The fate of Gaelic is in our hands

Last week a report was published which claimed that Gaelic is rapidly headed towards extinction in its remaining heartlands. This isn’t news to anyone who has been following the linguistic literature on language endangerment. Reports of the imminent extinction of the Gaelic language are not new, in 2000 a study by researchers from the Max Planck Institute in The Netherlands claimed that Gaelic, along with all other minority languages in Europe with fewer than 100,000 speakers, would be extinct by the end of this century. In the 2008 book The Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages by Christopher Mosley, a comprehensive listing for linguists of languages which are threatened with extinction, Scottish Gaelic was listed as ‘definitely endangered’. Back in the 1970s, the respected linguist WB Lockwood wrote in his book Languages of the British Isles Past and Present that Gaelic would die out during the 21st century.

The most recent report into the viability of the Gaelic language comes from University of the Highlands and Islands Sciences Institute and is entitled “The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community: A Comprehensive Sociolinguistic Survey of Scottish Gaelic”. A summary of the findings of the report is available here – The report sparked off apocalyptic headlines claiming that the language would be extinct by the end of this decade and that it only had 11,000 elderly speakers remaining, but that’s not quite what it said exactly.

What the report found was that there is a crisis in the maintenance of Gaelic among those communities where until recently the language remained a majority language. In those communities there remain just 11000 people who habitually use the language in the traditionally Gaelic speaking communities of Staffin in Skye, the Western Isles, and the Isle of Tiree. The number of people who actually speak the language is far higher, but most of those people do not use the language as their primary means of expression and communication.

The report confirmed what observers of the language have noted for a long time. There is a marked reluctance among native Gaelic speakers to use the language, especially  the younger generations. This is a product of many generations of the language being deprecated, insulted, abused, underfunded, and at times actively persecuted. Scotland has not invested the social capital into the language which is required for its survival as the daily language of a distinct geographically based community.

These days when you visit traditionally Gaelic speaking areas, places where very recently the language was spoken by a substantial majority of residents, you often scarcely hear the language being spoken at all. On a trip to Islay a while ago, I didn’t hear anyone speaking Gaelic. The same happened on trips to Skye during the past couple of years. This is very different from a visit to the Welsh-speaking heartlands in the north and west of Wales. When visiting Caernarfon a couple of years ago, the Welsh language was widely spoken on the streets and when going into a shop the staff would naturally address customers in Welsh, only switching to English when it was clear I didn’t understand. That would never happen even in those remaining communities where Gaelic is still the language of the majority. Gaelic speakers never assume that a stranger speaks the language.

Some years ago a Welsh speaking friend was involved in a nursery school project in Scotland to establish immersion classes in Gaelic in nursery education. The idea was to introduce the Gaelic language to young children through play, the way that kids normally pick up their native language. The project employed a number of nursery teachers who were either native speakers of Gaelic or had native level fluency. My friend was shocked to discover that although the nursery teachers used Gaelic with the children in the class, on breaks they spoke English among themselves. This kind of experience is not unusual in the Gaelic speaking world.

There is a surge of interest in the Gaelic language in Scotland nowadays, however that surge has yet to translate into a substantial body of fluent speakers who are committed to passing on the language as a native tongue. The sad fact is that Scotland simply has not invested sufficient social capital in the language in order for this to happen.

In terms of language maintenance, social capital means a number of different things. Firstly it means education about the language and its importance. This is fundamental. You have to give people a reason to want to learn and use a language.  Personally I have never been in favour of compulsory Gaelic classes, but it should be compulsory for Scottish schools to educate children about the linguistic history of Scotland and the role that Gaelic, Scots and other languages have played in this country. That would mean at least we’d hear the end of people from towns and villages with clearly Gaelic names popping up and claiming that “Gaelic was never spoken here”. When there is a substantial group of people in a country who reject the historical truth that the language was once actually spoken across the great majority of Scotland, Gaelic is at an immediate disadvantage.

Education about the history of language in Scotland would mean an end to the “Polish klaxon”. Again whenever Gaelic is discussed someone pops up to claim that Polish has more speakers in Scotland than Gaelic does, and is therefore more important and deserving of institutional support. This ignores the obvious. Polish has millions of speakers in Poland, where the demographic and cultural heart of the Polish language lies. Polish speakers in Scotland can and should be encouraged and supported in efforts to maintain their language, but in order to do so they can make use of resources produced in Poland. There are books, movies, TV shows, music, internet sites, radio, podcasts, etc etc in the Polish language, all of which are available to the Polish community here in Scotland. Gaelic (and Scots) stands or falls by what is produced for it here in Scotland.

