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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

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Gaelic is an old language, still widely spoken in the Western Isles. The culture of the place is intimately interwoven with the language, which has undergone a major revival in recent times.

Following the ill-fated rising under Prince Charles Edward in 1745, which ended in the defeat at Culloden, the victorious party went out of its way to crush the culture of the vanquished foe. Until very recently, no Gaelic was taught in schools and its use suppressed. Nonetheless, I have met quite a few people who did not speak a word of English when they enrolled at primary school. These days, the role of the languages in their lives is reversed: they speak only English and Gaelic has receded into the background.

At the opening of last year's Royal National Mod in Stornoway, the event was highlighted as a major boost to Gaelic culture and the language. The Inverness MSP, who opened the Mod, warned people to take advantage of the openings currently being given to the language. It has recently been recognised as an official language of Scotland, a position laid down in law.

Many visitors to the islands wish to learn the language. I have to admit that I haven't done so. I read a few chapters in a 1970s textbook, and found myself floundering in the grammar. Important as it is (with the grammar and 2% of the vocabulary you can make yourself understood), it can be offputting. There are excellent courses available through the UHI Millennium Institute. UHI stands for University of the Highlands and Islands, but a formal University status has as yet not been awarded. The Isle of Skye hosts the famous Sabhal Mor [Big Barn] College at Ostaig, 5 miles north of the Armadale ferry. You don't need to go there to learn Gaelic; you could even do it on-line.

Residents of the Highlands and Islands are able to attend courses at the various campuses of UHI; Lews Castle College in Stornoway is one of them.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 17:57


Hi. Like any language Gaelic takes a little getting used to. But simple phrases are a great way of getting involved and the Stornoway shops and An Lanntair Gallery have been willing to have their staff work with specific Gaelic phrases to help people (something I didn't expect for some reason). Last year during Heb Celt Festival there was a chance to use ten simple phrases (thanks, how much, where is, cheers..) in fourteen of the local shops and this seems to me a great stepping stone into using some of the language. Again, tonight (Wed), a relaxed, informal 'conversation circle' is being held in An Lanntair at 8pm. It is so much part of what Lewis is - and a great way into some really fantastic Gaelic songs and stories!

Druim na h-Eige from Lewis

If I lived in the isles, I would have been delighted to take up Gaelic at the UHI Millenium Institute, if only as a tribute to the fondly remembered Irish Brothers who taught me in grammar/high school. (Is Irish Gaelic much different from Scottish Gaelic?). Gaelic and North American Studies degree course sounds intriguing.

mjc from NM,USA

Scots and Irish Gaelic are different; about as different as Scots and English.

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway

i was born and bred in stornoway and more people speak scottish rather than gaelic now and to be honest i prefer it

kev badley from germany

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