Gaelic illiteracy

Here we bloody go again. Another example of Gaelic illiteracy from the Scottish media, with an ill-informed and ignorant anti-Gaelic rant in the Herald which, as is typical for this kind of discourse, displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how language works and an almost complete absence of factual knowledge about the Gaelic language itself. I say misunderstanding because I’m being kind, but it’s not unreasonable to suspect that the misunderstanding is wilful because this kind of guff keeps getting repeated no matter how often people who do actually understand these things patiently explain the facts.

Of course by writing this article I’m a part of the Gaelic mafia, and am trying to oppress and silence a poor wee journo who is only expressing his opinion. It’s just a pity then that his opinion is based on outdated stereotypes, prejudice, and a deep lack of any actual knowledge of his subject matter. Maybe people wouldn’t correct and criticise him if he knew what he was on about.  Just sayin’.

We’re talking here about someone who decided to write an article about Gaelic – and moreover actually got paid for it – but whose knowledge of Scottish languages is so woefully inadequate that he actually appears to believe that Scots is nothing more than a form of English which Scottish people have “coloured”, “derived from” and “distorted”. His knowledge of the role of Gaelic in Scotland is every bit as lacking. Here’s a wee tip for Scottish newspaper editors, see when you commission opinion pieces about Scottish languages, try and make sure that the person writing the piece has a modicum of knowledge about the topic.

The author of this article seems to have set out to allow us to play Gaelic Stereotype Bingo, and we all got an taigh làn. That’s the full house in Gaelic, in case you were wondering.

We got the social Darwinism klaxon. Languages do not expire because of some social Darwinism which is no one’s real fault and which is the natural result of free choices being freely made. They are murdered by states, strangled by negativity, and silenced by prejudice. The Gaelic language doesn’t suffer from a peculiar linguistic infection or a strange disease. It is not singularly inept at expressing the requirements of a modern society. If Gaelic is dying it is because it is being killed off. For the umpteenth time there is no free market in language use. Can the opponents of Gaelic not get that into their skulls?

No one wakes up of a morning and decides, Hmm, creo que hoy parlaré español or Hmm, tha mi a’ smaoineachadh gum bruidhneas mi sa’ Ghàidhlig an diugh. The choice of language that we use in our daily lives is strongly affected by the social capital that a society devotes to a particular language and whether there is a history of use of that language and a body of speakers of the language in a particular country. No one in Scotland wakes up and thinks “Hmm, I think that today I will speak Spanish,” because Spanish speakers in Scotland are few in number and widely dispersed. There is no history of Spanish use in Scotland, and no expectation that the language will be understood. So people don’t use it in their everyday lives in Scotland, even if, like me, they do speak it fluently.

There is however a history of Gaelic use in Scotland. Gaelic has in fact been spoken in the territory of modern Scotland for considerably longer than Standard English has, and for quite a bit longer than any linguistic variety that the likes of Herald opinion piece writers would describe as a deformed variety of English. There was until very recent times a substantial body of Gaelic speakers in Scotland, and those speakers were geographically concentrated in parts of the country where people could and did have a reasonable expectation that those that they encountered in their daily lives would speak the language.  In fact at one point in Scottish history, Gaelic was the dominant or only language throughout most of the country, including the Lowlands.

However a language can only maintain its social capital if the wider society invests in it. The use of English spread in Scotland because the state fostered and supported it, and at the same time fostered a set of negative attitudes towards Gaelic and Scots while depriving Gaelic and Scots of the same support and resources that were and are given to English. Education in Scotland has for the past few centuries had the aim of imparting English to Scottish children.  No one cared about imparting a knowledge of Gaelic or Scots and in fact for much of the past few centuries these languages were actively discriminated against.  Gaelic and Scots are now fighting for survival not because they are and always were minority languages in Scotland, but because they have been minoritised by a Scottish establishment which aped the linguistic ideals of the monoglot English British establishment.

The state devotes vast resources to the maintenance and spread of English, but this is not perceived by opponents of Gaelic as support for the English language. In a modern developed society a language can only survive if it is given the resources that it needs, dictionaries, textbooks, literature, social media, maps, television, movies. The state already supports in one form or another a vast wealth of cultural output in English, it’s only right and proper that it does the same for Gaelic and Scots.  In fact it must do so if Gaelic and Scots are to survive.  Some in the English speaking establishment in Scotland say that Gaelic is a dying language, and are determined to ensure that Gaelic is deprived of the resources it needs to keep living.  Gaelic for self-fulfilling prophecy is fàisneachd féin-choileanaidh.  For political reasons they seek to deny Gaelic and Scots the resources the languages need to survive and thrive, and then they complain that other people are politicising the languages because they want to be able to use them as normal languages.

