s ma bhruidhinneas iad Beurla riut. Bèibidhean, fiù’s mur a bruidhinn iad airais thugad. Bithibh coma – bruidhinn i.

Nam biodh tu nad phàrant neo nad bhodach/cailleach, agus fios agad a nis gu robh barrachd de chlann nan Eilean Siar a-staigh gu Faoghlam tro Mheadhan na Gàidhlig na bha roimhe, neo gu robh daoine dhe mo ghinealachsa a’ coinneachadh ’s a’ bruidhinn na Gàidhlig ann an taighean-seinnse a’ bhaile mhòr – bhiodh adhbhar ann cumail leis a’ chànan an uair sin. Feumaidh sinn an teachdaireachd seo a chumail an àird airson’s nach e ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ a th’anns an rannsachadh ùr.

Tha ath-bheothachadh air nochdadh sna beagan laithean mu dheireadh, le tòrr de Ghàidheil òga a’ cuir barrachd Gàidhlig air na meadhan-sòisealta, agus an iomairt #dèantainmathort. Tha sin sgoinneil, agus ‘se rud a tha soilleir mun a seo, ‘se gu feumar rudan a dheànamh sinn fhìn agus gun a bhith feitheamh air na h-ùghdarrasan agus buidhnean Gàidhlig a mhàin. Bithibh coma – bruidhinn i!

Gaelic hit the news last week with the publishing of a new book containing very thorough research on the state of Gaelic in the indigenous communities – like mine in Grimsay/Uist. The news is that it could die out in 10 years. A lot of folk have been talking about this on social media over the past few days. Some saying “Oh, we saw this coming” and others (particularly young folk) saying “I thought we were doing quite well and the language was on the way up”.

The news in the papers was disheartening. But we must understand the shock technique of this news is to cause panic and fear, so that the organisation such as Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Western Isles Council do more to help support the native Gaelic communities. I’m not saying that there is anything incorrect about the research, only that I’m worried that presenting it in this fashion will cause a negative impact on the Gaelic community that outweighs the change it seeks to provoke in the Gaelic organisations at the top. Two thoughts that have been circling in my mind:

– If you were a parent unsure whether to put your child into Gaelic or English-only education, (unless you were really strong about Gaelic) would all this negative news persuade and enthuse you about your child’s prospects going into Gaelic Medium Education, and the language being dead in 10 years?

– I have spent MY WHOLE LIFE trying to get Gaels (islanders, older folk, native speaker) to speak to me in Gaelic, and still they don’t. People who have known me my whole life, and know full well that I work and live in a world of Gaelic today, still they won’t speak to me in Gaelic because they have been engrained with the ideology that Gaelic is worthless to use and pass on to younger folk. This won’t change if people think the language is worthless and soon to die out.

I have been trying to speak to middle aged and older folk in Gaelic, even if they speak to me in English, but because the Gaels have been told for hundreds of years that their language and culture is worthless, this doesn’t change. And the Gaels have been far too polite and obliging. That’s what is in people’s minds and stops them from conversing in Gaelic. This same message is carried by this new research (though not intentionally). We must stop that attitude. Just stop it. Speak to people in Gaelic. Old people. Young people. People you know. Strangers. Old folk, even when they reply in English. Babies, even when they can’t even reply. Stop being so polite – just speak it.

If you were a parent, or elderly, and you knew that more of the Western Isles’ children were now in Gaelic Medium Education, and all P1s will start in Gaelic now, or that some of my generation happily use Gaelic in the pub with our peers – you would see much more of a reason for using the language then. We mustn’t allow this research to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It has been amazing to see lots of folk on social media recently, using Gaelic a lot more, making new instagram accounts, and the #dèantainmathort initiative. It’s brilliant, and it’s clear that we need to do things ourselves and not wait for the big organisations at the top. Stop being so polite – just speak it!

Comments (6)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Sharon Gunason Pottinger says:

    A good post, but I suspect there is something else going on , too. I had a brother in law who was a native Gaelic speaker and another brother in law who learned Gaelic and tried to speak to the native speaker in Gaelic. I heard from each of them. The native speaker said ‘his accent is so bad and I dont want to correct him’. The learner said, ‘I wish he’d help me learn…’ OK now I am about to be a DuoLingo alum and I’m facing the same thing. I need someone(s) with patience to listen/correct/ encourage. It is not an easy language to learn beyond the first few phrases. I can get a few of the words in your Gaelic post, but had to switch to English to make sense of it. So to native speakers–be patient with the nouveau burblers even if they mangle your lovely language.
    To the Gaelic resistant, try it. There are resources availalble–DuoLingo and Glossika and a Learn Gaelic Website and BItesize on BBC Alba. Even a little bit helps to keep language and culture alive.

  2. Stuart says:

    good words and sentiment.

  3. SleepingDog says:

    Potentially you could be talking to conversational interfaces too. I am not sure about forthcoming Scottish gaelic support in Amazon Alexa, Google Voice Assistant, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana, and so on, but I guess it will only come about through demand. Obviously there could be problems with pronunciation variation and speech recognition.

    1. Steaphan says:

      Tha teacsa ro-fhiosrach don Ghàidhlig air a’ fòn android agam. Agus tha e math.

      I have Gaelic predictive text on my android phone. It’s good.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Steaphan, useful to know, thanks. In terms of computer voice pronunciation, I wonder what people think of the gaelic option in the Scottish Voice:
        https://www.thescottishvoice.org.uk/home/

  4. Margherita Muller says:

    Right. I have been trying to utter something in Gaelic for twenty years with ‘someone’ but apart from classes I have never managed.

    After twenty years in Glasgow, when I finally decided to step into the Park Bar to see if I could at least ‘hear it’ then Covid arrived.
    I’m shy, worried that I will make a fool of myself, etc. like many others.

    Singing it isnt a problem, but speaking to… who? The last Gaelic speaker I knew died a long time ago and anyway, she wasn’t able to read or write.
    With my current 86 year old friend it’s the same thing. I like FUNC, she thinks it’s rubbish.

    I’m 57, that age when memory starts to falter. The Thursday club with Mairead na h-oganaich is shut.

    To think that I moved to Scotland because I wanted to learn Gaelic – but I’m still not giving up! When I retire I will be able to write the same rant in Gaelic

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.