Gaelic Promotion as Social Justice, Part 5: What You Can Do for Gaelic and the Gaels

In the last four articles in this series, I explained that Scottish Gaelic is the endangered language of the highly minoritized Scottish Gaelic community, especially the ethnic group known as the Scottish Gaels; that the Gaels, over the course of the last millennium, have endured terrible and continuous injustice at the hands of the state and its agents, up to and including cultural genocide; that modern Scotland is still rife with anti-Gaelic bigotry; and that standing up for the language rights of Gaelic speakers – and for the rights of the Scottish Gaels as a people – is a moral imperative for all people in Scotland, just as standing up for the rights of minoritized communities in general is a moral imperative for all people throughout the world. In this article, I would like to explain what you yourself can do to help Scottish Gaelic and the Gaelic community. The following are some simple steps you can take to help secure a future for the Scottish Gaels and their language. In the first place:

Be a good Gaelic ally!

In social justice parlance, ‘allyship’ means taking actions as an outsider to help a minoritized community. It sounds a bit more militaristic than friendship because most such communities are locked in a battle for their very existence; by engaging in allyship, you volunteer your services help them survive. Remember that ‘service’ in this context means just what it sounds like: your purpose as an ally is not to direct, but to assist. Every minoritized community has specific needs and struggles, and it is the sole right of the members of that community to dictate to their allies what are the priorities of the movement, and how best those priorities should be served. In the case of the movement for Gaelic revitalization, an increasing number of Scottish Gaels feel that not enough emphasis has been placed thus far on undoing the economic and social damage inflicted upon their communities by the centuries-long infrastructural and economic devastation of the Highlands and Islands.

Currently, many parts of the Hebrides and the coastal Scottish Highlands are among the poorest and most rural regions of the United Kingdom, with few job prospects to retain the young adults on whom Gaelic-speaking communities depend to sustain their populations. To make matters worse, the region’s scenic views and chronically depressed housing prices vis-à-vis the United Kingdom’s urban cores have meant that, for decades, wealthy English-language monoglots have been settling in Gaelic communities to retire – buying up houses at higher prices than locals can afford, causing price inflation in the local economy, and generally refusing to learn Gaelic. These culturally insensitive incomers have worsened the ongoing Hebridean housing crisis, and caused the further decline of the Gaelic language in its traditional heartlands.

Just as devasting to Gaelic communities in some areas as the abovementioned modern-day settler colonialists have been more temporary visitors. In the Isle of Skye, for instance, summer tourism has increased so dramatically since the completion of the bridge to the Scottish mainland that, for much of the year, the local roads are in a constant state of disrepair from overuse, septic facilities are overburdened to the point that human waste sometimes accumulates by public roadsides, and locals can hardly go about their daily lives because of congestion from human and vehicle traffic – a situation which has yet to fully improve even in the aftermath of the restrictions imposed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic! The hope that locals would at least be well-compensated for their troubles by tourism revenues has been largely dashed, since many of the businesses that profit most from the tourist trade are owned by non-locals who exploit the island and its labour only to generate wealth that gets invested elsewhere.

In the face of inundation by English-speaking tourists, and the de facto replacement of young Gaelic speakers with non-Gaelic speaking incomers, Gaelic now has little hope of survival in even the most historically Gaelic-dominant communities unless major changes take place; and history has shown that in communities where Gaels cease to speak Gaelic, their grandchildren often cease to espouse a Gaelic identity. Thus, the Clearances, and with them the cultural genocide of the Scottish Gaels, are not an unholy relic of bygone ages, but an ongoing fact of life in the Highlands and Islands even today.

So, what can you – as a Gaelic ally – do to change this sorry state of affairs? For one thing, you can listen to Scottish Gaels, and support any initiatives that they themselves champion for the preservation of Gaelic-dominant communities. Some such initiatives might – in the near future – urge the exclusion of non-Gaelic-speakers from certain parts of the Hebrides and coastal Highlands; and, predictably, anti-Gaelic cultural forces are already mobilizing against such measures, attempting to paint them as xenophobic and unnecessary. As an ally of the Scottish Gaels in their fight for survival, you must use your own voice to amplify the voices of the Gaels, rather than joining the shrill chorus that opposes them. Any measure that furthers the Gaels’ sovereignty over their own cultural affairs, you should publicly endorse – even if it limits your own privilege.

Interestingly – and perhaps counter-intuitively – one of the most useful things you can do as a Gaelic ally aside from lending your support to activism led by Gaels, is, in a manner of speaking, resolving to do nothing at all: much of the endangerment of the Scottish Gaels and their language results from the harmful activities of outsiders; thus, if you actively refrain from doing things that emotionally, politically or economically harm traditional Gaelic communities, you will have done the Scottish Gaels a valuable service. Were you thinking of purchasing a second home in the Hebrides? Well, think again! If you just can’t abandon the idea of owning a slice of Hebridean real estate, then are you at least prepared to rent it at reasonable rates (or even loan it, free of charge) to a local Gaelic-speaking family when you’re not using it, and to bequeath the property to that family in perpetuity upon your decease, or at such a time as you will no longer use the property? If not, you’re participating in the colonial process. Alternatively, did you or someone you know want to take a trip to the Isle of Skye this summer, Covid permitting? Well, don’t! If you absolutely must have that Hebridean holiday, then at least do something with it that will specifically enrich the Gaelic economy, like paying to participate in a Gaelic-intensive house-stay with willing local Gaels; or enrolling on one of the award-winning Gaelic short courses at Sàbhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye or Lews Castle College in Lewis. Which brings me to my next point:

Learn Gaelic!

While you’re refraining from participating in the settler-colonization of the few remaining Scottish Gaelic heartlands, a great way to fill your time is by learning some Gaelic. In fact, it would be in the best interest of everyone in the Gaelic community if you learned as much Gaelic as you could as quickly as possible. The more Gaelic speakers there are in Scotland, and the more actively and fearlessly they speak Gaelic, the less ammunition there will be in the hands of those who continue, despite all contrary evidence, to insist that Gaelic is a ‘dead language’ that was ‘never spoken here’.

Before embarking on the journey of Gaelic learning, however, it’s important to remember that – although supporting Gaelic is, in principle, supporting the Scottish Gaels – not everything that advances the Gaelic language cause also advances the cause of the Gaelic people. For instance, a great many Gaelic learners in Scotland want to see the term ‘Gael’ re-defined in strictly linguistic terms, with its communally- and domestically-transmitted cultural element discarded altogether. According to this philosophy, whenever a Gaelic learner becomes a fluent speaker of Gaelic, they become a Gael. Although this philosophy correctly recognizes that there is no genetic component to Gaelicness, it erases the existence of the Gaels as a people, and gives them no basis on which to assert their group-based rights. If anyone who speaks Gaelic is considered a Gael, and thousands of Gaelic speakers are being produced institutionally in English-dominant areas of Scotland, then the language movement runs the risk of completely sidelining the actual, historical Gaels – the residents of communities where the Gaelic language and culture still exist as the result of intergenerational transmission in the home and community. Indeed, for a learner to claim Gaelic identity on the mere basis of having learned Gaelic in an institutional setting is an instance of cultural appropriation, as becomes clear when the Scottish Gaelic context is compared to that of other highly minoritized cultural groups. Take, for example, the Sami: if a person from the mainstream cultures of Finland, Norway, or Sweden learned the Sami, it would not make them one of the Sami people; and, if on the mere basis of knowing that language, they claimed to be Sami, then the Sami community would – rightly – reject their claim. Although the cultural distinctness of the Gaels has been obscured by their common citizenship with other people in Scotland, their eventual induction into the racial construct of ‘whiteness’, and the long standing and partially successful efforts of the Scottish and British states to culturally assimilate them, they are ultimately entitled – as speakers of an indigenous language who learned that language and its attendant culture by indigenous means – to the protections which, according to the principles of social justice, indigeneity confers. Only people raised or adopted by Gaels are Gaels, and people who are not Gaels, but who claim to be Gaels, necessarily risk participating in the further marginalization of Gaelic culture.

That having been said, learning Gaelic without appropriating Gaelic identity definitely is in the best interest of Gaels, because the more people there are who speak their language, the more pressure can be exerted on the state to give that language and its community the protections it needs to survive. Thus, claiming to be a Gael on the sole basis of learning Gaelic is bad allyship, but learning Gaelic for the sake of the Gaels is good allyship. Fortunately for all of us, learning Gaelic quickly and well is arguably easier now than at any previous point in history! Online lessons are available for free at and; courses for self-teaching, such as the immensely popular Gaelic in Twelve Weeks, are available for reasonable prices at most any bookseller in real- or cyber-space; and a whole host of courses (some of them free) can be booked through either private tutors or institutions like the Open University, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow, the University of Aberdeen, and the University of the Highlands and Islands. If you’d rather a less institutional approach, the Moray Language Centre hosts a range of programmes based in various locales that focus on imparting the Gaelic of home and family life; the Centre’s educators advertise that their immersion courses can make a participant fluent in household Gaelic in a matter of days or weeks, and that their methodology has been instrumental to the success of the ongoing revitalization of Scottish Gaelic in Nova Scotia, Canada.

If these methods of learning Gaelic seem too conventional, and you’re feeling up for a challenge, then the very best thing you could do is to apprentice yourself as a language learner an elderly native speaker of Gaelic. Even the Scots- and English-dominant counties of Scotland – and various regions outwith Scotland – sometimes play host to lone (and often lonely) Gaelic speakers who either emigrated from the Highlands and Islands earlier in their lives, or who once belonged to local Gaelic-speaking communities that have since been assimilated to the Anglophone mainstream. That second scenario is especially tragic, since the speakers in question will have memories of a time when everyone in their area spoke their native language, but will have seen, over the course of their own lifetimes, the slow and inexorable destruction of the cherished linguistic milieu of their childhoods. There’s even a set Gaelic phrase that applies to people in this situation: Oisean às dèidh na Fèinne – that is, ‘Ossian after the Fenians’ – invoking the legendary Gaelic warrior-poet who outlived everyone he knew and loved. If you’re lucky enough to know any of these aging Gaels, then you should ask about the prospect of learning Gaelic from them. Many of them will jump at the opportunity to speak to you in Gaelic, even if they have to train you up themselves to get you fully conversational. If all goes well, it will be a mutually beneficial relationship wherein they get the attention and respect they deserve in their old age, you get the rich and dialectal Gaelic you want as a learner, and their Gaelic dialect gets another of the speakers it needs in order to survive. You’ll have the added incentive that learning Gaelic in that way can earn you a great deal of respect in the Gaelic community: Griogair Labhruidh, a widely known and celebrated Gaelic musician, and Àdhamh Ó Broin, the Gaelic consultant for the Outlander television series, both won their initial fame by learning rare Gaelic dialects from the last tradition bearers in their respective areas. Even if your time as a Gaelic apprentice doesn’t propel you to stardom, you’ll at least get the satisfaction of having acquired a new language, and of doing a great service for your local Gaelic dialect and its speakers.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to ease yourself into the learning process through the passive absorption of Gaelic media, you’ve still got plenty of options: you can watch BBC Alba, listen to Radio nan Gàidheal, or appreciate the music of any number of exciting Gaelic-language recording artists. You might even check out the Gaelic book selection at your local bookshop, or browse titles online through Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (The Gaelic Books Council). There are plenty of Gaelic books, especially books of poetry, that have facing English-language translations for every Gaelic-language page – a great opportunity for self-study!

Alternatively, if you yourself don’t feel you have the time or self-discipline to learn Gaelic, but would like to feel the righteous glow that comes from promoting it, then I suspect you’ve underestimated yourself, but at least don’t hesitate to enroll your children in Gaelic-medium education! GME is every bit as ethical as education of the English-medium variety, if not more so, and – as numerous studies have shown – it is far better for children’s cognitive development than is its English-language counterpart, owing to the extra mental stimulation that bilingualism provides. Oftentimes, and much to the delight of Gaelic activists, those parents whose children undertake Gaelic education will themselves get drawn into language learning in any case, as many members of Comann nam Pàrant – the Society of (Gaelic-speaking) Parents – would surely attest. As it happens, the members of that society are far from the only Gaelic-speakers who congregate for the purpose of promoting the language in association with other goals or interests, which brings me to my next suggestion:

Join a Gaelic Promotion Organisation!

Do you like conversing, singing, hill-walking, social drinking, listening to live music, engaging in the textile arts, playing videogames, partaking in religious fellowship, or participating in political activism? If even one of these things interests you, then there are no shortage of organisations that you could join for the purpose of pursuing that interest through the medium of Gaelic, and the above selection is by no means an exhaustive list: a quick internet search will likely provide you with all the information you need to get in touch with whatever Gaelic group would best suit your own affinities. Two organisations which I have found to be particularly fulfilling in the course of my own language-learning journey, albeit in very different ways, are the Gaelic congregation of Greyfriars Kirk, in Edinburgh; and the Scotland-wide Leftist political pressure group, Misneachd (Courage). The former will afford you the opportunity not only to congregate with some of the kindest and most welcoming people I’ve had the good fortune to meet while in Scotland, but to hear the rare and beautiful art of traditional Gaelic psalm singing; whereas the latter will grant you the satisfaction and purposefulness that comes from striving to change the world for the better. One can, of course, engage in that last and very laudable activity independently, which brings us to my fourth and final exhortation:

Stand up to Anti-Gaelic Bigotry!

