You’re learning Scottish Gaelic, and you need to buy a dictionary. Which one is best for you? No dictionary is perfect, but there are good and bad Gaelic dictionaries out there. Sometimes a dictionary that looks shiny and new is actually obsolete.
I’ve informally surveyed some Gaelic language teachers and scholars in Nova Scotia and Scotland on which dictionaries they prefer. Based on their experience and my own, I’ll recommend which dictionaries to spend your precious money on, which ones to avoid, and the best way to use a dictionary as a tool for learning.read more
Nancy Dorian is well known in linguistics, linguistic anthropology, and Celtic studies for her research on East Sutherland Gaelic, language obsolescence, and the sociolinguistics of minority languages. Emily McEwan-Fujita reviews her 2014 book, an edited volume of her “greatest hits.”read more
If you’re learning Gaelic, it’s helpful to keep track of what other folks are doing out there so you don’t develop tunnel vision about the language community. One interesting learning resource under development is the eDIL, the electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language. I interviewed Dr. Sharon Arbuthnot about the dictionary project. What does an Irish dictionary have to do with Scottish Gaelic? Read on!read more
With this post I’ve decided to poke a bit of fun at those of us who are learning Gaelic as adults. Based on my experiences of learning Gaelic over 25 years in both Scotland and North America, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most common types (or stereotypes?) of adult Gaelic learners. Learning a language this way is called Second Language Acquisition (SLA) in linguistics. These days we are also called “New Speakers” in sociolinguistics. Academic study aside, though, we can still laugh and appreciate each other’s gifts and flaws. What kind of Gaelic learner are you? Depending on where you live and how you’re learning, you might fit into more than one category — or none of them!read more
“All but a dead language”? “Never native to the North-east of Scotland”? Let’s play anti-Gaelic bingo again! Aberdeen is not in the Highlands or islands of Scotland, which are traditionally thought of as the Gaelic-speaking areas of the country. But as Art Cormack describes, Aberdeen and the surrounding areas have had Gàidhlig gu leòr (plenty of Gaelic) from the distant past right up through the present. And this is a linguistic legacy that north-easterners can be proud of.read more
Minority languages like Scottish Gaelic got 99 problems and information technology is one. Linguistically speaking, information technology (IT) is dominated by English. How on earth can minority language users carve out a space for their own technology needs and desires without having to use English or another dominant language? How can IT be used in minority-language immersion teaching, for example, if the interface is English? Who will identify the IT needs and desires of minority language users and work to fulfill them?
While you might expect nonprofit or educational organizations to be doing the work, quite a lot of this effort is individual. Here I present an interview with Michael Bauer, the human being behind many recent achievements and efforts in the world of Scottish Gaelic-medium IT. He gives his insights on the challenges of Gaelic software localization and the problems of English-Gaelic machine translation.read more
Many things can go wrong if you decide to get a Scottish Gaelic tattoo when you don’t speak the language. I’ll suggest the best ways to ensure that you get a good Gaelic tattoo, if you still have your heart absolutely set on getting one despite all of my warnings in Part 1.read more
So you want to get a tattoo — in Scottish Gaelic. You want to honor a family member, or your Scottish heritage, or you just think the Gaelic language is cool, but you don’t speak Gaelic yourself. What should you do?
If you’ve already designed your tattoo, and you know exactly what you want it to say, your first impulse will probably be to turn to the internet for a translation. Here in Part One I’ll show you why that’s not a good idea, and in Part Two, I’ll give you some advice if you still really have your heart set on a Gaelic tattoo.read more
Gaels in Scotland and Nova Scotia don’t tend to know a lot about each other, unless they’ve actually visited each other’s home turf. There are a lot of similarities between Gaelic in Nova Scotia and Scotland, but also some significant differences that are not widely known. Here is the second half of my top ten list,, #5 through #1 of the top ten differences between Gaelic in Nova Scotia and Scotland from a Nova Scotian perspective.read more
Gaels in Scotland and Nova Scotia don’t tend to know a lot about each other. When they actually visit each other’s home turf, they find many similarities, but also a few surprises. So in a spirit of education and understanding, I’ve created a list of the top ten differences between Gaelic in Nova Scotia and Scotland, from a Nova Scotian perspective. Here is the first half of the list, Part One.read more
What is Gaelic? My regular blog readers already know, but it doesn’t hurt to keep putting the basic facts out there. Increasing positive awareness of Gaelic is an important part of language revitalization. This post provides four different basic answers to the question, “What is Gaelic?”read more
Sometimes you set your sights on learning a text by heart that is not repeated very often in your immediate environment. For someone who is new at learning the Scottish Gaelic language, and is of Christian belief or heritage, the sacred symbolic text of the Lord’s Prayer might seem like a natural thing to learn. I’ll explain why that isn’t necessarily a good idea, and talk about when and how to learn the prayer.read more
In Nova Scotia, you might have noticed that we have a Gaelic flag. The Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia, in cooperation with the Nova Scotia Office of Gaelic Affairs, developed and presented a new Gaelic symbol and flag on behalf of the Gaelic community in 2008. A flag for the Gaelic community might seem odd from an “old world” Scottish perspective. The pan-Celtic flag incorporating flags of the “six Celtic nations” uses the Scottish saltire. So why does it make sense to have a separate Gaelic flag here in Nova Scotia?read more
A few years ago, someone criticized my work, saying that Gaelic language revitalization wasn’t rocket science. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, because she was right. Language revitalization isn’t rocket science — it’s far more difficult. Rocket science, or any type of engineering, formulates and solves problems. Get the math right, solve the problem. On to the next problem. Something breaks or goes wrong? Find the math or programming mistake and fix it. Human error is a factor, but the math is reliable. Language revitalization, on the other hand, is not so simple…read more
How I customized my Apple laptop computer with a decal showcasing themes from Scottish Gaelic language and culture. I wanted my laptop not only to look beautiful, but also to make Gaelic more visible in public. Art and design provide a small but enjoyable way to raise awareness about the continued existence and use of Gaelic in the 21st century.read more
A satirical look at anti-Gaelic prejudice and stereotypes in the Scottish and British media — why won’t these tired old lies about Gaelic just die already? In the meantime, download the free gamecards and let’s play bingo with them!read more
May is Gaelic Awareness Month in Nova Scotia. In May 2013, Sgoil Ghàidhlig an Àrd-Bhaile, the Halifax Gaelic Society, worked together with the Halifax Public Libraries to plan a series of free public workshops on various aspects of Gaelic language and culture. Members of the Gaelic community in Halifax were asked to propose workshop presentations on topics with which they were familiar, and the various library branches selected ones to host and promote. I co-presented a workshop on Celtic Spirituality.read more
The month of May in Nova Scotia is Gaelic Awareness Month, or Mìos na Gàidhlig. For me, every day is Gaelic day, but if you speak Gaelic and live in Halifax, May is a busy month! In May 2013, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, the viceregal representative in Nova Scotia of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, held a reception in honour of Mìos na Gàidhlig at his official residence, Government House in Halifax. Take a look inside Government House with me in this post, including some surprising Gaelic touches.read more