This brings us on to the most important form of social capital, resources in the language. Gaelic still lacks many fundamental and basic resources which are necessary for a language to survive and thrive. English has hundreds of TV channels, Gaelic has one part time one. There are few Gaelic novels. There are few Gaelic drama series. Gaelic language movies are all but non-existent. There is no Gaelic daily newspaper. Gaelic music is typically restricted to more traditional or traditionally influenced genres – that’s not going to appeal to a Gaelic speaking teenager who is in love with hip hop.

A capitalist system isn’t going to produce these resources for the Gaelic language. There simply isn’t profit in it. The only way to produce them is with massive government investment. It’s only when Gaelic speakers are able to access through the medium of Gaelic everything that their English speaking counterparts can access that we can hope to reverse the drift from Gaelic to English as the everyday spoken language. However in order to ensure that investment will not encounter protests from those who claim “but Polish!” or “Never spoken here!” there first needs to be investment in education about the importance of the language. The problem is that we’re running out of time to save Gaelic as a community language. Sadly, it’s probably already too late.

The good news is that Gaelic is not going to become extinct within the next decade. There will still be native speakers of the language, and there will still be people who have native or near native levels of fluency. There will still be families who are bringing their children up as Gaelic speakers. However what the language is going to lose, indeed what it’s already lost, are geographically based communities where it is expected that a majority of local residents are fluent in the language.

If we want to ensure that the future of Gaelic is something more than a heritage language which is only used symbolically, or that it has a future as a language with a large and confident body of speakers, it’s going to take a lot more assertiveness from the Scottish Government about promoting the language, and a greater willingness to challenge the wilfully ignorant who claim that Gaelic is a dead language and who are hell bent on ensuring that it does die out. The fate of Gaelic is in our hands.

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51 thoughts on “The fate of Gaelic is in our hands

  1. The team at are doing our bit to promote Gaelic with our new music show Ceòl Gàighlig! which celebrates current Gaelic bands, Singers plus a little traditional Scottish music. Airs at 3pm on Tuesdays, 1am on Wednesdays and 6pm on fridays. We have also set up a Gaelic chat-room on our discord chat facility – join us:

  2. For a LONG TIME I’ve wanted to see it taught in school from ptimary 1 onwards. Like English is. Surely within a generation we could have it back as our mother tongue just as it was before the british establishement outlawed it along with the tartan & the bagpipes ✊👊✌💙💚💛❤💙

  3. Pingback: The fate of Gaelic is in our hands | speymouth

  4. My granny came from Lewis and moved to Aberdeen when she got married. She had a family of 12 and only one of her sons, so my uncle spoke it fluently. My other aunts and uncles have words here and there but after my granny died didn’t really use it. From the 12 of a family my granny had I have 30 cousins on maternal side and not one of us “has the Gaelic” this makes me quite ashamed. I tried to rectify this by going to conversational Gaelic evening classes but I didn’t really get to grips with it because of the way it was taught. I’ve since started learning in Duo lingo now it’s available on there and my vocabulary and even my grammar has improved substantially! I’m not sure I’ll ever speak it fluently but at least now I can say I tried to keep a wee bit of the family language alive. Tha Gaidhlig bheag agam x

  5. Well said Paul.
    We have plenty Gaelic resources on our website
    Duncan Mitchell, Session Clerk,
    St. Columba Gaelic Church of Scotland

  6. I don’t speak a word of it but would hate to see it go, although as a lowland central belter we had our native Scots rammed out of us in school because they told us it was inferior English and scruffy slang
    I have Flemish friends who speak their own local language Dutch French German and the English who had the house opposite to me in Spain so we were teaching them Spanish as well, make you sick wouldn’t it, I thought I was doing well with two languages, well three if you count my slang inferior Scots

    • Yeah, well Scots is in effect a peer of Modern English, both as I understand it having derived from the Germanic Old English. I don’t really speak it, but I can often understand it.

      As to Gaelic having been used everywhere in Scotland, wouldn’t that rather depend upon the historical definition of Scotland over the ages? I’d guess it may have been used in the Kingdom of Strathclyde, but surely “the English of the Lothians” didn’t use it?