By now, I will take for granted that you’ll refrain from colonizing or over-touristing the Highlands and Islands; and I sincerely hope that you will at least consider learning Gaelic (and that you will refrain from appropriating Gaelic identity once you learn it). Even if language learning somehow doesn’t appeal to you, however, I’m happy to report that there are some acts of Gaelic promotion you can undertake even through the medium of English. One of these is standing up to those who would oppose Gaelic, and refraining from opposing it yourself. The next time someone says that Gaelic is dead, explain to them that it isn’t. The next time they say it was never spoken in the Lowlands, let them know that it was. When they say it takes up too much public money, tell them that, in fact, it doesn’t get nearly as much money as it’s owed. When they say that only one percent of Scottish people speak it, recount to them the centuries of oppression and terror that brought that sad statistic into being, and let them know that, by rights, that percentage ought to be far closer to one hundred. When they complain about Gaelic road and rail signs, remind them that it should be everyone’s right to see their mother-tongue represented on public signage in their motherland, and ask them to put themselves in the native Gaelic-speakers’ shoes. If someone suggests a Gaelic bilingual initiative in your place of work or leisure – putting up Gaelic signage on the on the breakroom cupboards, for instance, or organizing a conversation circle for co-workers – don’t resist them: in fact, if you have the time and energy, help them implement the change they’ve proposed! Finally, if someone calls themself a Gael without having been raised in or adopted by a family or community of Gaels, remind them that they are being culturally appropriative.

Even such small gestures are valuable, because the more people speak up for Gaelic, the less comfortable the vocal minority that opposes it will feel about talking it down. Eventually, these naysayers might finally fall silent, and if – on that bright day – it becomes as normal in Scotland to hear Gaelic praised as it is today to hear it disparaged, then the popular will might finally and decisively reverse Gaelic oppression, and bring about universal and whole-hearted Gaelic promotion in its stead – a process that would make the Highlands and Islands economically prosperous and locally owned; Gaelic-medium education available in every Scottish school in the Hebrides and along the West Coast, and perhaps further inland; and Gaelic speech not only accepted but encouraged in shops, streets, places of worship, town halls, and courts of law throughout the Gaelic heartlands and beyond!

Màiri Mhòr nan Òran (Big Mary of the Songs) – a nineteenth-century Gaelic poet and activist from the Isle of Skye, and a hero of the Highland Land Wars – once wrote ‘gun tèid an roth mun cuairt dhuibh le neart is cruas nan dòrn’. Loosely translated, it expresses her hope that the proverbial wheel of progress will turn for those who apply the strength of their fists. She was calling out to her people, the Scottish Gaels – beseeching them to rise as one and resist the forces of genocide that were poised to destroy them. The Gaels have struggled valiantly for generations to fulfill the terms of that call to arms, but, despite their efforts, the hellish wheel of cultural assimilation keeps on grinding as before. Even today, the same sinister forces against which Màiri Mhòr and her comrades fought so fiercely in the late 1800s are still at work; and now, more than ever, the Scottish Gaels and their language need the strength of many hands to resist the onslaught. If you know the difference between justice and injustice, and believe in serving the former rather than the latter, then it is time for you to join us: take up the Gaelic cause, and put your own fist to the wheel! Let’s hope that this time, once and for all, there will finally be enough of us to redirect its motion.

Comments (127)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

    Bloody migrants! Coming up here, taking our homes and our jobs, refusing to speak Gaelic… It’s like living in a foreign country. Reclaim the Hebrides for the Hebrideans and send all these monoglot immigrants back home to where they belong, to think again!

    Are we still not over all this ethnic nonsense?

    1. George Muir says:

      You didn’t read the article Foggy! You have missed the whole essence of what was written. Read it again, slowly and try to grasp the gist. It will be a rewarding exercise for you, hopefully!

      1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

        Adam’s article is perfectly clear. Its thesis is that:

        a) Scottish Gaelic is the endangered language of the highly minoritised Scottish Gaelic community, especially the ethnic group known as the Scottish Gaels;
        b) the Gaels, over the course of the last millennium, have endured terrible and continuous injustice at the hands of the state and its agents, up to and including cultural genocide;
        c) modern Scotland is still rife with anti-Gaelic bigotry; and
        d) standing up for the language rights of Gaelic speakers – and for the rights of the Scottish Gaels as a people – is a moral imperative for all people in Scotland, just as standing up for the rights of minoritised communities in general is a moral imperative for all people throughout the world.

        I agree with the first two premises. I’m not sure that anti-Gaelic bigotry in Scotland is ‘rife’; in my view, most contemporary Scots are practically indifferent to Gaelic rather than hostile to it. And if there is a moral imperative for all people in Scotland to stand up for the rights of the Scottish Gaels as a people, then most contemporary Scots are, again in my view, evidently unmoved by it.

        With regard to this supposed moral imperative, I personally couldn’t care less. As I’ve argued in response to previous articles in the series, Gaelic is entitled to exactly the same rights as other language communities in today’s civic Scotland and, if we’re going to take the civic nature of today’s Scotland seriously, can’t be privileged on ethnic grounds. In the content of a purely civic Scotland, such privileging would be politically unjust.

        The parallel I drew in my previous post between the diagnosis of the current plight of Gaelic culture and that of the ‘right’ with regard to the current plight of the ‘native’ culture in other parts of these islands is borne out by some of the language used in this latest article. Adam writes of the displacement of ethnic Gaels by immigrants of other ethnicities who cause price inflation in the local economy and generally refuse to learn the lingo. This is the sort of language you would expect from Britain First in places like Bradford rather than from citizens of a civic Scotland – or even from citizens of Kentucky, like Adam.

        The demographics of Scotland are changing. We’re building a much more cosmopolitan nation in which ethnicity has become a private matter and the state has no legitimate business in especially promoting from among the plurality of our world heritages any particular tribal interest. Gaelic is nowadays no more or less ‘Scottish’ than Punjabi or Polish is.

        1. John Learmonth says:

          Quite and I would imagine the indigenous peoples of Kentucky weren’t overly pleased when a bunch of ‘Gaels’ turned up and proceeded to steal their land, suppress their language before commiting genocide on the survivors.

          1. Brian says:

            It’s well documented that Indigenous people of North America and Gaels who migrated there had many and close links. Always friendly? No. But there was lots of mixing linguistically and culturally with Gaelic being spoken in many areas by Natives and people of African descent as well as Gaels. Michael Newton has written some very interesting articles, “The Macs meet the Mikmaqs” being one such.

        2. Adrian Roper says:

          Luckily for Punjabi and Polish speakers, the homelands of their languages are in robust linguistic health. In the case of Scottish Gaelic, whether in Canada or Scotland, the situation is dire. Languages are flowers of human diversity and every time one dies something ancient and precious is lost. As for Bradford, the fact is that its incomers and especially their descendants learn English and enrich rather extinguish the language. Britain First et al are racists. Defenders of Gaelic are not.

          1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            This is all true, and the fate of the Gaels and their language indeed is saddening. But none of this addresses my central point that, in a civic Scotland, Adam’s argument that Gaelic should be privileged for reasons of ethnicity doesn’t wash.

          2. Donald Mackenzie says:

            Does the fate of people who have been deliberately oppressed and marginalised not have anything to do with the civic state they are now in? Do we think African Americans are now on a level playing field (or would they be if racism against them suddenly disappeared tomorrow?). How long does it take for a people who have had institutional racism used against them for centuries to repair that attack? Does the modern state that was a strong part of this process not bear some responsibility? Just because most modern Scots are ignorant of the institutional racism directed at Gaels for centuries it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. It is a ridiculous argument. Akin to the 1% one. You just have to ask how did that state of affairs come to pass?
            Gaelic was kept out of education and all the institutions of the state. Get an eviction notice, a bill etc. it is all in English. Gaelic was deliberately discouraged in education. The Gaels were3 widely regarded as an inferior race. They were given negative characteristics and the Scottish papers of the 19th century are full of calls to replace them with more industrious teutonic speaking people. Tyhat is widespread eracism pure and simple. The Gaels were blamed for the limitations of enlightenment agricultural knowledge. The centuries old memes of calling the language and cultutre of the people backward, archaic, a dead or dying culture and not worthy of support are still active. Those pursuing them usually have little knowledge of how old their points are. How they have bvarely changed over time.

            You can pretend that Gaelic and Welsh and Irish died out without this racism and the development of 19th Century Nationalism (based on a central etnicity being superior) all you want it doesn’t make it true. The Polish have their own problems in Poland. I wouldn’t expect The Polish to equally support Gaelic in Poland because there was a community of Gaels there. People from Poland came here. They were not living here and then had their language and culture deliberately undermined. I support Polish and Urdu getting the support they might ask for too. It still does not mean that Gaelic doesn’t have a special case to make within a civic Scotland of today. Ignore a load of the facts and you can make any point you want. Ignore the past racism and what type of civic Scotland does that build?

          3. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            ‘Does the fate of people who have been deliberately oppressed and marginalised not have anything to do with the civic state they are now in?’

            Yes, it does. That’s why I’ve used the cypher ‘fatefully’ in many of my posts. The material conditions that delimit our future possibilities have been shaped by the events of the past. There’s nothing we can do to alter those conditions; we can only accept them and move on.

            As I’ve written elsewhere, this is the difference of which Nelson and Desmond made much, the difference between the demand for reparation and the forgiveness of transgressions. Some transgressions can never be repaired. We can dwell on them self-destructively in grudge and grievance, continually picking away at the scabs to keep them fresh, or we can forgive those transgressions and constructively move on in a spirit of reconciliation.

            We are where we are; where do we go from here? We can continue to resent and blame the b*st*rd*n English for the evils they visited on the Gaels, to the eternally recurring strains of ‘Flower of Scotland’, or we can put past transgressions behind us and build a society in which Gaelic-speakers enjoy the same rights and consideration as Scotland’s other language communities.

            Civic nationalism doesn’t preclude providing through the state the support that Gaelic needs to survive as a language community. It means only that whatever support the state does provide would be equally available to any other of Scotland’s 150 language communities should the need arise. It just means that Gaelic shouldn’t be privileged in any way.

            For example, back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, some of the people I worked with were from Edinburgh’s Ukrainian community. At the time, the Ukrainian community throughout Scotland feared for its survival because fewer and fewer it members’ children and grandchildren were learning and using the language. It was little consolation to these Scots that their language would be kept alive by the millions of people who lived in a land to the north of the Black Sea. It wasn’t a language community in the USSR that was under threat of extinction, but their own language community here in Scotland. Telling them not to mind, that Ukrainian would still be spoken in the USSR, was tantamount to telling them that they should go back home, that they didn’t really belong here, that unlike the Gaels, whose homeland this is, they weren’t really Scottish.

            So, yes, the fate of Gaelic can be used as a stick to beat the English with, as another grievance against the Union. I’m not much interested in that. I’m more interested in the possibility of our building a pluralistic cosmopolitan society in which no language community is privileged over any other, there are no ‘natives’ and ‘incomers’, no ‘hosts’ and ‘guests’… but just ‘Scots’.

          4. Donald Mackenzie says:

            What utter nonsense. Who is interested in grudge and grievance? I never mentioned ‘the English’ it is all in your imagination.

            Yes, we should accept and move on but we should also allow for the fact thatthe status quo has been reached because one language community had all the power. Evening out that power struggle is not such a big step to take. What you are effectively saaying to Gaels is put up and shut up. That the ground you lost can now never be recovered,
            The most annoying thing about these simplistic appeals to a level playing field is that it is an easy thing to say when it is not your culture and language that has lost bthe ground. You have an idea of what civic means in the abstract. and think you can apply it in real life as if it makes any sense. Yes, scabs should be picked where attitudes like this still exist. You are basically saying that the ground taken in the name of racism remain. It has nothing to do with English at all it is an anti colonial message. You are really just saying the status quo should exist. That we stop time and just leave things as they are. You will stay in your marginalised and excluded state because idealistic interpretations of what is fair have been taken by some from the culture who haven’t lost out and do not have any idea of what that means
            Simplistic and naive.

          5. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            ‘Evening out that power struggle is not such a big step to take.’

            And that’s what civic nationalism does: it evens out the power-struggles between different communities of interest (including language communities) within the ‘republic’ or realm of public affairs, by ensuring that they all have the same protections and none enjoys any special advantages over the others.

            Do you really think such a state of equality would represent the current status quo?

          6. Annwyn Lewis says:

            I totally agree. I have done lessons on language death to try to motivate students. There is a lot there on the web and it is fascinating and very sad. To kill a language is to kill all the associated culture and part of our history and heritage. It must not be allowed to happen. I think I read that in ten years around a hundred languages will have died? One language was brought back to life because one woman dedicated years to writing as much as possible of it on paper and creating a dictionary so that the language was preserved. It is a sad works if you can do a degree in Vulcan a lot easier than in some other, far more valid language.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    My reading of history is that many Scottish Gaels were oppressed by (and subjected to all kind of abuse by) other Scottish Gaels. And some of those Scottish Gaels went off to oppress other most vilely throughout the British Empire, notably in the British Caribbean where their clan names remain as testimony to participation in racialized chattel slavery and African genocide.