The point of road signs in Gaelic or railway station signage in the language isn’t to provide a translation for monoglot Gaelic speakers who might get lost. It’s to make a public statement that this is a country which values and cherishes its Gaelic linguistic heritage. A sign in a railway station that says Pàislig is about giving a message to Gaelic speakers, but that message isn’t merely “You’re in Paisley”.  The additional message is that Gaelic is welcome and valued in Paisley and elsewhere in Scotland. Very often these signs are simply the correct spelling of a name that’s Gaelic anyway, like Àird Rosain / Ardrossan,  An t-Àrd Ruigh / Airdrie, or Cille Mheàrnaig / Kilmarnock.  The purpose of these signs is to give Gaelic speakers the confidence that they can and should use the Gaelic language as much as possible. Signs in Gaelic make a very public statement that the site of the sign is part of the proper range of the Gaelic language. That range is the whole of the territory of Scotland.

We also got the Polish klaxon. Every single article complaining about Gaelic feels the need to point out that there are more speakers of Polish in Scotland than there are speakers of Gaelic. However every single article pointing out that there are more speakers of Polish in Scotland than speakers of Gaelic equally fails to point out that the cultural and demographic centre of the Polish language is not in Scotland. Of course Scotland should encourage and support the Scottish Polish community in maintaining the Polish language, but in order to do so Polish speakers in Scotland can make use of the wealth of literature, movies, TV and other resources produced by the 38 million Polish speakers in Poland. Gaelic stands or falls by the resources produced for it in Scotland. The future of the Polish language does not depend on the resources that Scotland produces for it. The future of Gaelic does.

A vast amount of Scottish history is bound up with the Gaelic and Scots languages. That’s not true of Polish, Chinese, Urdu or any other community language spoken in this country. That doesn’t mean that taxpayers’ money should not be spent on supporting the usage of Polish and other community languages in Scotland, of course it should, but the fact remains that these languages have a demographic and cultural centre outwith Scotland, and they have never acted as vehicles for important parts of Scottish literature and cultural expression. There is nothing in Polish equal in its importance to a distinctively Scottish literature as the poetry of Sorley MacLean or George Campbell Hay, or as important as the ancient Gaelic chronicles which are the primary sources for early Scottish history. Place names formed in the Polish language do not define the Scottish landscape, place names formed in Gaelic do. All these reasons and more are reasons why Scotland has a debt to Gaelic and the major responsibility to keep the language alive, a responsibility which it does not shoulder with Polish.

The author of the Herald’s piece claims that “the language of the Hebrideans is harder to learn than trigonometry and almost unpronounceable.” For starters, Gaelic is not solely the language of Hebrideans, and by identifying it as such the author is attempting to downplay the significance of Gaelic for Scotland as a whole and to deny that the language is in reality the cultural property and inheritance of all of Scotland. Now it’s certainly true that Gaelic may be harder to learn than trigonometry and almost unpronounceable, but that would be only if you’re less capable of applying yourself than a three year old. Little kiddies can learn the language, but apparently big grown up Herald opinion piece writers can’t.  Maybe it would have been more honest for him to say that he doesn’t want to learn it.  That would at least have been more accurate.

It was once believed that young children have an aptitude for language learning which adults lost around the age of puberty. That’s now thought not to be true, but instead reflects more a difference in exposure to the target language and a difference in expectations about speaking it. No one expects a young child to have the fluency and competence of an adult native speaker, but adult learners compare themselves with adult native speakers, and not with young children. Children spend a very long time passively acquiring a language without actively speaking a great deal, and when they do start speaking they are not expected to produce complex statements with fluency and ease, whereas adult learners feel they have failed if they’re not speaking the language immediately. It’s true that language learning is a skill and that some people seem to be naturally better at it than others, but it’s also true that anyone can, with enough time, exposure, and motivation, learn any language.  All sounds in all human languages are, by definition of being linguistic sounds, pronounceable.

Gaelic spelling might be confusing to people who don’t speak the language, but so is English spelling.  There are rules to Gaelic spelling just as there are rules to English spelling.  Those rules are not the same, but Gaelic isn’t unpronounceable just because you’ve never learned the rules.  You personally might not know how to pronounce it, but that’s your failing, not a failing of the Gaelic language.  It’s no harder to achieve literacy in Gaelic than it is to achieve literacy in English.

All states spend a considerable amount of money supporting and protecting the cultural inheritance and heritage of the country. We spend money on museums, on sporting activities, on supporting music and the arts. We spend money on our built environment, protecting buildings considered to be of cultural value or which have historical significance. It’s only money spent on our linguistic heritage which attracts such ire.

