Neil Kendall Languages

The language learning challenge

Learning Scottish Gaelic - the first week!

I recently decided to start seriously learning Scottish Gaelic. Now, to anyone who doesn't know, this is a minority language of the Celtic family and is currently spoken by around 1% of the population of Scotland, and in some other Gaelic speaking communities around the world. So why am I learning it?

Although born in England, I'm half Scottish and currently living in the Highlands of Scotland. Most of my extended family speak Gaelic, so I got curious about it and decided to give it try. Besides, if nobody learns these minority languages they will eventually die out and I think that would be a shame.

So, for the past week I've been learning with a TV series called 'Speaking Our Language', which ran for 4 series in the early to mid 1990s. It is still being aired on the BBC Alba tv channel, but I am watching the episodes on Youtube. I really like the programme because it systematically introduces the learner to new phrases, vocabulary and grammar in each episode, then after that there are lots of everyday scenario type dialogue scenes where people speak what has just been taught, including a charming little drama called 'Aig an Taigh' (which means 'at home', and is a drama about the lives of a family in Glasgow called the MacLoeds).

This is great because it allows the learner to hear the Gaelic that has been taught within the context of a story and dialogue on the screen, which helps develop one's listening skills as you learn. So far, I am able to follow and understand all the Gaelic in the dramas with no problems at all.

Each series of 'Speaking Our Language' has 18 episodes of around 20 to 25 minutes each in length, and I have now gotten through the first 9 episodes of series 1. I'm really happy with what I've learned in just a week. I can introduce myself, say my name, ask where people live and come from, whether they have children, where they work, what they do for a living, tell the time, talk about the weather, express and ask about likes and dislikes, and ask for drinks etc. Of course I can also reply to all these questions too, so I well on my way to being about to hold conversations in Gaelic.

I haven't really delved deep into the structure of the tenses and more complex grammar of the language, but I feel that once I've gotten through all 4 series of 'Speaking Our Language', I will do that. 

There was another tv series from around 1979 that taught Gaelic, known as 'Can Seo', which I will check out soon also to see if it's any good. This could be a nice addition to 'Speaking Our Language'.

I'm really happy with how my Scottish Gaelic learning is going, and I will no doubt write more updates on how I'm getting on soon. 


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