    Anyway, I have learnt two new Scottish Gaelic words this past week: dùthchas (a kind of clannish cultural social contract of expected mutual obligations) and oighreachd (legal hereditary land rights of the bosses, apparently, and not something to do with ogre rights, disappointingly). Also I tried to find out what the Gaelic word for ‘sorry’ was, and apparently it also means hard or difficult or complicated: wow, wonder what to make of that coincidence.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      Although, the English word for ‘duilich’ also means ‘full of sores’ or ‘afflicted by pain or tribulation’. The apologetic sense of ‘sorry’ is attestable only to about the 1830s. Prior to that, English speakers didn’t protest their sorrow but instead begged pardon or forgiveness for their transgressions.

      This attitudinal difference involves a wholly different conception of ‘justice’; the former appeals to the sympathy of the transgressed (and involves what logicians call ‘the pathetic fallacy’), which leaves untouched the relation of power between the transgressor and the transgressed, while the latter dispassionately submits the transgressor to the grace of the transgressed in a reversal of the power-relation between the two. It’s this reversal that restores justice to the situation.

  3. Adrian Roper says:

    Regarding whether Gaelic should be privileged in a civic Scotland, I think it’s important to recognise the privileged position of English. It is very privileged now. Would this change in the eventuality of a civic Scotland?
    Now or then, why should English be privileged? There’s no “civic” argument for it, unless English is defined as an institution of the state, which is of course the ultimate privilege of a language. Maybe it would be, on a demographic basis, and fair enough. But why couldn’t a civic Scotland embrace other demographics that also called for recognition of Gaelic or Scots? Why couldn’t a civic Scotland establish institutions and laws that deliberately lowered the privilege of English in various contexts in order to protect and nourish the less prevalent languages which make such an important contribution to the totality of Scottish culture?
    If it didn’t, it would be continuing the Anglicisation of Scotland by civic Scottish means, which doesn’t sound like a great outcome.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      Is English privileged for reasons of ethnicity in Scotland?

      1. Brian says:

        Yes it is. Where Gaelic was associated with savagery and wildness of the Highlanders, English of course was seen as the counterpoint to that. It represented civilisation and order and was associated with England and the hierarchy and power of the Crown and Establishment. So it is privileged due to Ethnicity, or rather not disadvantaged due to being associated with the wrong ethnicity.

      2. Adrian Roper says:

        Ethnicity is a diverse thing with all sorts of indicators: food, dance, songs, stories, beliefs, birthplace, family connections, sense of identity, and so forth. Plus of course language.
        The ethnic group that has dominated Scotland since James VI moved to London (plus those seismic political, military, economic and cultural developments that followed), is the English speaking Scottish-variant Brit.
        This is especially true of those with power and wealth, but it is an ethnicity fostered in every school and newspaper and shapes attitudes at every level of Scottish society. There is every chance the group will maintain much the same ethnic identity even if, post independence, the word Brit is dropped.
        Given this situation, there is inevitably an ethnic aspect to any call for the privileging of Gaelic.
        But it’s not about some sort of racist exclusion.
        The ethnic border is porous. Gaels learn English and merge with the dominant group. The reverse can happen too, just sadly not often enough, especially in the places where it matters most: the Gaelic speaking islands.
        Without some compensatory privileging of Gaelic in these areas, it is likely to be an unbalanced exchange of ethnicities, with a predictable negative outcome for Gaelic.
        Does this address the question adequately?

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          There’s no doubt that English has been in the ascendency in Scotland for many, many centuries. I’d put the tipping point even earlier than James VI. I’d put it in the 15th-16th century when, as ‘Scots’, it fatefully became the prestige language of court and Gaelic was downgraded to ‘Irish’.

          And, yes, ‘ethnicity’ is a porous term, so porous in fact that one may doubt its metaphysical usefulness as a form of classification or identification. It’s commonly used nowadays to denote the ‘fact’ of belonging to a social group that has a common cultural tradition. But, as you point out, cultural traditions are historically cosmopolitan; they’re forever mutating and bleeding into one another and are thus, like that other porous term, ‘race’, a bit rubbish for defining social identities.

          English enjoys its ascendency in Scotland not for reasons of ethnicity but because it has, over many centuries, emerged historically and fatefully as the lingua franca of a multilingual Scottish nation, the language in which the imagined community of ‘Scotland’ conducts its ‘res publica’ or public business; that is, from much the same sorts of causes that French became the common or ‘republican’ language of France.

          Now, within that republic, there come and go several more concrete language communities, in which their members conduct their own ‘private’ communal business, and of which Gaelic is one. Within that republic, none of these ‘private’ communities should be privileged over any other on the principle of equality, but each should be free to conduct its ‘private’ business in its own tongue on the principle of liberty. For national or ‘republican’ business, they should on the principle of neutrality have recourse to a common ‘bridge’ language, which in Scotland, for broader historical reasons rather than for narrow reasons of ethnicity, happens to be English. (We could, of course, construct a perfectly neutral artificial language for the republican purpose, but that would be a terrible palaver).

          Imagine a Gaelic-speaking Scot who has no Polish and a Polish-speaking Scot who has no Gaelic. In what language are they to conduct their common business? Which language is to be privileged? Why should the former expect the latter to learn Gaelic? Because it’s the more endangered language? What business is that of the Polish-speaking Scot, for whom Gaelic is as exotic as Urdu? Why shouldn’t they conduct their common business neutrally together in the de facto lingua franca of the republic, which fatefully is English, while each reserving the right to keep her own respective heritage language alive within her own language community?

          Which is why I say that Gaelic should enjoy the same rights and consideration as other language communities in Scotland, no more or less.

          1. Maxwell macleod says:

            I write as a Gaelic learner who has attended a week long course in Gaelic and is the great grandson of the man who was key in helping dwelly with his dictionary. Norman Macleod
            And I’m going to ask the question that is regarded as social suicide in Gaelic circles and nobody dares ask.
            How much has the support of Gaelic cost in the last twenty years and has it worked? When I ask this of senior Gaels they look at me. as if I have asked to sleep with their partners or drain blood from their screaming grandchildrens necks to make black pudding . But it has to be asked.if I was to hazard a guess I would say at least two hundred and fifty million and we are now down I believe,to less than twenty thousand folk speaking Gaelic as their primary language. Maybe the best thing we can do for the Gaels , and.the taxpayer is less of the ahone ahone and more of the re-evaluation of strategy

          2. Brian says:

            It would be interesting to see and compare (in real terms) how much money was spent to try and eradicate Gaelic and promote English in it’s place and balance that against the money spent trying to revive Gaelic. Would it be comparable at all? Hard to say. I would suggest that inevitably if Gaelic is to survive it will require people to put their hands in their pockets. Suppose the question of how much is spent boils down to ‘How much is it worth to you?”.

          3. Donald Mackenzie says:

            So, should Gaelic be supported in a civic Scotland of today. Given the racist and supremacist nature of the attack on it by the growing Nationalism seen in Britain and across Europe in the previous centuries I think absolutely yes. It wasn’t reduced ioutside this context. Civic Scotland must take responsibility for its past just as we all must. Urdu and Polish have different contexts and histories here and must be seen in that light. It might suit your argument to say there has to be a level playing field where none has ever existed and where supremacy and racism played such a strong part.

          4. Donald Mackenzie says:

            It may suit your argument to say that but it doesn’t take into account the context in which cultural dominance by English happened.

          5. Donald Mackenzie says:

            Where the Gaels ever racist? Did they not play a part in the oppressing of others? Yes. Just as members of all other groups who have become part of the system that they are forced to accept does. Some free black people in the USA had black slaves themselves. This isn’t about blame being apportioned to any one ethnicity while others are Michael Newton has pointed out these things are not about blaming one ethnicity and not another. It is about blaming the political and social constructs of colonialism and its accompanying hierarchies of racial value. The Gaels did not escape the philosophy of ‘The white man’s burden’. They suffered from it and some championed it too. They had become part of the process. They had been absorbed.

          6. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            @ Donald

            Of course, Gaelic should be supported. It should enjoy the same rights and considerations to which all of Scotland’s 150 language communities (according to the 2011 census) are entitled, no more or less.

          7. Donald Mackenzie says:

            No, according to your world view it should. The reality is the language communities get the funding they fight for and from the time they have been doing it and the strength of arguments they make. That and other political changes outwith their control. . It is not the case that Gaelic has been awarded more than others because of Scottish Nationaliist language hierarchies. It is utter nonsense to try and suggest it is. Ignoring history and attempting to draw a line in time and say right this is all your getting is not a great way to go forward. No one is going to agree to it for a start. It is naive in the extreme and it is not how funding is decided upon.

            If other groups want to protect their languages let them fight for it as Gaelic campaigners have had to. That is what is lacking in this argument. Any empathy for people who have suffered cultural loss through deliberate and racist policy. It ignores what people have to go through. Being thought of as inferior because you are an immigrant is hard I am sure but does it compare to thinking you are inferior in your home state?

            It is easy for someone from the dominant culture to draw lines and say whats fair. It has been going on for a long time and that there is the problem. They get to decide what is cosmopolitan and what value your language and culture has. The whole problem with your argument is you think you have the right to attribute value to a whole language and culture, In its entirety without any other country where it has miilions of speakers. . That is grand thinking!!

          8. Donald Mackenzie says:

            No, according to your world view it should. The reality is the language communities get the funding they fight for and from the time they have been doing it and the strength of arguments they make. That and other political changes outwith their control. . It is not the case that Gaelic has been awarded more than others because of Scottish Nationaliist language hierarchies. It is utter nonsense to try and suggest it is. Ignoring history and attempting to draw a line in time and say right this is all your getting is not a great way to go forward. No one is going to agree to it for a start. It is naive in the extreme and it is not how funding is decided upon.It was the Tories that started funding Gaelic. They saw it as being about choice. A recognition that choice had been utterly lacking.

            If other groups want to protect their languages let them fight for it as Gaelic campaigners have had to. That is what is lacking in this argument. Any empathy for people who have suffered cultural loss through deliberate and racist policy. It ignores what people have to go through. Being thought of as inferior because you are an immigrant is hard I am sure, but does it compare to thinking you are inferior in your home state when you have no other place to appeal to?

            It is easy for someone from the dominant culture to draw lines and say what is fair. It has been going on for a long time and that there is the problem. Centralised decision making about what is desirableThey get to decide what is cosmopolitan and what value your language and culture has. The whole problem with your argument is you think you have the right t attribute value to a whole language and culture, In its entirety without any other country where it has miilions of speakers. . That is grandiose thinking!!

          9. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            ‘If other groups want to protect their languages let them fight for it as Gaelic campaigners have had to.’

            Precisely, Donald! According to my world view, no language community in a civic Scotland should be privileged over any other for reasons of ethnicity; all should enjoy equal rights and consideration. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on your point of view), we don’t live in a civic Scotland; we live in a Scotland that’s rife with ethnic privilege.

            But… roll on the republic! Hasta la victoria siempre!

          10. Donald Mackenzie says:

            There is complete ethinc privilege yes. Of English.

            Promoting a language that could die out is about reversing centuries of ethnic privilege.

            Its simple. If you don’t believe in ethnic privilege then of course Gaelic and English should get the same amount spent on them. Why should it be to do with the amount of population that speak it? That just continues the ethnic privilege English has enjoyed from centuries of racist policy. All languages should be supported exactly equally apart from English is what you really mean.
            How much is English subsidised by the tax payer. With Gaelic all education and tv, books, road signs the lot comes under what people commonly call a subsidy. How large the subsidy for English?
            What you are really saying is Englis should be the language of the nation and therefore gets special treatment according to your criteria.

          11. Finlay Macleod says:

            Completely agree with your statement Donald Mackenzie.

            English is subsudised to the hilt in Scotland plus it gets all the cross border subsidy and benefit from England, the USA and Canada, Australia and New Zealand plus even now the EU.

            Not only that, the money made from Gaelic cultural and heritage products such as whisky, food, tourism and more also goes to the English language as well.

  4. MacNaughton says:

    Need I point out that all of the nation states of Europe promote and foster their national languages and culture through government institutions? That they see promoting their language and culture as an essential task of the State? That culture diversity is a wonderful thing, and that the motto of the EU is “maximum cultural diversity in minimum space”?

    So, in Spain, the Instituto Cervantes promotes the Spanish language overseas, the Germans have the Goethe Institute, the Russians, the Pushkin Institute, the Italians have the Instituto Italiano, the Catalans have the Institut Ramon Llull, named after the great Catalan man of letters of the same name….

    I could go on with the list. There is a similar State funded institution for Polish. If you want to study Polish in Scotland, you can do so. The Polish govt make sure of that. Guess what, the Polish State already funds Polish!

    Only in imperial England / Britain does this kind of thinking not exist, mainly because of the Empire….English is a world language which doesn’t need to be fostered or promoted. People need to learn it whether they want to it not. Still, we all fund the British Council with our taxes, which offers English classes all over the world in its centres…

    To promote Gaelic is to be a good European, to believe that we have a duty as custodians of this language to nurture it and hand it on to future generations. No one is arguing it should be obligatory, merely that the Scottish State make it available to learners as widely as possible and defend it in its heartland through positive discrimination and a serious plan for its survival.