      I’m not sure what level of SG assertiveness can preserve it, other than maybe having some mandatory school classes conducted in it.

      • Gaelic was widely spoken in West Lothian, and according to the authoritative source on the place names of Midlothian, as many as 25% of placenames there were created in Gaelic. There is also a small but significant cluster of Gaelic place names in East Lothian, around Gullane (itself a Gaelic name, from Gualann – shoulder).

        This is not to say that Lothian was ever Gaelic monoglot, it wasn’t. However the Gaelic language did at one point have a large and significant body of native speakers in the Lothians – increasing in density toward the west.

        • Undeniable facts are by definition, impossible to argue with and I agree are an excellent tool to use against the ‘wuz nivur spoken here’ brigade. I think non English language place names tell a fascinating story. Just by looking at a map and understanding the linguistic origins, an open and enquiring mind can learn so much about history. Place names are an excellent example for showing where Gaelic was spoken in what we now call Scotland. Clearly not a ‘highland language’ in the past. In Midlothian, names like Auchendinny and Dalkeith are as ‘gaelic origin’ as it gets. In the borders you have the likes of Innerleithen. Galloway, the most southerly part of Scotland, derives from the actual name for Gaels. Meaningless in English. Literal descriptions of the landscape in the original Gaelic then anglicised at some point (1600-1800?) from a literal Gaelic meaning into a word in English which has no meaning. I know you know this Paul, but it is a subject that fascinates me as a lay person.
          One quick question Paul, do you know why such place names werent translated from Gaelic into English. Eg, Druim ns Drochaid became Drumnadrochit, instead of something like Hillbridge. Sometimes names were translated, but mostly just ‘phonetically anglicised’. I assume some politics were involved, but haven’t yet found an explanation.
          As always, keep up the good work.

  7. Bidh mi ag ionnsachadh le “Duolingo”. “Tha “Duolingo” math gu leor, ach tha chan urrainn mi bruidhinn Gaidhlig an-sin, Bidh mi a’ fuireach anns Am Puiball – tha beagan Gaidhlig an-seo.

    I’m learning with Duolingo. Duolingo is ok but I can’t speak Gaelic there. I stay in Peebles – little Gaelic here.

    • In essence this is one of the problems that WGD points out. Just the ability or operchancity to speak naturally with others daily.
      I would suggest any speaker or learner, starting every new conversation with Gaelic only later switching to english when no other option is available. would provide all new speakers and just starts with multiple operchancities to improve their skills towards main use.

      Which all reminds me of a voyage many years ago.
      Both the MacNeil (the Boatswain) and Euan (3rd Engineer) naturally spoke Gealic to each other on every interaction.
      Well there came a time when we went ashore for the night as seamen will do.
      We were in a hostelry quietly sorting out the rights and wrongs of the world no Gaelic had bean spoken up to this point. Because they had me in tow.
      When in walked the first mate.
      Now understand neither the MacNeil or Euan disliked the mate, but either did they seek out his company.
      And I believe they saw it as a courtesy to speak about him in Gealic.
      However upon the natural move to Gealic, the barman became very enthusiastic.
      “Oh!! I havn’y heard Gealic for years, wonderful, wonderful”.
      “Do you have the Gealic” enquired Euan.
      “Naw! unfortunately no. but I do understand some of it”.
      To which the MacNeil responded.
      “Funny that I’ve a collie dog at home just the same”

  8. I don’t have the Gaelic. What little I know— and that is little, I gathered by hillwalking and trying my best, OS maps don’t always help but looking at the vistas around and then understanding the place names (Plug for your book in part ) makes you appreciate both the language and the scenery. Sad when you hear those complaining about our heritage.

  9. A very timely article, Paul. As a Welshman and a Welsh speaker I am mindful of the support to the Welsh language that the Welsh Language School system has provided. Since the late 1950’s the growth of such schools within Wales has been phenomenal. Every family in Wales now have the opportunity to educate their children via the Welsh language school system. And this system is part of the State education system within Wales and not part of the private education sector. It also helps when the Welsh medium schools produce the the better academic results!!
    Caru’r Iaith!!( Love the language!)

  10. Irish gaelic would probably be equally at risk if Ireland was still part of the UK. We need the cultural flowering that will result from Scottish independence to save gaelic.