But what really upsets the Gaelophobes and the Scots averse is any public acknowledgement that Scotland is not a monolingual English speaking country, because in making that acknowledgement we are also recognising that Scotland is a country with a culture, a heritage, and a history in its own right. And if that’s the case, then there must be rather more to this whole Scottish nationalism thing than an atavistic hatred of the English. That’s an admission that British nationalists in Scotland just can’t bring themselves to accept.

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. You can now access this blog simply by typing into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.

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69 comments on “Gaelic illiteracy

  1. Brilliant, Paul. Mòran taing! I can think of quite a few “proud Scots but” to whom I would LOVE to send this particular post. I’m a fledgling Gaelic speaker and barely out of the egg when it comes to writing the language, but the little Gaelic I have has enriched my knowledge of Scotland and her history no end.

  2. […] Wee Ginger Dug Gaelic illiteracy Here we bloody go again. Another example of Gaelic illiteracy from the Scottish media, […]

  3. astytaylor says:

    Great article, Paul.
    While Buachaille Etive Mor still stands, there is hope.

  4. Graham says:

    Whit an excellent article. The hail ay the mainstream Scottish media noo is jist yin big act ay cultural vandalism n hatred. It’s a total disgrace. Sick ay these treacherous, self-servin bastirts n thir vile agendas. Pity iviryhing – English n Gaelic n Scots n whitiver cultural intonations n inflections – is aw getting rode roughshod oor by the decorticatit tsunami ay American pop-cultural swill thit makes oor young folk sound like the the young Americans they dinnae even ken they ur. Sad.

  5. hettyforindy says:

    Well said Paul. How dare these people attempt to denigrate and deny Scotland’s heritage and languages. Scotland has been far too forgiving of the shameful and oppressive treatment handed out by the Britnats in power, and it continues, aided and abetted by these careerists parading as journos.

    Gaelic is a wonderful Scottish language, and the singing, just amazing. I must sign up for a course. I think it will be very much kept alive as more people are aware of it. Scotland’s heritage and culture is what attracts people to come to Scotland, and that’s also what these Britnats can’t abide. It goes hand in hand with their denial of Scotland’s brand, in production and produce.

    All that Scotland has to offer, including a great wealth of culture, and resources, shows that Scotland is a country, and not a region of their narrow nationalist UK. It is what we are standing up for, and with a government at Holyrood democratically elected to stand up for it. We all must do what we can to ensure that the Britnats do not destroy Scotland.

  6. Andy Anderson says:

    I am into history. A recent project required me to look into language use across time.

    A version of Gaelic known as brittonic Gaelic was in 200BC spoken across all of our island ( not Ireland), nearly all of France (Gaul), part of Spain and over to the Rhine. It was old Welsh.

    About 150AD the Scotti tribe from Ulster colonised Argyll bringing in another version of Gaelic. This spread east and became in time Scottish Gaelic. This is about 20% different from Irish.

    The Romans left our shores in 410AD. Because the Picts who spoke Welsh kept invading the east coast the southern leaders asked the Angels, Jutes and Saxons to help out. They brought Germanic and Norse to the shores. The mix of these in time created by about 800AD the Scots tongue into south east Scotland. Mainly due to the expansion of Northumbria.

    I could go on but you get the message. A form of Gaelic had been spoken here over 3000 years and Scots is a mix of this plus Norse, Germanic, etc. etc.

    An an example the Scots word Braw (good) is used in Sweden and has the same meaning. English came later it being a blend of Latin, French, German etc etc.

    The study of language is a study of migration of people’s.

    My note is a summary of a much more complex process.

  7. donald6 says:

    I used to be a big fan of the Herald in the heady days of Arnold Kemp, etc. It now disgusts me and the Sunday Herald is fast being dragged down that way.

  8. Macart says:

    Haven’t read the piece, but from your response I don’t think I need bother.

    Well said Paul.

  9. Your passion is tangible, Paul. I can taste the steel as I read your incredibly powerful prose.
    I have resolved never to access the Brit Nat Online Rags any more.
    I caution advertisers who use this blatantly anti Scottish rag in order to sell their wares that the Scottish Newspaper industry’s USP is rabidly anti Scotland, as evidenced by this tawdry piece of Scotland hating.
    That excludes at least 50-60% of your potential market.

    They refer to Gaelic as a ‘dying’ language for good reason.
    They intend to kill Scotland off.

    A Union Jack label on a Harris Tweed bunnet.
    They are raping Scotland as they ‘take back control’.

    Yes means Yes. No Means Yes. Silence means Yes.

    The Scottish Government now consents to being shafted by WM, and Neill Findlay will stand back and watch.

    Willie Rennie and the rest of the Brit Nat Gang( alive and well and singing in English Imperial harmony at FMQ yesterday) hate Scotland.