    From a linguistic point of view, Gaelic is of especial interest because it is one of the few branches of the Celtic language family tree remaining. Celtic languages were spoken in countries like Spain, France and central Europe for centuries. When the Romans conquered and colonised these countries over centuries, these Celtic languages disappeared, being replaced by dialects of Latin which later became the French, Spanish and Italian of our day….

    Only in the far West corner of Europe which the Romans never conquered – the highlands of Scotland, Ireland – did these Celtic languages survive. The Celtic language spoken in England, something like Welsh probably, was displaced by the Anglo Saxon tribes arriving from north europe from about the 5th century on, with Anglo Saxon, which later became today’s English….

    So, to have Gaelic is a blessing. To foster and promote it through the State, like they do in every other European country, a duty. We are the custodians of a language spoken by the peoples who first settled Europe millennia ago.

    And in any casee, learning a language is fun and, in addition, a very good way to keep your brain in shape as you get old according to recent research….

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      Yes, but what do you mean by a ‘national’ language? Scotland is home to lots of language communities nowadays. What’s so special about Gaelic?

      There is the ‘heritage’ argument: it’s part of who ‘we’ are, ‘our’ ethnicity. But for increasing numbers of Scots, Gaelic forms no part of their heritage. Their heritage is Cantonese, English, Italian, Mandarin, Polish, Punjabi, Urdu, etc., not Gaelic. Why should Gaelic especially be ascribed ‘national’ status in a modern civic state like Scotland?

      The argument seems to be that it should be ascribed special national status because it’s endangered and ‘nationalising’ it will somehow ensure its survival. But one could say the same of Romani, another Scottish language community, which is arguably in a worse plight than Gaelic; yet, no-one is arguing that Romani should be ascribed ‘national’ status. Again, what’s so special about Gaelic that it should be so privileged?

      Maxwell has also above raised the question that none dares ask: how effective has this strategy of nationalising the language actually been in revitalising Gaelic in Scotland?

      I’ve nothing against Gaelic. I wish the Gaelic community well in saving itself from eventual extinction. But I can have no truck with the view that it should be privileged over other language communities in a civic Scotland for reasons of ethnicity.

      1. Why is there a contradiction between supporting multiple language development and supporting your indigenous languages?

        Because there isn’t.

        MacNaughton is completely right: “To promote Gaelic is to be a good European, to believe that we have a duty as custodians of this language to nurture it and hand it on to future generations. No one is arguing it should be obligatory, merely that the Scottish State make it available to learners as widely as possible and defend it in its heartland through positive discrimination and a serious plan for its survival.”

        I’d add however that the real need is for it to be economically viable to live and work in the Gaeltachd, with jobs and affordable housing and community ownership of land.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          There’s no contradiction. But Adam’s not talking about multiple language development. He’s talking about Gaelic as a special case. I’m just wondering why, in a civic Scotland, Gaelic’s special.

          And, yes, areas in which Gaelic’s still spoken need to be economically regenerated. But Adam’s also warning against migrants coming into those areas to work and start businesses who refuse to learn Gaelic – i.e. to assimilate rather than integrate. If this was being said about migrants coming to settle in Bradford, we’d be screaming ‘Racist!’

          1. Adrian Roper says:

            English isn’t dying out in Bradford. It’s being enriched. Sadly the racists can’t see beyond their prejudice.
            And of course the context is a minority group coming into a majority sphere where the majority language is the state language of 65 million and a world language spoken by billions. The Bradford analogy with Skye or Lewis is not appropriate.
            It only takes a handful of non-assimilating English speakers to move into a small Gaelic (or Welsh or etc) community to put the minority language at risk.
            People are sociable and the bilingual ones all too often switch to using the monoglots’ language.
            So incomer numbers need to be controlled. Enlightened behaviour by the monoglots would be good, as Adam suggested: we should learn the language and assimilate or live somewhere else. But controls should be supported by laws and policies too. It’s a perfectly civic thing for a country to do, especially if it is host to threatened languages.

          2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Hi Adrian!

            I didn’t draw an analogy between Bradford and the Hebrides; I drew an analogy between what Adam said about non-Gaelic-speaking migrants to the Hebrides and what Britain First says about non-English-speaking migrants to places like Bradford.

            If you’d like to turn the Hebrides into a Gaelic reserve, then good luck to you.

      2. MacNaughton says:

        Gaelic was spoken all over Scotland for centuries and centuries. This we know from place name studies. About 90% of place names are Gaelic derived. If there so many places which begin with “Dun” in Scotland- Dundee, Dunfermilne, Dunbar to name just three – it is because Dun means hill in Gaelic for example. So, you cannot understand pre-modern Scotland, and in consequence today’s Scotland to some extent, without some knowledge of Gaelic. It is not just a language, it’s a whole culture.

        There are plenty of other languages that could or should be considered for the status of national languages in European countries and benefit from some govt support. But it should always be about including additional languages, not concentrating exclusively on English which is the very bleak picture in the UK today.

        Scots or Lallans is along with Gaelic and English, one of Scotland’s three national languages today. Yet the money spent on anything other than English by govt must be so small it can hardly be expressed as a fraction even. The mentality in the UK is depressingly monoglot and this, I believe, has played a big part in leading us into the disaster of Brexit.

        Plus, learning languages is really good fun. You should sign up to one of the week courses in Gaelic at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on the isle of Skye and see for yourself.

        Apart from being the most spectacular setting for study imaginable, you will meet people from all over the world who have come to study Gaelic. Sabhal Mor Ostaig benefits from state funding and so benefits as such from Gaelic’s status as a national language for example, and every penny spent on such a fantastic place is money well spent….

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          Yes, Gaelic was spoken all over Scotland for centuries and centuries. It was once-upon-a-time the prestige language of the Scottish court. So what? We don’t live in that Scotland any more.

          1. MacNaughton says:

            So we just have English as a national language and turn out back on the tens of thousands of Gaelic speakers today and so much of what Scotland was and still is? We resign ourselves to become flattened out as just another region of the Anglo-American Empire? Like Kentucky!

            How boring and how depressing!

            Italo Calvino in his very short “Why Read The Classics?” tells the story of how Socrates, while waiting in his cell for the day of his execution, started learning to play the flute. And one of his young followers said: ” Oh master, why learn to play the flute just nights before you are to die? ” . And Socrates replies, “Because to have lived on the earth and known how to play the flute is better than to have lived without knowing how to play it….”

            And this is what it comes down to maybe. If Gaelic has been so crucial to shaping Scotland, it must be promoted and fostered by the State so that those with an interest now and in the future find it intact as a viable living language…

          2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            No, we just wouldn’t have a national language. I explained this further up the thread.

          3. MacNaughton says:

            We’ve covered this already elsewhere in Bella…

            If there is a State, there must be a national language in which the affairs of State are conducted: the police, the courts, the parliaments and governments of every level, the health service and the army and the navy etc.

            .Think of everything the State does in Britain, it’s a huge part of the activity of a society. In Scotland, almost everything the State does is in English. The tiniest fraction imaginable is done in other languages.

            Such a State requires a highly skilled clerical class – university professors, teachers, health professionals, lawyers, administrators – who must be sufficiently educated to ensure the smooth running of the State. If those in this class want to prosper, they must become expert in their use of the national language and well versed in its highly specialized jargon (think of lawyers or the language of academics or the language of bureaucrats)

            For Gellner, in multi ethnic States, the preference of one language by the State over others explains the rise of nationalism. The elites of the ethnic groups whose languages have been overlooked in favour of the official national language are faced with a choice: they must either assimilate or else set up their own State, otherwise they will be at a disadvantage compared to the elites of the ethnic group whose language has become the language of the State.

            This, by the way, does not mean that they are ethnic nationalists, nor are they the exponents of some backward atavistic creed destined to lead to fascism. On the contrary, for Gellner, nationalism is inevitable or at least highly likely in multi ethnic nation states. It’s exponents are rational actors.

            In any case, this indeed is what the elite in Unionist Scotland have done for 300 years. Culturally and linguistically assimilate with England…

            For this reason, Gellner was perplexed and baffled by the rise of Scottish nationalism in the 70s and 80s….

            Clearly his theory covers many cases of nationalism though not all.

            You see, once you speak a second language, you begin to understand what language actually is and your own language and how it works.

            It is hard to “get out of English” if that is the only language you speak and see things with some distance…it seems natural, invisible…only by speaking another language does your native language become visible so to speak…

            I would like to add that languages are taught very badly in Scotland. They are turned into a chore or at best a kind of intelligence test, when what they really are is a door into another world…

          4. Precisely MacNaughton.

            The only thing that I’d add if Foghorn persists on this argument (which is likely) is that rather the national language argument there are two others. Gaelic is so laced into our world that just about everywhere you look our rivers and mountains and bridges and beaches all have a gaelic name. Its literally coded into our landscape. Secondly there’s no -one and nowhere else in the world that can save Gaelic. Only us. Only now. Only here.

            There is no conflict between us being a multi-cultural multi-lingual country and supporting gaelic. None. In fact the opposite is true.

          5. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Yes, of course, the business of state has to be conducted in some language. The language of state in Scotland is English, and has been since the later 15th century. That doesn’t make it a national language, however, as I’ve already argued. Scotland is a multilingual nation; English is just one of the languages that comprise its multilinguality. Scotland doesn’t have a national language and probably never has.

            And, yes, we’ve already rehearsed Gellner’s theory of nationalism and its strengths and weaknesses. Gellner cast nationalism in a homogenising role in the rise of industrial capitalism and the commodification of labour in Europe, creating and policing standardised national identities though political and cultural bureucracies.

            The chief ‘problem’ with Gellner’s theory is that the sort of society to which it applies is passing and, with it, the historic role of Gellnerian nations. There is no longer any need in a post-industrial world like Scotland for homogenising instititions like a national language. All we need are forms of shared citizenship among people who might otherwise have very little (if anything) in common other than a shared commitment to live and work peaceably together; integration rather than assimilation; plurality rather than singularity

            It’s a political condition of post-Gellnerian civic nationalism that no group within the republic is privileged over any other for reasons of ethnicity. For example, Gaelic as a language community should (as I keep saying) enjoy the same rights and consideration as any other language community in the republic, no more or less.

            This seems to have been construed as an attack on the Gaelic language community in Scotland, but it’s not. Civic nationalism snatches Gaelic from the acid bath of assimilation into which it has been dissolving over the past four centuries of cultural homogenisation and establishes it as a legitimate cultural identity within the plurality that our postmodern ‘civic’ nation.

            But is up to the Gaelic community itself what it makes of this liberation. It shouldn’t expect any exceptional treatment on the grounds that it’s somehow ‘more Scottish’ than other language communities in the republic.

          6. MacNaughton says:

            Foghorn, I hope you don’t mind me pointing out that your opinion of what constitutes a national language – or what is also called an official language – is one which is not shared by language experts. In plain Scots, you ‘re talking out of your arse… or is your particular opinion of more weight than linguists who study these things?

            OBVIOUSLY, the language which the government and parliament uses, the courts use, the BBC uses, determines which languages in a society are considered prestigious and which, on the other hand, are considered private, particular affairs (which is another matter entirely).

            No one doubts the value of German, but if you insisted on addressing a judge in a court in Scotland in German( or Spanish or French) you would be done for contempt of court (unless you were a German unable to speak English, in which case the court would provide you with an interpreter). The same would happen if you addressed a Scottish judge in Gaelic. Contempt of court and a night in the cells!

            The modern nation State, in all its ramifications, controls the vast majority of the linguistic capital of modern societies. Whichever languages the State deems official or national and uses in its daily activities is in a privileged position in relation to all of the other languages spoken in any given society….for this reason, what is given the status of national or official language is so often a contentious issues.

            In Catalonia and the Basque Country, Basque and Catalan are co-official or co-national languages of State in those territories. If a Spaniard from Andalusia wants to get a job for the govt in Catalonia or the Basque Country, he or she must learn Catalan or Basque. This is so to protect Catalan and Basque which otherwise would be drowned out by Castilian Spanish. Under Franco, Castilian Spanish was the only official language in all of Spain.

            The Gaelic speakers and Scots speakers of Scotland pay their taxes like everyone else in Scotland. Therefore, they have the right to a linguistic representation at the level of the State too. Just how much is the question…

            Likewise, the British Council, if it deserves the name, ought to reflect the linguistic diversity of Britain by including a representation of Welsh and Scottish Gaelic in its centres, while the BBC could also do so much more in reflecting the linguistic diversity of these isles, including other languages spoken by Britain’s various different linguistic communities outwith the Celtic languages under discussion here…

            Your understanding of this whole issue is clouded by the fact that you have been brought up in a society indifferent to foreign language learning and hostile to Gaelic and Welsh to the point of overtly repressing them for centuries…

            That, and the fact that you confuse multicultural societies and cosmopolitan cultures with the offices and functions of the State.

            American society could hardly be more cosmopolitan after all, but only English is an official language there if I am not wrong,….

          7. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            No-one’s denying that English is the prestige language in Scotland. As I said, it has been since it became the language of court in the latter part of the 15th century. It’s because of this fateful development that 99% of Scots speak English today, in addition to whatever other language communities they belong.

