I’ve little to add to the #gaelic #gàidhlig discussion that’s not already been said (better) - check out @sweenyness or @rhodameek, listen to the great interviews that went out on @bbcrng (thanks @RuairidhMaciver and Alistair MacLeòid, good work @coullevelyn and esp. Isabelle).
But twitter is the place for random thoughts, so here are a few of mine, in no order and bearing in mind 240 characters is too short for nuance. Rambling thread follows.
The report is right. All of us who speak and take an interest in Gaelic as a community language have seen the thousand little signs of decline.
Here’s some anecdotal evidence, for what it’s worth. My parents and all my uncles and aunts can speak Gaelic. I have 8 first cousins and none of them do. Not one. That is pretty typical I’m afraid.
If I walk round my village I will speak Gaelic to 90% of those > 55. But for those under 55 it’s more like 15%.
Interestingly this is the first generation in Lewis to be majority non-Gaelic-speaking since the time of the Vikings, but most don’t see this as a loss (as far as I can tell). I don’t think it even occurs to them that they are missing out on anything.
Because we’re bilingual, English is the path of least resistance.
Something else happens too -- when the local church (just as an example) had services in English and Gaelic, most young people went to the English because their friends went there. The Gaelic was "for" the old people (and a few eccentrics like me).
Why is this? You can’t force people to care about Gaelic if they don’t have any interest in it. If they see it as “the language of the elderly” with nothing of value in it.
I remember coming home crying from my first day in nursery saying “chan aithne dha na daoine sin bruidhinn ann” (I spoke no English and they spoke no Gaelic). However, by P7 I spoke no Gaelic and only understood about as much as the family dog “thalla a-mach” “tog sin”.
A sudden awareness of what I was losing - what I had largely already lost - the language of my parents, my grandparents and my home made me start trying to get back to the poor sort of fluency I have now. And I’ve never for an instant regretted it.
I was lucky to have great teachers. Otherwise I would be monoglot English I’m quite sure. Not that education was perfect -- all our books were dusty faded hardbacks with dog-eared tatty covers. Books are much better today - just look at @ceumannan.
The roots of the current decline go back a century or more. Just listen to the great programme on @BBCRnG just now with Lachie Gillies, who remembers kids literally wetting themselves in class because the teacher wouldn’t let them go to the toilet until they could ask in English.
Reversing that deliberate language vandalism might take another 100 years, even if it’s possible.
Any language is a new way to view the world, and has its own unique culture. But if you live in the H&I then the Gaelic language is the way to view *your* world, and that’s why I think it’s worth making the effort to learn (or re-learn).
There’s all sorts of nuggets of joy to be found. Understanding the names of an OS Map. Finding out Gaelic has a word for “the cessation of rain”, or a word for the “rippling effect seen on distant moorland on a warm day”.
There is no point arguing with the Controversial Campbells triggered by seeing a grave accent on a sign. But the apathetic majority(?) can’t be forced to care about the death of Gaelic in the community, and that apathy may yet be what kills it off.
Maybe you do care though. If so, take a class. Find someone to practice with. Listen to Gaelic radio, watch Gaelic TV. Use the Gaelic online resources. No classes nearby? Start one. Buy a book (hi @acairbooks). Given the choice of doing something in Gaelic or English, go Gaelic.
*Columbo voice* one more thing - the best thing I saw personally for Gaelic in Stornoway was the offices on Seaforth Road ( @MGALBA etc) using the language as part of their work and people then carrying that on outside.
You can follow @donald_i.
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