    This is not hyperbole.

    They really do. You may recall their violent resistance to Transport Police in Scotland merging with Police Scotland.

    Anything that smacks of uniting Scottish public and governmental institutions and organisations is attacked and traduced.

    The Herald is a ‘dying’ Fascist rag.

    It can’t be long now until it is financially unviable. No amount of BBC free money to supply journos can prevent ‘market forces’ killing this once mighty ‘paper.

    The Dead Tree Scrolls in Scotland are literal lamplighters in an electronic age.

    Davidson is to step down and Carlaw is to be the patsy while Brexit unfurls and blows up in their faces.
    This should be fun.

    • Illy says:

      “No amount of BBC free money to supply journos can prevent ‘market forces’ killing this once mighty ‘paper.”

      Yes it can, unfortunately.

  10. John says:

    I can understand indifference and ignorance about Gaelic, but I cannot understand these bigoted and bilious attacks on the language. I am married to a native Gaelic speaker who in her youth was made to feel ashamed of her mother-tongue and who can only read a little and cannot write the language in which she thinks. That our culture and education system engineered this is shameful.
    Through her I have come to know a little of the language and my daughter has become fluent enough to last 30 minutes of interview on a Gaelic radio programme. My younger son is now a serious learner, but none of my children are rampant nationalists.
    Since I gave up on the Herald years ago, I don’t know who this columnist is, but is it possible to ask these people WHY they feel the need to attack something so fragile in such a bullying fashion?

    • Robert Graham says:

      Agree John because most of the time it is costing the people who complain nothing , its amazing how cost and value seem to have become somehow detached and cost has taken over from Value , what a petty money grabbing society some have embraced its sad but they dont seem to notice the changes .

    • Andy Anderson says:

      I used to work with a person from Ness at the top of Lewis. He said that when he was 10 all the books etc. that were Gaelic had been replaced with English. He said none of us could speak English so we had to start from scratch. Even the teacher struggled. This must have been about 1960ish. Proof of a deliberate policy of language extermination.

  11. Robert Graham says:

    A clear summation of the chip – chip – chip that seems to have become the norm , rather than embrace our history and welcome any insights and knowledge gained through the years anything thats considered different or relating to our roots where we came from has to be suppressed in case it borders on support for the reinstatement of an independent country .

    I believe that was the normal course of action when England invaded countries , culture and history must be eradicated first it , then they engage willing natives to carry out the work for them , does that particular native trait ring a bell closer to home ? .

  12. tintochiel says:

    That was a masterly dissection of the ill-informed Yoon hatred of our languages and the reasons for it. Sadly, I know people like this because they used to be friends of mine before we had a discussion of Gaelic railway signs at a party. That was a spittle-flecked eye-opener of how much self-loathing (and lack of knowledge) these types have: it’s really quite alarming and probably constitutes an illness.

    These folk often present themselves as real socialists and true Europeans with a mind above narrow nationalism and linguistic “virtue signalling” (I Carmichael you not) but they also tend to have a quite proper fondness for their Irish roots and republican songs which they don’t find in any way contradictory. And they all regard themselves as broadminded, groovy, organic quinoa-scoffing dudes whose prototype would be Muriel Gray, official chief smiter of the Gaelic language and BBC trumpet.

    Such people are immune to reason but it was with some pleasure that I discovered recently that one of their grandchildren is now attending a nice Gaelic-medium school in a scrummy middle-class part of Glasgow.

    What’s the Gaelic for karma again?

    Andy A, you may find this interesting:

    I think most linguists now would say the Picts spoke Pictish rather than Welsh, although the two languages may have had many features in common.

    • Andy Anderson says:

      Thanks tintochiel for the article. I have heard this view point before and it may be correct.

      However there are opposing views. That is the way history is for the dark ages. There is a history society in Argyll that in fact found proof of an original border of Dal Riata and also how it expanded. The growth of the Scotti was not a mass migration which obviously would be in the historical record archeologically. The Scotti growth took until about 550 years (700AD) to move east as far a Loch Earn and also to what is now Dunbartonshire.

      The language Pictish was thought to exist until very recently. However in the last three years there now seems proof exists that the spoke old Welsh. I remember reading that article but cannot now find it, but I will.

      Thanks anyway, I have added your article to my files.

  13. Dave tewart says:

    Well said Paul,they are inept heathens
    With my beagan Gaidhlig I really enjoy reading the signs and as you say it either describes the land or the use it was put to.
    The history of our land is being subjegated by the killing off of the language.
    Maybe of course they just picked out an old article to rewrite it in response to the news that there’s to be a new school in Glascu.
    These so called journalists don’t even recognise that in their bastardised english they are using not only gaelic words and sounds but sounds from not only Europe but the eastern nations.
    The word for a Helicopter I think is the same in virtually All the worlds languages.