            English is the lingua franca in which the diverse communities that comprise Scotland conduct their public affairs – fact! Gellner’s theory would explain this fact – the emergence of English as a national language from the prestige language of the Scottish court – as a function of the homogenisation of Scotland during the industrial revolution. Other, ‘Flower of Scotland’ theories would explain it in terms of oppression and genocide of our indigenous people at the hands of the b*st*rd*n English. Whatever the truth of the matter, it’s the fact that 99% of the Scottish population share English as a common language that makes it, rather than Gaelic, Polish, or Urdu, the de facto lingua franca of the republic, in exactly the same way that it’s the language in which public business is conducted in other multilingual countries around the world.

            I’m denying only that, in a postmodern civic Scotland, Gaelic (or any other of Scotland’s language communities, for that matter) should be privileged over any other language community in the state for reasons of ethnicity.

            And, just to throw another cat among the pigeons, I certainly don’t think (as Adam seems at times to be suggesting) that the Hebrides should be turned into a kind of ‘State of Israel’, in which exclusive homeland or reserve persecuted Gaels can seek asylum.

          8. MacNaughton says:

            What happened to Gaelic speaking Scotland is pretty conclusively documented… your “for whatever reason” English became the lingua franca just won’t do.

            Gaelic was the primary language north of the Highland line until the 1870 Education Act, after which, the number of Gaelic speakers begins to significantly decline as is show in the map included in another of Adam’s articles. It was so much the community language, that many Gaelic speakers did not have any English, there were monoglot Gaels until well into the 20th century.

            So, the Gaelic speaking communities of Scotland enter into decline with the law passed by the English speaking parliament in London, imposed by the British State…The Modern State imposes the language of English on Gaelic speaking Scotland, and punishments were meted out to pupils who insisted on speaking Gaelic…

            Which is to say, Gaelic Scotland was culturally colonized by the British State, and the mass media has done the rest…

            That you insist on categorizing Gaelic alongside other languages like Polish despite this injustice makes you a very ignorant and crass person in my view. Nowhere else in Europe are the indigenous or national languages discussed in the same breath as foreign language, except by British nationalists in Unionist Scotland.

            You can learn Polish in Scotland as I say, the Polish State takes care of that.

            You can’t learn Gaelic in Poland because no Scottish institute representing Scottish culture abroad exists….and until fairly recently, it was not such an easy task to learn Gaelic in Lowland Scotland either.

            If Spanish is prioritized in Spain by the State, French in France by the State, German in Germany by the State, English in England by the State, and Polish in Poland by the State, then why on earth wouldn’t Gaelic be prioritized in Scotland by the State? Why would it just be another language?

            Otherwise, why can’t Scotland be just like any other European nation?

          9. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            ‘[Why] can’t Scotland be just like any other European nation?’

            Because it can be better…

            (And I refuse to see Canonese-speaking Scots as ‘foreign’.)

          10. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            (Cantonese-speaking Scots, even!)

          11. MacNaughton says:

            Scotland can be better than the rest of Europe? More insular arrogance from Brexitland….

            Scotland has got far more to learn from Europe than Europe from Scotland, if only because Europeans speak English and we don’t speak their fantastic languages very much these days, so we don’t know what is going In France or Spain or Italy.

            In the south of Europe, they live longer, have better health, feel no shame in celebrating their national culture and defending their national languages and have much better football teams mainly, I suspect, because they have a much better diet. (How else to explain the fact that no national team from these isles has ever won anything since 1966? Or even come close.) They are less materialistic than British people and very sociable and family oriented.

            Your idea of a cosmopolitan culture is all very well, but it stops at the door of the courts, the school, the townhall, the parliament, the university and any office of the State….what it boils down to is everything in English, just with international cuisine at the weekends…

          12. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Yes, we can be better. Independence would give us the opportunity to build a genuinely cosmopolitan Scotland through the institution of political forms that preclude the privileging any citizen over any other for reasons of ethnicity (or age, sex, ability, etc.). Where else in Europe will you find that? Scotland could be a beacon of civic nationalism.

            What’s your vision for an independent Scotland? One in which, to spite our face, our public affairs are conducted nationally in any language except English?

          13. MacNaughton says:

            What Scotland needs to do is get out of the anglosphere and get into the eurosphere….and cut down on all those fatty foods. Too much dairy produce, too much milk, too much butter and too many animal fats all round.

            As for all that snacking, there will be hell to pay for..But if you’re going to stuff your face with crisps, better they be real crisps, freshly made by a specialized shop which sells only crisps and nuts, such as the one just around the corner from me here in Spain run by a hunchbacked dwarf, than cheesy Wottsits and monster munches and all the garbage like that which comes in a pack and is full of chemicals.

            Equally, a bar of good chocolate is one thing, but all the different permutations the UK confectionary industry gets into to sell us sugar basically in different bars, snacks and packs is very bad for you….full of crap….

            Keep things simple with the diet. No need for all these rich sauces, no need to go to such lengths with the right produce, and no pre-cooked meals and sauces please. What is that? They give me reflux.

            As for the booze, what a disaster that is in Scotland, and how much some have to pay for the inability of government to inform people what alcohol actually does to you. For example, shrink your brain and, if taken for long enough, severely affect your cognitive abilities….and yet we are all brought up to think getting pissed is normal ( tho maybe it’s finally changing)….

          14. MacNaughton says:

            To answer your question, Foghorn, no, I am not suggesting replacing English or even questioning the primacy of English in the affairs of State or society in an independent Scotland.

            What I am against is English being the only language of State which is admissible today anywhere in Scotland. We have other languages in these isles and we need to defend them and foster through the offices of the State, most especially in the Highlands and Islands.

            And just so you can see it’s not even a nationalist question, I would be all for Welsh being available in Scotland too if there were a demand for it. Why not?

            More generally, we need to get back to being proficient in foreign languages again, as the Scots were a couple of generations ago. We have become complacent due to the status of English as a world language, and it has drastically closed down our horizons and damaged our culture I’m afraid…

          15. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            ‘What I am against is English being the only language of State which is admissible today anywhere in Scotland.’

            Are you suggesting, then, that we should have more than one language of state?

            I’d suggest that, for reasons of democracy, the language in which our public affairs are conducted should be accessible to every member of that public. 99% of the Scottish public speak English, making English by far the largest and most universal language community in the land. Doesn’t it make sense therefore for English to be the lingua franca of the republic? Which other of Scotland’s languages could equally serve this function?

          16. MacNaughton says:

            There are many States in the world which have more than one official or State language, probably most of them do in fact. Bilingualism, even multilingualism, is the norm in the world, not the monoglot culture of Britain which is an aberration and is owing to the British Empire on the one hand, and the cultural domination of the USA on the other….

            I certainly think it a reasonable goal to aspire to make the Highlands and Islands Gaelic – English bilingual within say 20 years, though I defer to what the Gaelic speaking community who live there think. There are plenty of models for language revival out there which have been put into practice in other countries. But I don’t know what Gaelic speakers who live in the H&I think should be done, and they should be the ones to decide the matter, or at the very least, any plan needs there prior engagement and approval…It can’t be imposed from above by Edinburgh.

            Would Lowland Scotland get behind a bi-lingual H&I? I tend to think so. There is an awareness of Gaelic these days which didn’t exist when I was growing up. There are plenty of young people studying the language. Sabhal Mor Ostaig is a Gaelic speaking university and an absolutely first class facility. And the attitude to endangered linguistic communities is totally different today to what it was even 50 years ago.

            And then there is the huge success of Gaelic music, with Celtic Connections each year, and international stars like the fantastic Julie Fowlis and an incredible number of other first class musicians, poets, and singers…

            Scottish Gaelic culture has so much going for it….

          17. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Do those other countries of which you speak have the same demographic profile that Scotland does? Which of Scotland’s other languages would you suggest is sizeable enough to stand alongside English as the republic’s lingua franca? Why Gaelic? Why not Romani? The next largest language community to English in Scotland is Polish; so, why not Polish?

            You know why, don’t you? It’s obvious, isn’t it? English is the only language community in Scotland sizeable enough to be capable of serving the function of a national lingua franca. This may be the case for deplorable reasons, but it remains the case nevertheless.

            Anyway: I’d certainly get behind any move to make the government of the Highlands and Islands more independent of Holyrood. I’d back greater self-determination for the Borders and for Dumfries and Galloway as well. I like the idea of Scotland as a confederation of lots of wee autonomous republics, a proper soviet union.

          18. MacNaughton says:

            I believe I already answered your question, I am not proposing an alternative language to English as Scotland’s lingua franca…
            I am a native English speaker of the Scottish variant of that language, so I am anything but hostile to English.
            Why would I be?
            You are so obsessed with your Stalinist worldview that you pay no attention to anybody’s replies.
            Those of us who know that the USRR imposed Russian all over its empire, against the wishes of many people in what was known as Eastern Europe. will not be surprised by your fanatical devotion to the very sterile cause of relegating Gaelic to the same status as any other language spoken on planet earth in the very country where it was born and has been spoken by people for more than a millennia….and still is to this day….

          19. Calum H says:

            MacNaughton, for me the long term aim should be a high degree of Gaelic-English bilingualism throughout Scotland, as presaged by Gaelic being already given status in law as a national language of all Scotland. Of course, that starts with the (actual) Gàidhealtachd, as an unbroken tradition still exists there, but there’s little practical difference between most of the central and eastern Highlands and the Lowlands where Gaelic has already been lost. So I see no reason for a different approach in those parts or a different priority for Gaelic.

            The sooner Gaelic gains a sure foothold in Scotland as a whole, the sooner it’s future will be secured. It has no future as only a ‘Highland’ language. It’s security lies in it being recognised and promoted as the ‘Scottish language’, which is what it was originally called.

          20. MacNaughton says:

            Calum, maybe one day your aspiration of a bi-lingual Gaelic-English Scotland might come true, but certainly not in my lifetime.

            I think the sensible thing would be to start with the Highlands and Islands, where it has a much deeper rooted tradition and still tens of thousands of speakers.
            My belief is that if you seriously tried to make Lowland Scotland Gaelic bilingual, the Scots would reject it and that would be very negative for Gaelic Scotland.
            Certainly, Scots speakers would feel outraged by the idea alone that Gaelic and not Scots be a language of the State in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

            Remember, it won’t do to make it obligatory in schools or anything like that. The Irish tried that and it was a failure.
            So you need to create a community of learners who are willing and enthusiastic about Gaelic.
            And you need a concrete plan, such as, for example, making Gaelic a requirement for any State job in the Highlands and Islands from the year 2030 or 2040 or whatever is feasible. Maybe even you start with the islands first? If it were to work in the Highlands and Islands, then maybe Lowland Scotland would be willing to take that step.

            In any case, what is required is a change of the very defeatist mentality which exists in Scotland about Gaelic. There are all these learners going to Gaelic schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow. SMO is churning out graduates with degrees in Gaelic every year. There is an independent Scotland on the horizon and a chance to do things differently. What is required is some political will, and that there is no sign of….

          21. Calum H says:

            MacNaughton, I definitely agree that the priority is strengthening Gaelic in the areas it is still spoken, and in protecting the communities there. I just don’t equate that with ‘the Highlands and Islands’, much of which has no more living connection to Gaelic than Lowland Scotland does. Yes, these Highland areas lost Gaelic more recently then the last Lowland Gaelic speaking areas (in some cases not that much more recently) but history is irrelevant in the context of language revival. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, whether it went 50 years ago or 500. It’s no easier for a Scot from Highland Perthshire to learn Gaelic than a Scot from the Borders and the the task of revival is the same.

            The only difference might – might – be one of attitude in those areas. But we have seen resistance to Gaelic in the Highlands already.

            I do agree that too much forcing of language is counterproductive, but I think Gaelic revival is doing OK in Scotland in general and will surely reach a critical mass without too much force and largely through the voluntary and passionate devotion of a growing number of Scots across Scotland to learning and promoting their national language (there is a Gaelic Act, Foghorn, it’s classed as an Indigenous Language of Scotland in law,
            so don’t blame me) – as long as there aren’t too many like Adam here, constantly and falsely telling these Scottish Gaelic learners that they’re “outsiders” and always will be, and so killing this movement in its cradle. They will call for more and more recognition of Gaelic as their numbers grow, and this can be met by Government, rather than imposed.

          22. Finlay Macleod says:

            There is a much newer way of doing things and that is by employing two new developments. The Networked Gaelic Community and any community be it Glasgow or Dundee or Argyll, the Western Isles or Edinburgh. It really doesn’t matter as it is all about helping those households who wish to have their family Gaelic speaking. The second area of development is related to the new methodology where adults can learn conversational Gaelic within 8 weeks or up to a year which transforms the whole learning system in Scotland and takes it beyond the archaic system for learning Gaelic we have at present. There are about 20 new developments in the pipeline at present many of them which will see a major change in language learning for anyone who is not fluent.

            Finally it is a great new system as everyone involved can have lots of real fun and enjoyment while learning Gaelic rather than the Colonial Language learning system we have at present.

          23. Calum H says:

            I must say, I am fascinated and impressed with the work you are doing Finlay, and yours is a contribution infinitely more valuable than both this series of articles and all the pontification (mine included) below them. More power to you. I think your observation that early learning needs to be very rapid and gain ground fast, otherwise learners tend to give up in the first year, is spot on – and your approach to address that is genius.

