Language Learners

Today, as I write this, it’s World Communion Sunday. My church, the United Church of Canada, observes this ecumenical celebration. How does this relate to Gaelic? Bear with me. The Bible reading and sermon for today’s service was Matthew 12: 46-50. This passage reminded me strongly of a message (lay sermon) that I wrote and delivered for an ecumenical Gaelic service at the Log Cabin Church in Loch Broom, Pictou County, Nova Scotia in August 2012. My brief Gaelic sermon explains how Gaelic speakers might want to rethink our concept of a “Gaelic family.” Although my message was directed toward Christian attendees, the secular aspect of the message may be interesting for non-Christian readers to consider.

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.

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!

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?”

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.