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23 September 2014
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The British Isles has seven officially recognised minority languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages. They are: Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Cornish, Lowland Scots, Ulster Scots and British Sign Language.
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Scottish Gaelic today
History of Scottish Gaelic
Features of Scottish Gaelic

Scottish Gaelic today by Kenneth McKinnon

Although only 93,282 of Scotland's 5,062,011 population (1.8%) have any sort of knowledge of Gaelic according to the 2001 Census, there is still strong support amongst supporters of the language to increase recognition and Gaelic-based services in education, broadcasting, the arts and in local and national administration.

Cultural activities
Over the past thirty years, the Gaelic cultural scene has been enriched by the growth of theatre and television production companies and literary and arts organisations. These have drawn upon a wealth of traditional culture, including folksong and vernacular verse, many deriving from the suppression of the bardic schools in the early 17th century. More formal verse of the bardic period, and later, are well represented in current publications, as well as more recent genres such as plays and novels.

The Royal National Mod is the Gaelic language's premier cultural festival and has a tradition stretching back to 1892. It is held annually in October at a different location in Scotland and gives competitors and spectators a chance to celebrate the Gaelic language and culture through music, dance, drama, arts, literature as well as a chance for Gaels and non-Gaels alike to get together.

Gaelic-medium education is seen as one of the most important factors in enabling the language to be maintained amongst children and young people. Without it, the future generation of Gaelic speakers are unlikely to maintain their knowledge and use of Gaelic in the face of the powerful social and commercial pressures of English. Although it is possible for students to be schooled through the medium of Gaelic from preschool to college, it is relatively rare. Gaelic-medium primary education, which commenced in 1985 with two schools at Inverness and Glasgow, has grown to 60 schools, with almost 2000 pupils. However, secondary school education in Gaelic is less well provided for: currently, 36 schools teach 974 fluent speakers, with a further 14 schools giving students the option of a Gaelic medium stream. A Gaelic further and higher education college, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, was established in 1972 and degree courses have been available at the University of the Highlands and Islands since 1998.

There was some presence of Gaelic from the earliest years of radio and since the mid-20th century on television. However media output greatly increased with BBC Radio nan Gaidheal from the mid-1980s, and an increased television budget in the 1990s. Now there are demands for around-the-clock radio provision and a dedicated digital television channel.

Language policies
Government decisions can influence the fortunes of minority languages greatly and in 1997 the Labour Government put in place some measures to protect the Gaelic language, appointing a Minister for Gaelic and setting up taskforces. With devolution, the Scottish Executive set up further ministerial groups which have resulted in improved provisions for Gaelic, including the establishment of a Gaelic Language Board, Bòrd na Gàidhlig. The future of Gaelic as a continuing language of home and community very much depends upon the outcome of such initiatives.


Your Comments
What is your experience of Scots Gaelic?

Neil from Carluke
Although I am guardedly optimistic about the future of Gaelic,I see little evidence of enthusiasm for the language amongst young people from my own roots,in the Western Isles and Raasay! Not regarded as cool! Ironic indeed that some incomers show more interest in the language of our forefathers.

suzie west midlands
i think the gaelic language is truly beautiful, i am teaching myself. my interest in the celtic languages is a s result of my history and archeology interests. i am at present trying to find a gaelic speaking penpal to help me with my studies but also because i feel drawn to Scotland and the highlands despite never having visited.

Kirsty From New Zealand
I think its great that so many people have commented on such a great topic i would love to learn Scots-Gaelic as my dads side of the family are from scotland, sadly i dont think any one can teach me in new zealand.

Dànaidh MacIlleDhuibh from Dùn Eideann
A Chàraidean, A big part of my family originally came from Argyll and although the last native speaker of GAelic in my family died in 1903, I have taught myself Gaelic. I am now bilingual however living in Edinburgh I can only speak with Gaelic speaking friends. The government need to follow the example set by the Welsh, and work slowly but surely towards a bilingual SCotland. Firstly they should secure Gaelic in its modern day heartlands (highlands and islands), and then encourage its use in all areas of life elsewhere in Scotland. I too often hear that "Gaelic is a highlands thing". Gaelic was crucial to Scotland for many hundreds of years, perhaps almost 1000. If we could only embrace it as a nation! Bilingualism is PROGRESSIVE! Just look at Wales - Welsh is flourishing. We need to think of Gaelic as a national symbol for Scotland. It is the only living indigenous language we have.Have faith people! Suas leis à Gàidhlig! Alba gu bràth!

john Murray
Tha mi ag ionnsachadh a' Ghaidhlig an seo ann an Halifax, Alba Nuadh. Will someone tell me just when the language originated. I see that the Romans heard it - and maybe even learned a little, and I know it "emigrated" from Ulster, but where did it come from before that, Brittany? And whence before that?? Tapadh leibh!

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