          24. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            “…the priority is strengthening Gaelic in the areas it is still spoken, and in protecting the communities there. I just don’t equate that with ‘the Highlands and Islands’…”

            Perhaps the confusion arises because language communities are mistaken for communities of place rather than virtual communities of interest. This was made clear to be on another thread, when a contributor highlighted the difficulty in ascribing a geographical location to ‘the Gàidhealtachd’. We concluded that ‘the Gàidhealtachd’ is not a place where Gaelic is the native language but a state of mind that transcends geography.

            The problem is: in an increasingly globalised world, in which migration has become the norm rather than the exception and society has become much more cosmopolitan and much less endemic or ‘native’ in nature, how do we manage our public affairs so that a general harmony of constructive interaction can prevail among all the different ‘cultures’ or forms of life that comprise the republic.

            It seems to me that there are three main options:

            1. We can ‘send the buggers home’ and set up barriers to the free movement of people who might erode our ‘native’ racial and/or cultural heritage.

            2. We can insist that the ‘incomers’ assimilate to the ‘host’ culture and become, as far as possible, natives like ourselves.

            3. We can respect the autonomy of others and concede them the right to go their own variant ways with a framework of such limits as must be imposed in the interests of maintaining that peaceful and productive public order that’s conducive to the best interests of everyone alike.

            Civic nationalism offers a framework within which this third kind of republic might be realised. This is the kind of republic to which, in my opinion, Scotland should aspire.

  5. Capucine says:

    Greetings from California! For we of the not-inconsiderable Scots diaspora, what support is most effective?

    1. Adrian Roper says:

      If you can rustle up some diaspora dollars I suggest sending them to a group seeking to promote Gaelic through meaningful policy changes impacting on housing and economic development, rather than the change-free activities (sport etc) currently funded by government. Check out this group (there is some English material there):

      It’s a bit clunky as a website, which suggests they haven’t got much money to work with. There’s a Pay Pal facility. I’m going to send them something myself, unless anyone at Bella jumps in quickly with a compelling (and pro Gaelic) reason not to.

  6. Kerry says:

    Very interesting article.
    I am currently studying Scottish heritage and culture at the UHI, my next module is “languages on the edge”.
    I have read extensively over the Christmas break. Most books had reference to Gaelic language but only small references, other people’s views are appreciated. The threat to Gaelic culture is extensive, the loss of crofting land is a major factor in this in my opinion.
    I currently study at a Highland based campus in Dingwall and I am the only one there studying Highland culture and life. Maybe education would also be an Avenue for people to get involved in to help save this sacred language.

  7. Douglas says:

    Just a thought on the term ‘Gael’.
    As a Gàidhlig learner, and a Scot wouldn’t it be justified to be classed as a Gael once I’m fluent? After all, our country was predominantly Gael’s once. And even in the lowland we still hold close to gaelic culture to some extent. I’ve been wanting to be fluent in gaelic since I was like five-years-old, legit no joke. So, once I’ve reclaimed what was stolen from me many years ago.
    I’ll never be a native speaker or Gael, but I would like to think that I could reclaim, to an extent, my heritage.

    1. Calum H says:

      You’re exactly right Douglas. Gaelic is the heritage and birthright of every Lowland Scot too. Gaelic was spoken throughout the Lowlands and survived in Lowland areas until the early 19th century. Don’t let the elitism and personal Highland fantasies of the likes of this author – himself an American ‘outsider’ by his own criteria – put you off.

      These exclusive, elitist attitudes are actually lethal to Gaelic, which without Lowland support and participation, will die in short order.

      1. Douglas says:

        I 100% agree with you. And I, once i am able to competently enough, teach my daughter Gaelic so that she can further to growth of gaelic in Scotland.

    2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      You would be so justified, Douglas, insofar as, having become a fluent Gaelic speaker, you would have become part of the Gaelic language community. Being a Gael has nothing to do with ‘bloodlines’ or any such nonsense; it’s a cultural rather than a racial identity.

      I’d only add that learning Gaelic and becoming a Gael wouldn’t make you any more ‘Scottish’. Scotland nowadays comprises a wide range of language communities, none of which has any special nationalist claim. But, as several contributors to this thread have indicated, there are many other (and in my view better) reasons to learn Gaelic.

      1. Douglas says:

        Very true. I don’t think I would class myself anymore Scottish than I already do, for being fluent in gaelic. I only wish to be fluent for my own intrinsic values.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          I classify myself as ‘Scottish’ for reasons neither of bloodline nor of ethnicity (inc. language), but simply on the grounds that I participate in the civic life of that imagined community we call ‘Scotland’ (see Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Verso, 1983)); basically, because it’s here that I vote and pay taxes. I classify myself as ‘British’ and ‘Gallowegian’ for exactly the same reason.

          My national identity is plural and cuts across lines of race and of heritage to be purely political.

  8. Finlay Macleod says:

    When it comes to learning the Gaelic of the family the home and community the Moray Language Centre have developed a number of courses specifically for this area.
    They are also able to run information sessions to show how a student can learn Gaelic quickly once the pandemic is over and done with.

  9. Finlay Macleod says:

    Networked Gaelic Communities Being Involved
    The Moray Language Centre are deeply involved in Gaelic Networked Communities which can occur anywhere in Scotland and beyond. It means that those who wish to be involved in one needs to let us know in order to get information on how they work and also will require to attend a full day Information Session to understand what is fully involved. Gaelic Networked Communities involve both learns and those who are fluent speakers and all age groups from the very old to the very young all have a positive part to play. For anyone who wishes to know more about Gaelic Networked Communities we ask them to send an email to [email protected] but please tell us which town or city or area of Scotland they live in as there are some different levels of activity at present depending on where you live.

    Finally we will soon be finished of a new handbook on How To Learn Gaelic Superfast (8 weeks or up to a year. No Longer) and it will go hand in hand with the Information Session as it is so important to develop new Gaelic learning facilities and to take a learner to speaking conversational Gaelic of the family and household and community within one year. If it takes longer you lose the vast majority of those wishing to learn Gaelic. We reckon about 95% of learners.

    1. Calum H says:

      That sounds like invaluable work you are doing Finlay, and a fascinating new approach.

  10. Calum H says:

    The author claims that one must be raised by or adopted by Gaels in order to be a Gael.

    What he forgets is the voice of the land. Scotland itself speaks Gaelic, it’s in the names of towns, villages, hills mountains and rivers, from the Border to the far North. The land itself speaks Gaelic to everyone born here, from the moment of their birth, and to everyone who comes here and makes it their home. It may be a whisper, but it speaks, and is open to all who listen and becomes louder and clearer if they do. All Scots raised in this land are raised by the land – and this land speaks Gaelic. It’s Scotland’s language, written on the land, and so it’s our language as Scotland’s ‘Children’. I wonder if the non-Gaelic speaking Picts of Skye, whom Columba needed a translator to converse with, were ‘adopted’ by kindly Gaels and so were ‘accepted’ in some fantasised intergenerational tradition and ‘alowed’ to become Gaels? No, nothing quite so fluffy and spiritual occured. Hard political realities led to Pictish Skye becoming Gaelic speaking and the Picts becoming ‘Gaels’. It was in that sense, artificial. It always is. The authors ‘rules’ for Gaelic identity are utter hogwash.

    Gaelic is the only rule.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      ‘The author claims that one must be raised by or adopted by Gaels in order to be a Gael.’

      Yes, this is the aspect of Adam’s Gaelic ‘nationalism’ that I have a problem with. He argues throughout his articles that Gaelic should be privileged for reasons of ethnicity. I find this disturbing because arguing for this kind of privileging flirts with racism. There are several better reasons why Gaelic should and can be supported in a civic Scotland, many of which have been rehearsed in this and other threads.

  11. Anne Beaton says:

    ‘S math a rinn thu. Cum ort.

  12. Gill Turner says:

    I certainly try to do this on every occasion possible.
    I have been working in Gaelic development and I am a slow learner of the language. I work with Gaels and non Gaels and their passion for the language always heartens me.

  13. Finlay Macleod says:

    The Gaelic in the Home Course and the Altram/Babycare Course

    If you want to pass Gaelic onto your children it is best to learn the Gaelic used with babies and children up to 3 years of age before the first child is born.
    It is very different from the language used between parents and older children and also between parents or adults.
    This language domain is not learnt in a Gaelic medium nursery or a Gaelic medium primary or a Gaelic medium high school either.
    There will be specific courses available through the Moray Language Centre in different parts of Scotland once the pandemic is over and done with. Up to 15 students can participate on each course at any one time.
    While the Gaelic in the Home course is best run in an actual home so it becomes easy for those students to transfer and then start speaking in their own home the Altram/Babycare course is different. Yes it can be done in a home but it can also be run in a hall or school or indeed a home whichever is easiest.
    Parents or students who are participating need to have one or more dolls plus the clothes and equipment at each session to fully be involved in the session. Nearly all the clothes and equipment is in every house with a baby or expecting a baby. The exceptions are a recording device and 3 different sizes of dolls to represent birth to one year, one to two years and 2 to 3 year old children.
    The sessions are conducted entirely in the Gaelic language with all students whether they speak Gaelic or not. The only exception is the information session which is done in English to explain what to expect over the course and to find out how they can work entirely in Gaelic even though they have no Gaelic at the very beginning.
    Absolutely no books, no reading, no writing, no grammar and definitely no translation is allowed until the student is very fluent in conversational Gaelic. Then of course reading and then writing is part of the learning process.
    Translation should come in at the very end when the students are very fluent in both languages as it takes 5 years or is it 6 years to master translation on a university course.
    It is also a good idea to learn conversational Gaelic on a Gaelic in the Home course before the student embarks on an Altram/Babycare course as it is much easier to learn Gaelic on the Gaelic in the Home Course than it is on an Altram/Babycare course.
    For anyone who would like to learn more please email the Moray Language Centre on [email protected] and tell us where you live.

  14. MacNaughton says:

    The thing about Foghorn up the page and other vocal elements of the anti-Gaelic lobby in Scotland like Michael Fry – another crass oaf in my opinion- is that they are basically just continuing the British State policy of harassing Gaelic speakers which has been going on for 150 years at least.

    Native born Gaels never comment on these forums, probably because they are sick to death of being othered by bigots like Foghorn who keep telling them that they are the equivalent to Polish immigrants in Scotland.

    This is patent nonsense as any Pole applying for settled status will tell you…. I have always been treated well during my time in Spain, but I am an immigrant here and do not have the same rights as a Spaniard. It’s part of the deal of settling abroad as millions of people can attest to. So what is this bullshit about considering Scots and Gaelic in the same breath as Polish?

    The very nasty, very narrow and very bitter anti-Gaelic lobby are a very unattractive feature of Scottish life, up there with that old staple, good old fashioned religious bigotry…

    No wonder Gaelic is being lost as a community language in the islands, no wonder young Gaels shy away from using it in public. They are embarrassed or harassed online and quite possibly in person too on occasions,and every so often the drivel which passes for the press in Scotland devote a few days to Gaelic bashing, a bit like the opening of the grouse season each year….

    It is totally unacceptable behaviour….and I don’t understand why it is not seen for what it is: discrimination…

    1. MacNaughton says:

      As for the general health of the average Scot, with our record in Europe for dying earlier than anybody else, I can’t help but ask myself as I walk about when I am back if this is really the nation known for centuries in Europe for its martial prowess, for producing men of daunting physique, the land of Wallace and Robert the Bruce and the Great Montrose whose military exploits were the talk of all of Europe, the land whose soldiers were mercenaries for hire in the armies of the Swedish and the Germans and who later became the famous thin red line….

      What I see is lots of people overweight and eating crap food, pies and birdies and chip butties. The Scots have become a nation of fatties and they never were that…something must be done….

  15. Calum H says:

    An American labelling (othering) Scots as “outsiders”, while lecturing them that it’s their moral imperative to stand up for Gaelic Speaking Scots, is not only unhelpful and completely false, it’s also absolutely lethal to Gaelic.

    Gaelic speaking Scots are not “a people”. They are Scots – who speak Gaelic. Once, all regions of Scotland had Gaelic speakers. Then some of them learned English. Then some of them lost Gaelic. Today all Scots speak English. Some Scots also still speak Gaelic – for now. That’s all there is to it – a huge receding pool of Gaelic speakers called Scotland. There are no Scottish “outsiders”. There may be learners and teachers, and those who don’t need to learn, but they are all Scots.

    The divisive ethnic fantasy that the author peddles (which he inherits from the racist ‘Anglo-Saxonists’ of the 18th and 19th century) would cut an already failing Gaelic off at the knees because it would drive most Scots away with its elitist pretensions and exclusivity.

    Gaelic will not survive without Scotland and general Scottish support and participation. Falsely telling a nation “you must help save this… but it’s not yours, never forget that. You are an outsider. But helping us your duty” is a travesty, a falsehood, and will destroy Gaelic.

    But hey, you might get to feel all ‘special’ and ‘unique’ in the ivory tower of supposed ethnic minorityhood as you preside over the death of Gaelic. I hope that warm fuzzy feeling is worth it.

    And Adam, please don’t compare Scottish Gaels to the Saami unless you actually know what you’re talking about. Just a suggestion from my Grandma.

    1. MacNaughton says:


    2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      Spot on!

  16. Adrian Roper says:

    Three thoughts.

