“A bheil Gàdhlig agat?” Scottish but don’t have a clue about Scottish Gaelic?

“So you are Scottish and you don’t speak Gaelic?” I have often felt a little inadequate travelling around the world and being asked by many different types of people belonging to different cultures why this is the case! Usually my red faced response is that I am a lowlander and traditionally Scottish Gaelic was the spoken language belonging to that of the Highland and Islanders…I usually win these people back around by teaching them traditional Ceilidh dancing after a fair few whiskies, but really…why is it that there is a lack of knowledge of this language?

Why is there a lack of knowledge of this language?

Nowadays, a diminishing number of people in Scotland actually speak Scottish Gaelic, which falls way under 1.1% of the Scottish population. The majority of people actually speaking Gaelic more regularly than that of English will be found mainly in places such as the Outer Hebrides and belonging to islands such as Isle of Skye. In today’s modern world, when you visit Scotland, you may notice a real effort (especially in the West coast areas and the Scottish parliament) made by people to embody their Gaelic roots by having most of their signs and place names in Gaelic; even in some cases – Scottish Police Helicopters have been translated! Not forgetting the Scottish Gaelic music scene and radio which has seen more publicity in recent years.

Less than 1.1% of the Scottish population speak Scottish Gaelic

I suppose the sociology of it all and the lack of teaching and education within (especially) the lowland areas of Scotland accounts for why many of us don’t speak the language, or even for that matter, have much grasp of its ancestry within our country. It does however disturb the inner-linguist within me that there has not been much done to revive this “indigenous language” a little more. If we compare this to our Scottish Ceilidh dancing traditions there is no comparison, as from the ages of around 11 and 12, most Scottish schools teach traditional ceilidh dancing, and it is part of the physical education curriculum until you leave secondary school.  So why can’t they do the same with Gaelic?

It does disturb the inner-linguist within me that there has not been much to revive this  language

A question that I often receive as a Scot is “what is the real difference between Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic?” Well, even though these two languages did descend from the Gaels – they are completely different. The Irish refer to their form of Gaelic as Irish (it is not common to say Irish Gaelic). I read somewhere recently that comparing these two languages was a bit like comparing European Spanish with European Portuguese –  there is no denying that these two languages look quite similar in written form, however once spoken they are pretty different – as is the case with Irish and Scottish Gaelic.

On that note I will still attempt the odd phrase in Gaelic (since I have the Scottish twang which does help with the pronunciation) but hope that perhaps one day we may see a wee change in Scotland whereby this language is more integrated into our society.

Slàinte mhor!


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