    • Murdoch MacKenzie says:

      ” reading the signs”
      This is interesting to me as a native Gaelic speaker. I spent a lot of time in countries were Spanish and Portuguese were the common languages used and I found that I could understand a lot of the written signs by comparing some of the words to Gaelic. Maybe it works in reverse and some travellers can do the same here with our Gaelic signs.
      You are also right when you say that killing the language takes our history with it. We are fortunate that some people in our communities helped gather local history by talking to those who had the information that was passed down through their families. Now that we have computers, historical societies have been busy making all this history accessible to us all.
      Gaelic songs are also a great source of history. I have learned more about ancient Scottish battles from Gaelic songs than I ever learned in the school history class.
      The history was saved by the language, let us do our best to save the language now.

  14. Marconatrix says:

    Thank you Paul for your ‘full house’ refutation of yer mons silly article, just when you think you’ve seen the end of such rubbish … Anyway we can now simply refer anyone to your response, you’ve saved us all much heavy lifting (togalachd chruaidh ??)

    Interestingly, the Herald article was commented on yesterday by our pale foxy friend over the water, where it seems to have raised arguments about Irish :

  15. Well said Paul…..and everybody here. There is a lot going on just now to bring our hearts minds and obedient loyalty back to the Union Jack, Big Ben and navy blue passports. Scotland needs her own voice and the right to speak her own languages and the wonderful history that made them. Our kids love to find out about place names and meanings and origins. I used to teach this…….I really y know! Keep going everybody, especially WGD. It’s getting fierce.

  16. Deasun says:

    Thanks Paul, an excellent response to a disgusting article. Gàidhlig – cha bhithinn às a h-aonais! Gaelic- wouldn’t be without it! Help Gaelic, help Scotland, help decency, please learn some folks. Pol ‘s e gaisgeach a th’annad, cum a dhol a charaid, cum a dhol. Tha cruaidh fheum air do leithid.

  17. I full agree. Gaelic is only unprounceable because we haven’t learned the rules of pronounciation. After 2 years of classes I still really can’t pronounce it properly but it’s coming, but that’s my fault for not spending enough time on it between classes. Nothing comes free, but has to be worked on. Always. Our tutor keeps saying “Gaelic is really quite simple!” I am sure that one day I will agree! It is a very evocative language and it is a pleasure when suddenly I see links and understand the meaning of a place. Indeed, the whole of Scotland is defined by its Gaelic naming of places. A sense of place is inseparable from a sense of belonging too.
    Research shows that learning Gaelic, or another language, helps older people against the decline of their cognitive abilities. Kids learning Gaelic in medium education do better at English too.
    What’s not to like?
    Hopefully the Scottish Government is not listening to the Herald’s unionist rubbish.

    • Marconatrix says:

      Gaelic spelling/pronunciation is in it’s own way more regular (with just the odd exception) than English, but then that’s not difficult, English spelling drove me insane as a kid. I must have had a logical mind, so I just didn’t get it. The teachers just thought I was thick.
      Gaelic’s problem is that most consonants can be ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ much as in the Slavic languages, and to show this extra fleeting vowels are written, so initially it’s hard to sort out the ‘real’ vowels from the glides, but there are rules, there’s sense to the madness 😉

  18. bringiton says:

    Interesting that both the Irish and Scottish Unionist bigots have picked on the Gaelic language as something which has to be eradicated.
    I wonder why?

  19. Wendy Smillie says:

    I bloody love you for supporting Gaelic and Scots languages. I was brought up speaking Scots (though until relatively recently I, like many others, believed it was just slang-English rather than a language in its own right), and I am an adult Gaelic learner. People who say it’s too hard to learn just mean they truthfully can’t be bothered.

  20. Craig P says:

    “the language of the Hebrideans is harder to learn than trigonometry”

    Wow. Monolingual, counts using his fingers, and proud of it.

    If we are havering, then you _could_ argue the English spoken in the north-east of England and south-east Scotland is the original, pure English of the Angles. That spoken further south was bastardised by other inputs. So it is southern English that is the derivative, Scots and Geordie the original.

  21. Therapymum says:

    Love your passion Paul. My native tongue would be the Doric, now virtually defunct, though there have been attempts over the years to revive it. Similarly to Gaelic it was discouraged at school. We were told to speak English, or speak properly. Nowadays, Beechgrove Garden sends me sleep. Not because the content is boring, but because the nuances and inflections of particularly the older presenters remind me of home and my childhood. I find it restful and calming. I have just started Gaelic, because I’m fed up not being able to pronounce the names of places I walk to or climb properly. I’m probably to old to learn, but so what? I’m going to have a damn good try and enjoy it!