    1. Scotland is named after the Scottii. Their Irish and Hebridean roots are a little vague, but they definitely spoke Gaelic.

    2. BBC Alba. I watch it regularly, using the subtitles. It not only offers lots of brilliant Scottish (and universal) music, and intimate stories of ordinary Scottish (and universal) people’s trials and successes, but it presents dramas and documentaries about the wide world through a Scottish (Gaelic) editorial lens and with a Scottish (Gaelic) tone. It’s a lens and tone that calmly reflects on human suffering and honours those who struggle against life’s injustices. I don’t find anything like this so regularly on BBC Scotland.
    It’s quite an achievement for such a tiny linguistic group. Perhaps it’s a natural consequence of who they are: the carriers of a language that is fused with a particular people and a particular place called Alba/Scotland. Anyway, it would be a sad loss if they were no more.

    3. If that last point is agreed, the rest is strategy. How can we calmly articulate a plan to overcome the extinction of Gaelic? What does research tell us?

  17. Finlay Macleod says:

    An extract from the article called:
    Cultural Oppression & Colonialism
    “I have read from speeches delivered by Mr Loch at public dinners among his own party, [that he would] never be satisfied until the Gaelic language and the Gaelic people would be extirpated root and branch from the Sutherland estate; yes from the Highlands of Scotland”.
    Rev. Donald MacLeod

    **** Mr James Loch was a Lawyer from Edinburgh and worked with the infamous Patrick Sellar from Elgin the factor for the Sutherland Estates at the time of the Highland Clearances. They both wanted to destroy and clear both the people and their language from Sutherland and indeed the whole of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:


  18. Finlay Macleod says:

    Gaelic was spoken from the Clyde to the Solway

    The number of Lowland place-names which begin with words which are obviously Gaelic or corruptions of Gaelic, such as Auch, Ben, Blar, Carn, Craig, Dal, Drum, Esk, Glen, Loch, Kill, or Killy, (Cille), Mony (Monaidh) is very great.
    The existence of such Gaelic words in the Lowlands is explicable on one assumption only,viz.,that Gaelic was once the language of the Lowlands. That this was formerly the case we learn from the historian, George Buchanan, who said that in his day (1506-1582) the country between the Clyde and the Solway was Gaelic speaking.

    It follows, therefore, that along with all the other Scottish things, whatsoever, the birth-right of all Scots, whether Lowland or Highland, includes Gaelic and that Lowlanders as well as Highlanders may, and should claim an equal interest in that tongue for it was at one time the common language of all Scotland. The preservation of a language so distinctively and uniquely Scottish must appeal to all true Scots as being of all purposes the most worthy, as of all achievements it would be the greatest. It is the most precious of living links with a venerable and inspiring past.

    **At the back of the book The Tale Of The Cauldron by J.G. Mckay (Reprinted by Maclean Press in 1993 and First Published in 1927) in Gaelic and English.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      ‘It follows, therefore, that along with all the other Scottish things, whatsoever, the birth-right of all Scots, whether Lowland or Highland, includes Gaelic…’

      No, it doesn’t follow. What of all those Scots for whom Gaelic is not part of their heritage? Those whose heritage lies, rather, in England, Africa, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, etc., etc.? Why does the fact that Gaelic was once spoken throughout North Britain make it part of their birthright?

      This is the precisely the sort of ethnic nationalist nonsense that blights Scotland and is holding it back.

      1. Calum H says:

        Yes, it does follow Foghorn, because anyone born in Scotland or who makes Scotland their home is also a sharer in the Scottish heritage. It doesn’t matter if that is not their ONLY heritage – it’s PART of their heritage. Every Scot is entitled to celebrate whatever aspects of their heritage they want, and if that heritage includes strands which run outwith Scotland, then more power to them. You don’t think someone can be a Gael and a Tuareg at the same time? You don’t think someone can celebrate and participate in their Scottish Celtic heritage and their Polish heritage at the same time? Of course they can.

        But what Scotland offeres them is participation and a sharing in Scottish heritage.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          Yes; you’re right, Calum. It is possible for someone to belong to more than one language community. However, I still struggle to see how the Highland Clearances, say, can be part of the inheritance of a Scot whose history lies in the deserts of North Africa.

          I do see, though, how that latter history can through migration become part of the history of the Scottish nation. I’m just not sure the lines of inheritance can run the other way too. By some process of assimilation to the ‘host’ culture, I suppose. Only, I’m a bit suspicious of the whole ‘assimilation’ thing though. I’d rather see integration than assimilation.

          But, of course, Tuaregs can become Gaels also, and vice versa. They just have to learn the respective languages involved.

          Now, a plurilingual Scotland, one in which we could all speak one another’s languages interchangeably… that would be the berries!

          1. MacNaughton says:

            I don’t mean to interrupt this relative truce in the thread, but I have to say that it is my belief that, for all the good intentions behind the idea that one can change nationalities like changing a shirt, the fact is that this is not actually true. At least, not for a European.

            That you are from the country, not where you are born, but the country where you are brought up in. And that you can live abroad for many, many years, but that feeling of identity or nationhood will never leave you. It is a very strange and mysterious thing. So, I’m sorry, in my experience as a Scot who has lived most of his adult life abroad, nationality is real and exists. Of course, by living abroad you may complement your identity or idea of who you are by living with people from other cultures and indeed I think that is a very good thing to do with your life if that is your inclination – the adventurous and restless type.

            But my own experience is absolutely unequivocal: as integrated in Spanish society as I am, speaking the language every day, working with Spaniards every day and having many Spanish friends – and the Spanish are fantastic people – I am just as Scottish as I was when I got on the plane to come here for the first time. At least that is how I feel…

          2. Calum H says:

            Indeed MacNaughton, and I have to say, my experience has shown me that some children of Scottish parents raised in a Scottish familes outside Scotland often have very intense feelings of ‘belonging’ to Scotland, which can be quite fiery if questioned. This is an aspect of identity which the pure civic nationalism doesn’t really seem to address.

          3. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Out of curiosity, McN: as someone who has made his home in Spain, do you consider the Reconquista and/or the corrida to be part of your heritage?

            The reason I’m asking is because Calum postulates that ‘anyone born in Scotland or who makes Scotland their home is also a sharer in the Scottish heritage. It doesn’t matter if that is not their ONLY heritage – it’s PART of their heritage’, and I was just wondering if this also holds for someone of Scottish descent who has made his home in Spain.

            Are you assimilated to Spanish culture or only integrated within Spanish society?

          4. MacNaughton says:

            I find Spanish history, culture and language absolutely fascinating but I can’t say I read it and feel it is mine in the same way I feel Scottish history, culture and literature is mine.

            More than anything though, I suppose I don’t ask myself when I am reading something these days whether it is mine or not, certainly not a historical.event. Do I feel the Reconquista is mine? Not remotely, but I don’t really think Bannockburn is mine either really.

            When I was younger Scottish history could resonate emotionally with me, the story of Wallace say or the feats of Montrose and Bruce, but not really these days, though I still find both Scottish and Spanish history fascinating.

            Now, my reaction isn’t really emotional. I find myself in amazement that all these incredible things actually took place and all these incredible human beings with their intense passions have gone barely leaving a trace. The amazing stories of the Jacobites in Scotland…. or Montrose leading his men over Ben Nevis at night in the snow to surprise the Campbells at Inverary and descend upon them as Argyll sailed away in his black masted boat as it all unfolded… Incredible tales…

            We are such stuff as dreams are made on, as old Wullie Shakespeare said…

          5. Calum H says:

            Hi Foghorn,

            “I still struggle to see how the Highland Clearances, say, can be part of the inheritance of a Scot whose history lies in the deserts of North Africa.”

            That’s an interesting question. It leads me to ask how the Clearances can be part of the inheritance of anyone who didn’t directly experience them, including the descendants of those impacted? How can it be part of a Scot’s inheritance and yet inherently not accessible to a North African Scot -unless you think it’s something to do with ethnicity and ancestry? Is that a touch of your your own ethnic nationalism perhaps creeping in?

            The Lowland clearances were unheard of and uncared about until very recently, despite it inevitably causing deep distress and untold upheaval and suffering to the lives of thousands of Scots at the time. It’s the story of the Clearances which produces the feeling today. If the Highland Clearances were somehow unknown, as the Lowland Clearances were, then no one would care.

            If it’s the story which produces the feeling then perhaps stories, like language, are something which anyone can learn and come to identify with and even feel, on a personal level?

          6. MacNaughton says:

            A immigrant in Scotland or elsewhere in Europe can integrate and engage with his or her new country as much of as little as they please. There are 300,000 Brits in Spain, the vast majority won’t know the first thing about Spanish culture or history,indeed many don’t speak Spanish. But that is fine.

            I have taken an interest in Spanish culture and history and consider myself something of a hispanophile- though never a hispanist – but what I came to the realization not very long ago is that even if I live here till the day I die, and no matter that I am integrated enough to be taken frequently for a Spaniard, deep down I will always feel Scottish. It’s a mysterious thing,but I suspect a Spaniard living in Scotland for decades would say the same. It’s part of the drama of being a European.

            I should also say I have always felt very European, just as much as I feel Scottish, and so for me, Brexit has been a terrible blow, I don’t know if even a minor trauma.

            To cut ourselves off from friends and colleagues in Europe makes me feel real grief… It’s an emotional thing as much as anything.

          7. Foghorn Leghorn says:


            Civic nationalism makes citizenship, rather than ethnicity, the defining quality of nationality. However passionate someone is about their cultural or biological heritage, it’s irrelevant to one’s nationality under civic nationalism, which considers one’s ethnicity to be an entirely private affair rather than part of the res publica.

            This is what makes civic nationalism so inclusive; under civic nationalism, to qualify as ‘a Scot’, for example, you would just have to be an active participant in the civic life of that imagined community; you wouldn’t have to be able to trace a racial or cultural ‘bloodline’ or to be racially or culturally assimilated to a ‘host’ population, as is the case under ethnic nationalism. ‘Ex-pats’ can retain as much or as little of their cultural heritage as they like (that’s a private matter), but as far as the public life of the imagined community they’ve joined is concerned they will be fully-fledged nationals. Under civic nationalism, my nearest neighbour would be no less Scottish for being of English descent, my middle son’s partner would be no less a Scottish for being of Portuguese descent, and I would be no more Scottish than either of them for being of Tweeddale descent.

            Ethnic nationalism is exclusive. It’s the sort of nationalism that can exclude whole communities from the republic simply because they don’t possess the right ‘bloodlines’. At its worst, it can lead to genocide; at its most comical, it can issue in the puffed-up, ‘wha’s like us’ strutting of the Little Englander/Scotlander, in the nostalgic sentimentalism of the Corries and Hovis adverts, and folk in Greece moaning because a curry-house waiter in Portobello got a vote in the Independence referendum while they didn’t.

            Civic nationalism doesn’t have a problem with the patriotism of ex-pats. As far as its concerned, such patriotism is an entirely private matter; all that signifies under civic nationalism is the commitment citizens have as citizens to the principles of the constitution by which their public affairs are managed (‘constitutional’ or ‘republican’ patriotism).

  19. SleepingDog says:

    If I lived in Egypt, I would be quite happy under civic nationalism principles for government spending on Egyptian hieroglyphics, putting them on street and station signs, even if few people could read them. World heritage has local guardians.
    The same applies for natural heritage. Under civic nationalism, we would still expect governments to shell out for some kind of conservation of indigenous species and ecosystem protection. World nature has local guardians, too.

  20. Finlay Macleod says:

    We found out at the Moray Language Centre a while ago that adults can learn Gaelic much, much faster than children and that if you want to build or strengthen any Gaelic community you need to ensure you have a system that enables adults to learn conversational Gaelic Superfast certainly within one year but it it is much better within 8 weeks which is easily done.

    We will also run information sessions on how to develop Gaelic communities and how to learn Gaelic Superfast plus we expect to have a new Handbook within another 2 months going into great detail how this can be done and what new facilities are required and it will be for the students who attend the courses and the Day Long Information Session. This sadly cannot happen until after the pandemic. Though up to 500 prospective students can attend the Information Session at any one time on a face to face basis which should help.

    The Moray Language Centre has developed a new learning method for 2 to five year olds to take children to speaking Gaelic in 16 weeks rather than 4 years as occurs at present but the pre-school staff need to attend a 10 full day training session to get the information that is required. There are so many other developments as well but we can’t seem to get the attention of those who can make the changes or the newspapers in Scotland as they like to publicise difficulties and problems rather than solutions that really work.

    1. Calum H says:

      That’s amazing Findlay. Will this handbook eventually be available for people to buy who can’t attend the day long sessions, in order to help shape and inform their approach to Gaelic learning and perhaps speed it up, even if not quite to the level they might with direct training – or would that simply not work?

      That’s a real shame the newspapers are not paying any attention – not even the National? If so, as a subscriber, I will express my disappointment.

      1. Finlay Macleod says:

        The Handbook
        Yes of course it will as most of our handbooks are at present.

      2. Finlay Macleod says:

        Why do you think the Nation would be interested in Gaelic? That would be a great surprise to me. You have far more interest from the Press and Journal with John Ross than the National anyday. It has long been clear that the SNP are Frightened of Gaelic and that is why Civic Nationalism was coined to get away from anything connected with Gaelic so they could bury such notions. This has been known for a very long time. Especially since Robert Macintyre was their President.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          That’s a rather parochial view, Finlay.

          ‘Civic nationalism’ was coined not by the SNP but (I believe) by the Israeli politician, Yael Tamir, in her doctoral thesis back in 1993. The SNP, like many nationalist movements throughout Western Europe, subsequently jumped on the civic nationalist bandwagon in order to market a brand of nationalism that would be more palatable to the wider demographics of a multi-ethnic state.

          In her most recent book, Why Nationalism? (Princeton, 2019), Yael urges that we shouldn’t surrender the power of nationhood to identitarian politics but should rather harness it to create cross-cultural coalitions that can promote social solidarity and social justice. As an Israeli, Yael has first-hand experience of living under a strongly identitarian regime.

          1. Finlay Macleod says:

            As I have been in and around the SNP since 1969 I have seen just how frightened the upper structure of the SNP has been towards the Gaelic language over that period of time so it doesn’t really surprise me that they use the words Civic Nationalism as a cover to exclude or ignore the Gaelic language in Scotland. Strangely you say the term came from Israel and when I consider this in greater detail there are certainly similar lines that could be employed.

            What I do find very funny is the Conservatives and Unionists think what is happening in terms of Gaelic is a Nationalist project as nothing could be further from the truth as they have done least for the Gaelic language over the past 40 years. Indeed if anything they have set things back by closing down certain projects and delaying others.

        2. Calum H says:

          Hi Finlay,

          That’s interesting what you say about the SNP. I wonder why that is? I can only imagine it’s because they are intent on avoiding the kind of accusations that Foghorn might level at them if they gave priority to Gaelic. They seem afraid to take a step for fear of offending anyone sometimes.

          I’m any case, the readership of the National is not solidly SNP supporting, by any means. Supporters of independence, yes, but many there think the SNP leadership are as avoidant of the measures that would actually bring independence, as you suggest they are of Gaelic.

          I think many of the National’s readers would be interested in your work. Where the National itself would stand, I don’t know.

          1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            The SNP’s policy on Gaelic is the least of the gripes I have with it.

            I suspect that the SNP is treading a bit of a tightrope between not wanting to alienate traditional ethnic nationalists, who are moved by Scotland’s ‘native’ heritage, and not wanting to alienate the ‘new Scots’ for whom the latter means very little emotionally.

            Perhaps it thinks that an ethnically ‘neutral’ civic nationalism broadens its electoral appeal in 21st-century Scotland; although, it still continues to swither between the two.

          2. Finlay Macleod says:

            It seems for some unknown reason that the English language in Scotland is not an ethnic language. Why should that be yet Gaelic is one. Now that is hilarious.

      3. Finlay Macleod says:

        I read recently that the Gaelic speakers first came to Argyll in Scotland from the Iberian Peninsula and then some groups migrated to Ireland soon afterwards. The Picts were not only in Scotland but in Ireland as well.

  21. Finlay Macleod says:

    You will find a video of the Presentation: ADULTS ARE THE KEY NOT CHILDREN

    I gave to the ILI Symposium in New Mexico USA about TIP Gaelic learning methods and strategies in October 2014.

    Please share it if you feel it would be of help to other individuals and minority communities both in Scotland and world-wide.

    The Presenter:

    Finlay M. Macleoid Gaelic in Scotland Presentation: Adults are the Key not Children

    Moray Language Centre (00-44-1542 836 322) [email protected]

    Go to

  22. Finlay Macleod says:

    The Importance Of Learning Gaelic Superfast

    It is so important we change the whole working and development systems connected to the Gaelic language in Scotland. We need proper up to date systems for learning Gaelic superfast but we also need to know how to learn Gaelic Superfast. If it takes more than a year you will normally lose 95% plus of those who are learning. That is why we need to move away from the present colonial system which usually means a student will take anything up to 60 years to learn Gaelic. These teaching methods were developed in the 1720’s and are designed to ensure they are so difficult to learn Gaelic that almost everyone gives up believing they can never learn or they are as students the reasons for not learning.

    It is so very sad listening to students who are simply learning Gaelic using the worst learning methodology possible and it is not lack of dedication or even passion. It is simply one of the worst language learning systems possible. So very very sad.

    1. Adrian Roper says:

      Hi Finlay
      Are you aware of this initiative?

      It started as a Welsh language offer but has expanded to include other languages including Spanish, Cornish and Manx.
      I’ve heard that it is really effective, and helping to make Welsh the most popular second language choice in the UK.
      Perhaps it could be expanded to include Gaelic.
      The guy behind it (Aran Jones) would probably welcome a conversation about it, if he isn’t on the case already.

      1. Finlay Macleod says:

        Yes I have known Aran and spoken with him on the telephone many times before he started this whole project Say Something in Welsh.

        1. Adrian Roper says:

          I just tried the Say Something in Manx lesson 1 for five minutes and can now say “I want to speak Manx with you”. I’ve no idea how to spell it properly but I can say “Tarney brunny lort Gelg rut”. I’d much rather say it in Scottish Gaelic though.
          Gaelic spelling is an obstacle to learners, if my experience is typical, so starting with oral lessons focused on useful phrases seems like the best way to go.

  23. Finlay Macleod says:

    TIP/GaB is focused completely on learning spoken/conversational Gaelic first of all. Also absolutely no reading, no writing, no grammar, and more than anything else no translation allowed from English to Gaelic or Gaelic to English as it alters the structure of the spoken language. After learning to speak Gaelic it is very easy to learn how to read Gaelic and that can be done within seven days using the syllable system couple with the two Gaelic alphabets as Gaelic is a much more regular system than English. Naturally if you are learning through English you write fall back on English concepts and ways of thinking and doing things all the time so it will be uinnatural unless you change your way of thinking. This is quite understandable, but you are seeing Gaelic through an English prism.

    1. Adrian Roper says:

      Thanks Finlay
      Is there a good online option?

      1. Finlay Macleod says:

        We don’t do any of our work online as we don’t see how you can work entirely through Gaelic with Gaelic learners online and we have no wish to compromise our work at this stage as it is simply too valuable.
        I’m sure the day will come when this will happen but as we wish to have learning with live participation we are unable to see how it can work.

        The Moray Language Centre are also involved in intergenerational transmission and the passing on of Gaelic to young couples and parents before the child is born through an Altram/Babycare course but again we are unable to make this viable at this stage through zoom to our satisfaction though I’m sure this will change in time.

  24. Annwyn Lewis says:

    As a Welsh teacher of 33 years and living in a country where we have to defend our right to speak our language, the language of our country, which has equal status y law to English thanks to welsh Language Act, I know how they feel. As a linguist I would like to help. As a teacher I know that I have knowledge and expertise that could be useful.

    1. Adrian Roper says:

      Hi Annwyn, I’d be interested in your views on the Say Something In Welsh (or Manx etc) online learning approach.
      Finlay, in an earlier comment, makes the point that it’s hard to “think Gaelic” (or Welsh for that matter), if you’re learning the language through a sort of “translation from English” method. There may be something in this, from a “best possible method” perspective, but I worry that the “best” can never be offered at scale, and focusing on it ignores the plight of lots of potential learners who can’t travel to specialist in-depth classes or carve out the time for personal participation in face to face courses. The online approach offers easy access to everyone everywhere and a flexible learning regime, but is it flawed in some important way?
      As I say, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

      1. Finlay Macleod says:

        It obviously depends on how you are learning Gaelic but if you are doing it through English or translation from English. How can you ever get rid of the base structure of the English language later on, never mind thinking in Gaelic. Then add this the complication of learning grammar on top of that in English then you will have the vast majority of students not only thinking in English and using the structure of English while trying to speak. No wonder few if any ever come to fluency. It is what is called the colonial method of teaching minority languages. The aim is to make it so difficult that you simply give up and secondly you blame yourself for not being good at learning (your own) language.

  25. Finlay Macleod says:

    Adrian Roper and anyone else. If you email me I can send you at least 80 emails back on the subject. My email is [email protected]

  26. Finlay Macleod says:

    New Gaelic Facilities For Gaelic Learners Required.

    During a conversation about developing a Gaelic Networked Community in Angus it became clear that new facilities are required in the area to enable Gaelic learners to become fluent in the language of the home family and community extremely quickly.
    We spoke about Gaelic learning starting with absolutely no Gaelic whatsoever and becoming conversationally fluent within 8 weeks and also within a year at the very longest time.
    All this and much more requires that the infra-structure be setup and set in motion for this to become a reality and requires a number of people on the ground to make this happen.
    It is so sad at present hearing stories of all those who have been struggling over many years some up to 20 years who have not come to fluency because of the ways they have been learning Gaelic, some I am sad to say in the most difficult ways possible that they could have chosen to try and gain a Gaelic fluency.
    It is so important to make it easier for the next group of Gaelic learners to acquire Gaelic really quickly and to this end the Moray Language Centre will be organising full day information sessions to show how Gaelic learners can acquire Gaelic Superfast.
    Networked Gaelic Communities are interested in lots of different activities as well such as games and Gaelic cultural activities being set up in order to bring people together.
    If you live in the Angus area or indeed anywhere in Scotland with an interest in Networked Gaelic Communities then we ask you to get in contact by emailing the Moray Language Centre on [email protected]
    Please tell us which town or city you stay in or near.

  27. Finlay Macleod says:

    Propangda about Gaelic in Scotland and how it came about.
    Spoke to Connell Szasz from New Mexico about her book called The Scottish Highlands and Native Americans ISBN 987 0 8061 3861 9 (2007)
    Indigenous education in the 18th century Altantic world.

    The main area we talked about was The SSPCK a Scottish organisation started by Scots in 1709 for the education of Gaelic speakers to convert them from the Gaelic language to English and how it set out to destroy the Gaelic language in Scotland and replace it, (not with Scots) but with the English language.

    It seems that it is from the SSPCK that we first got the sentiment that the people of Inverness were the best English speakers in the World.
    A propaganda tool to help Invernessians to be proud of speaking English and it worked exceptionally well on a propaganda level.
    The conversation was truly mind blowing and has made me want to read her book even more than before.

    Her book examines in length The Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) in Scotland and the origins of the Scottish society’s policies of Cultural colonialism both in the Gaelic speaking areas of Scotland and among the Native communities in North America.

    So much of the strong anti-Gaelic feelings and sentiments in Scotland today can be laid firmly in the offices of the SSPCK which was a home grown Scottish organisation.

  28. Annwyn Lewis says:

    @Adrian Roper,
    I couldn’t find your comment here, despite having an email showing your response. Please email on [email protected] Many thanks.
    Just a quick comment though – I currently teach Welsh as a second language to GCSE. It is important that the teaching of any language is cradle to grave. There must be opportunities to use it and a validity of its usefulness. Any language as a second language is better than not teaching it at all even though it won’t be the language the person thinks in. Better he speaks it and doesn’t think it than vice versa! There should be a multi-pronged teaching strategy targeting all ages and all fluencies but ultimately you want to have little ones speaking it from the nursery up. It costs money and it won’t always be popular. By the end you will across all be training future teachers to teach it so that it is a self-maintaining living breathing thing seen and heard everwhere. A language act helps to protect it, because it will need protecting to flourish. You want to see it in shops, in businesses, everywhere and this doesn’t come overnight. A long term strategy is needed and people to take responsibility to oversee progress. You will need to produce a never ending amount of resources at all levels, to put in all places where the language is taught. You will need children’s programmes on the tv, posters at nursery classses, cd’s of nursery rhymes handed out to new mothers, podcasts for adult learners, books for all ages to use as stimuli for learning.
    For further suggestions please email.

    1. Finlay Macleod says:

      The most important sector for the Moray Language Centre is the 6 to 8 years before the child is born if they can be found and helped to either learn the Gaelic of the family and the baby. After that you are always like the dogs tail or coming in late on creating Gaelic speaking families. Those who have gone through Gaelic medium schools do not have this language domain either and that is why so few people in Wales or Ireland and Scotland are unable to pass the language onto the next generation from birth. Thus no new native speakers coming from homes or families even where both parents went through Gaelic medium education but did not have it at home.

      1. Annwyn Lewis says:

        I’m not exactly sure what you are saying but I get some of it. What percentage of speakers do you have? In Wales the figure is presented as 19.5% which is a drop on the previous numbers despite numbers of Welsh medium primary and secondary schools growing. I think the figure is out because there are people who I would say are fluent but lacking confidence in reading and writing Welsh and therefore do not tick the fluency box. This skews the numbers when we know that there is success in what is being done. We have one county that only teaches through the medium of Welsh and new comers, even if from abroad, will be helped to fast-track their fluency level to cope with Welsh medium schools. Total immersion can work if you support parents as well as children. I’m not sure what you meant bu six years before the child is born. Where I live that would be GCSE age and Welsh is compulsory to GCSE so I don’t understand the reference to backtracking or however you put it. The ambition by our Senedd is a million speakers by 2050 but I think that should be 2030.

  29. Finlay Macleod says:

    Our work is not just about learning to speak Gaelic be they adults or children. It is about intergenerational transmission which is very different from just adults learning Gaelic If it was that easy then every adult would be able to pass Gaelic onto the next generation just because they learn Gaelic, is simply not the case. Only wish it were and what an easy life it would be.

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.