    • Donna Green says:

      Aw don’t say you’re too old to learn!!!! I have no idea how old you are, but it’s NOT too old. Respect to you for starting Gaelic! The more learners we have the better. 🙂

  22. Indyman says:

    More links on the above:

    ” Research indicates that bilingualism can benefit a variety of executive function skills in children of all ages, so fostering fluency in a second language is valuable.”

    from –

    Click to access BSRC_When_Families_Speak_fnl.pdf

    If Gaelic were taught in primary schools this would benefit the children enormously in later life and make it easier for them to learn other languages later in life. This would give them an enormous advantage in a changing global environment. You can see why the Britnats do not want this to happen.

  23. Donna Green says:

    This is such a great article – thank you. I learned Gaelic in school and then at uni, and my two children are in Gaelic medium.

    I’m so, so sick of being told I should put them to a Polish school instead, or a Spanish school, or an Urdu school … ANYTHING but Gaelic, because that’s “useless, don’t you know”?

    Unfortunately that narrative persists when biased, ill-informed journalists are allowed to publish guff like this in the Herald.

    But then we all know that one of the easiest ways to subjugate an entire culture is to strip it of its native language, don’t we?

  24. Liz g says:

    Would ye consider dropping in the odd regular word here and there into all of your articles?
    Given what you said about they way children learn!
    At a Gaelic sing along that Stirling Castle put on,last Saturday,I was able to pick out a couple of words,only because they are repeated often in the Outlander books!

    The same for Morn Tang in the first comment above,but even the simple agus, could mibbi do something?

    If those of us who are totally ignorant of the language,keep seeing it,somewhere,anywhere then hopefully it will start slipping in to our use,our auto correct and spell check?

    And don’t forget the insults…. I have heard that cursing someone in Gaelic is an art form lol!

  25. Inabootcomer says:

    Almost thirty years ago I came to live in a small fishing village on the north east coast.
    There is a bench at the harbour nicknamed death row.
    The old worthies would congregate there and pass the tme deep in conversation among themselves.
    I may as well have been in Portugal for all the sense I could make of them.

    And that right there is why languages are deliberately killed off.
    Invaders don’t want the locals to have access to a means of communication which the invader can’t understand.

    Noo Ah ken ma foo, fa and fit, but it took a while.

    • Robert Graham says:

      Inabootcomer – you raised a wee smile with your post , maybe we are a bit late but possibly thats the answer instead of allowing Gaelic to be consigned to History we should promote it widely especially in legal documents , by Christ that would confuse things , remember the panic when the EU insisted negotiating in French , they are doing that just to confuse us was the reply from the English side , i say the English side because thats what is is a totally English Brexit .

  26. Ali says:

    Billy Kay’s “The Mither Tongue” should be required reading in schools. Except those schools are the principle vehicles of this cultural imperialism. That’s principally about Scots but even some other notable nationalists are enemies of Gaelic. The colonisation of the nation’s heads will have to be thrown off before the colonisation of the rest can happen!

  27. Brian Powell says:

    Perhaps they are angry at their sudden lack of worth to their chosen masters. After all the years of being the Scottish commentariat, trading on the Scottish place in the world but being the good servant, they have found themselves being supplanted by the real Scotland, with a real self identity.
    There is nothing the Brit establishment hates more than those who don’t know their place, and these ProudScotsBitts can no longer deliver a Scotland in its place.

  28. Tom says:

    No wonder you get no exposure by Unionist papers/broadcasters. You must terrify the living daylights out of them. Just as well you’re on our side …

  29. osakisushi says:

    To really infuriate a Yoon, the ancient gaelic for Dumbarton – above which a fire was lit to warn of advancing Romans – sounds like (not going to try the spelling) Damm Brittan As the Roman advance essentially faltered at this point, they started to refer to the UK as Greaterix Brittan.

    So, the entire country was named, due to Scotland

    • weegingerdug says:

      The Gaelic name for Dumbarton is Dùn Breatann, the Fort of the Britons, but it didn’t have that name during Roman times. During Roman times Dumbarton was called Alt Cluit, the Rock of the Clyde. The name Dùn Breatann first appears after the Roman period had ended.

      • osakisushi says:

        So, it still could be argued GB is a Scottish thing and thus, following IR2, we should retain GB and expell the country south of the border.

        Thanks – my only knowledge of the Dumbarton thing was gleaned from a long ago school project on the Romans. I still suspect that particular teacher may have had first hand knowledge.

        • Marconatrix says:

          Hmm … I wouldn’t vouch for the technical accuracy, but it’s certainly an interesting idea to run with. If only we could get the Cymry on side (we are their ‘Old North’ after all) and Cornwall even, we might together claim to be the Original GB. The English are after all just a load of continental boat people. You invite them over to do a job and they just think they can stay on as long as they like. Bet most of them have no proper documentation going back to the Dark Ages, sauce for the goose and all that … 😉

        • northbritain says:

          The Romans left England and Wales around 410CE. They were the military force of England and Wales; and they built Hadrian’s wall in recognition of the military might of the North. Further north in Scotland the ‘British’ [i.e. P- Celtic] tribes of Strathclyde and Gododdin were a serious military force; as were the Picts and the Scots.

          Dumbarton called itself the Fort of the Britons; it was the military stronghold of the Britons of Strathclyde. It became, by dint of Roman withdrawal of England and Wales, the military stronghold of the Britons throughout the island of Great Britain & especially in the west (Cumbria and Wales).

          The east coast Gododdin tribe fared less well. Angles and Saxons from the continent took advantage of the power vacuum and the lack of military power in England to basically just take over the south and east of England. English myth tries to imply that they were ‘invited’; this is a straight lie after the fact to save face. Without a native military force – as for centuries under a Roman rule which suddenly was removed – England was easy pickings.. for Strathclyde and the Anglo-Saxons alike.

          The Angles and Saxons got greedy and tried to move north onto Gododdin and Strathclyde land and this is where the story of King Arthur comes in; as the military might of the Scottish kingdoms fight back and save the ‘British’ tribes. (It makes no sense if Arthur was English – there was no military might in England to fight a rearguard; the locus of military power in Great Britain after the Romans left was north of Hadrian’s Wall.)

          • osakisushi says:

            There certainly seems a lot of fun to be had, exploiting Dumbarton as the root of ‘Britain’.

            I just hope no-one actually visits as it is, to be blunt, a bit crap aside from the rock. (I live fairly locally in Argyll – 7 miles by Ebay, 70 miles by road to pick up a damned 6″ stainless pipe)

  30. Alan Rae says:

    I am not a native Gaelic speaker but I do have a smattering. I speak 4 languages though – English, Spanish, French and German.

    Duolingo and Anki have helped me with both. However there is no support for Gàidhlig in either. Irish and Welsh are supported.

    It would be a free and useful resource if these were supported. I would appeal to Gaelic speakers to make the effort to add Gaelic to both of these applications.

    Maybe that appeal could appear on this blog. Maybe it could be a project undertaken by Sabhal Mór Òstaig.

  31. macgilleleabhar says:

    English is my second language born in Glenuig of Skye parents 70 years ago and my belief is that people not understanding the meaning of place names like Goven,Carntyne,Gartnaval or Dumbarton are missing out.
    It is an ancient language decended from Sanskrit on the Hungarian plains with more in common with Urdu than the Pidgin Germanic language called English.
    Unfortunately it cannot be monetised so it is of no interest to the Saxon.

  32. Iona says:

    The thing I regret most about Gaelic signage is that I don’t know how to pronounce it.

  33. Bill McDermott says:

    I don’t necessarily agree with everything that has happened under Zionism but the one thing that the founders of modern Israel did was to resurrect Hebrew in modern form to become the language of the state. Why can’t a re-energised, independent Scotland do the same? What lay behind that success?

    Some thoughts on that: Ireland tried to get everybody speaking Irish by ensuring that Government jobs could only be taken by people with a basic knowledge of the language and it failed lamentably. The education system didn’t increase the use of everyday use of the language, whereas Welsh speaking flourished over the same period. Any thoughts on that?

    I too have been a Gaelic learner for many years, but I haven’t been successful in becoming conversational although I can work out mountain and place names as to their meaning and proper pronunciation. Such is life!

  34. Gavin C Barrie says:

    macgilleleabhar: interesting comment, more to follow? I’ve dabbled in learning Gaelic, but career, family etc. etc. I had a short involvement with a Gaelic choir, but by not knowing the meaning of what I was singing, it just didn’t gel with me.

    Scottish Government in promoting Gaelic has my support.

  35. Weechid says:

    So Gaelic is hard to learn and almost unpronounceable? What about the vagaries of English? How many different ways are there to pronounce English words ending on “ough”? Then there is this

  36. Welsh Sion says:

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Welsh mother tongue professional linguist, activist and independentist and fluent in three languages.

  37. Erin nighean Brìghde says:

    Thank you for your work, Paul. I wonder, do you ever refer to the deliberate denigration of Gaelic as colonization, or the work done to uplift it as decolonization? It reminds me very much of these, of cultural genocide, of which language is a major part, and communal efforts to combat this by reinstating and rebuilding the culture in all its facets. Very interested to hear your thoughts, tapadh leat.

  38. Erin nighean Brìghde says:

    I would go so far as to call these attitudes racist and grounded in white privilege, where white stands for WASP, white anglo saxon protestant, where anglo saxon is the salient part, orherizing and demonizing ethnically Gaelic people, culture, and language.

  39. Robert Graham says:

    Paul it’s uplifting to see so much support you are getting against, well let’s be nice and call them Cretans , i have other terms but that eh might fluster those of a quiet disposition who follow your blog ,
    it must be depressing at times when there you are minding your own business and working on the likes of original maps which contain references to the original names that for the most part actually use Gaelic,
    for the life of me I can’t believe anyone wants to involve themselves in your business , I believe this Union has twisted a lot of people’s brains and any perceived threat becomes Nuclear or approaching Armageddon , all this from a Map f/k your powerful eh ha ha ,
    all the best .

  40. Gerry Quinn says:

    Reading that Gaelic is more difficult than trigonometry gives me real hope. Now if it had been calculus I’d have binned my Gaelic course and deleted every episode of Speaking Our Language. But trig? Piece o pish!

  41. John Lowe says:

    Excellent debunking AGAIN of the bawhheids who want to bin Scotlands Cultural heritage and languages.

  42. Completely OT but I know that WGD is required reading for Kevin McKenna.

    Mr McKenna, your article, over long and overblown, assuring us all that the Offspring of UK Labour will smash the Tories but ending with a paragraph slagging James Dornan for defending the OBFA and his comment that he no longer wants to be part of and detests the ‘UK’ is so wilfully wrong and SNP BAD fare.
    Still it keeps you on the BBC Guest spot loop, and on Herald Britland’s wage bill.

    Mr McKenna, there is no Labour Party. Ask lords Reid, Robertson Darling and McConnell.
    Are you taking up Torrance the Librarian’s mantle?

    UK Labour’s cloth is as (ab)stained with the blood and deaths of hundreds of thousands of ‘UK’ citizens as the Blue and Yellow Tories.
    The ‘UK’ is finished.

    What are the odds on Professor Two Jobs Tomkins WATP electorate trashing the toilets at Parkhead tomorrow?
    But that wouldn’t be offensive, would it?

    How MeKenna can so misjudge the feelings of so many of his fellow countrymen is remarkable.
    I despise the UK. Millions of English born despise the UK.
    It is a corrupt immoral rogue state run by Rich unfeeling fascists..
    I’m in the book, Kevin.

  43. Cubby says:

    I am not a Gaelic speaker. Indeed I only speak English. Never was that good at school at languages or that interested. As a weegie Gaelic was never promoted at school or elsewhere.

    However, I totally support Gaelic being promoted as part of the cultural heritage of Scotland and hate hearing/reading people moaning about Gaelic signs. Years and years of Britishness being stuffed down Scots throats.

    Listened to some of the debate in the Scottish Parliament last week and have to say that some of the contributors who were for Gaelic being promoted came across as hypocrites e.g. labours Rhoda Grant, as my understanding is that it was their Unionist parties that have always tried to extinguish anything distinctly Scottish to make us feel more British.

    I was also disappointed that those MSPs speaking in Gaelic were translated via headphones to the other MSPs but BBC parliament did not provide a translation for viewers.

    • robert harrison says:

      They even hate the Scottish accents how many times the English go with the insult of speak English ive heard it and been on the receiving end south of the border as i was born in Irvine yet raised in Yorkshire England it dont even matter if you speak perfect English the accent alone can piss the English off at times its no wonder i wanted the English dead though my school years and i almost went down that path at 13 when one englander tryed to jump me from behind and i grabbed him by his thoart.

  44. Jan Cowan says:

    Thank you, Paul, for an absolutely wonderful article. It’s so heartening to read such clear, informed work. And great to see so much support from your followers. Again, thank you.

  45. Bobby C says:

    My first girlfriend’s mum would speak for hours with my girlfriend’s auntie in Gaelic but never passed a single word onto my girlfriend or her siblings.

    We broke up before I got interested in Gaelic though, so never got to ask why. It was clearly her first language and what would have come most naturally to her in the presence of her young children.

  46. Nelson says:

    There are most definitely far, far more people speaking Spanish on my street than Gaelic – it’s common to hear Spanish, I never hear Gaelic. Such is the nature of culture – it changes.

    I suppose a step in the right direction would be a minister responsible for Gaelic who could actually speak Gaelic. That’s something to blog about – as it stands, if the minister responsible for Gaelic was presented with anything in Gaelic, she’d need an interpreter.

  47. George says:

    Commentators with knowledge of what they speak – what is the world coming to?

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