    • Independence would restore the confidence that was stolen from us that created the great Scottish cringe

  11. There used to be a blog-of-blogs in Gaelic, called IIRC _Tìr-nam-Blog_ but it vanished a while back along with its Welsh language equivalent _Blogiadur_. Very useful for providing a variety of current reading matter. Is there anyone who could set up such a thing again?

    Btw. the Gaelic online dictionary is here :

  12. Maide-Crochaidh Hanging stick – my poem about one of the strategies historically used for eliminating Gaelic. Published in PEN’s 2020 anthology “Declarations” commemorating the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath. – Mary McCabe

  13. Labours Paul Sweeney, remember him, on the BBCs channel 9 says *If Labour are in power in 2024 they’ll *allow* Scotlands voice to be heard on the subject of da da da ra da da dah *Federalism*
    Key words there *allow* and *federalism*

    So Scotland can speak if we say what we’re told when we’re told to say it

  14. A typical Labour dim wit.

    Interesting how him and his Tory chums wax lyrical about the poor repressed souls in Hong Kong and the cruel government in China who won’t recognise their right to self-governance. But Scotland?

    The friendless Brits in Westminster are soon to discover that they don’t have the power of the Chinese – whom they patently fear. The Scots on the streets in legal and legitimate pursuit of their right to independence are going to expose them to the world, for the bloated has beens that they are. The will of the Scottish people will prevail in short order.

    Sorry to go off topic Paul.

    In my view, an independent Scotland will have very good reason to pursue a policy of supporting the safeguarding of Gaelic. That just seems obvious to me.

    • 4 million Hong Kong people with British overseas identity possibly heading for the UK. This would require building places for them to live and settle. Would the British govt consider settling them in the less populated centres of the current UK? I hope I’m just being cynical however I wouldn’t put it past Johnson and co thinking it would be a good way to solve their “ Scottish problem”.

      We welcome refugees however would any Hong Kong refugees settled in Scotland be inclined to vote for Scottish independence after the UK government “rescued” them from the Chinese communist party? We may have to add Cantonese as an official language.

      It’s just a thought.

  15. Appalled to see Nicola and Humza are all for opening the border with the “devil may care” state of England. Will they be personally liable for the consequences? In any event it’s a further indication of the lack of leadership at the top of the current SNP and the duumvirate that has been created. No wonder most Independence voters would now vote for a new party led by Salmond.

    • Why are you still posting here?

      You’ve already lowered your Yes/Saltire flag and will deny the SNP access to your land in Angus and Perthshire for their banners. Alex Salmond doesn’t have a party to vote for.

      Why don’t you start a blog of your own for the Alex Salmond party, maybe he’ll thank you, or maybe not.

    • Most? That’s not what the poll said. The poll said that 45% of existing yes voters say that they’d be more likely than not to vote for a party led by Alex Salmond. 45% is not most, because if it was we’d be independent by now.

      In any event it’s entirely hypothetical since Alex Salmond has never said that he’d be interested in heading a new party and it’s a pretty large leap to imagine that he might. Alex Salmond loves the SNP, just not some of the people leading it right now. I have it on very good authority that he has no intention of damaging a political party that he has spent his life working for. He knows that the SNP is a whole lot more than him or Nicola Sturgeon.

      Additionally, as James Kelly has pointed out, the poll is an example of push-polling and such polling questions – particularly when dealing with hypothetical situations – are notoriously poor at predicting actual behaviour in an election.

  16. If anyone is interested in learning thr language I’d recommend the duolingo app as a great launch pad. If you’re enjoying that then the Gaelic college on Skye (Sabhal mòr Ostaig) does a phenomenal course for beginners and intermediate learners called an cùrsa inntrigidh, it’s a once a week telephone course, the teachers and the resources are second to none.

    Give it a try, what do you have to lose? Worst case scenario you’ll understand what the road signs actually say!

    Moran Taing

  17. In New Zealand the Maori language,Te Reo, was threatened with extinction due to the colonial policy of only English being allowed. There is now a resurgence in the language and immersion in the language of pre-schoolers through the Kohanga Reo system of kindergartens. There is a long way to go with most Maori still not fluent but even some Pakeha (Kiwis) know common words. Te Reo is also an official language of NZ along with Sign Language and English.

  18. Talking about good for a laugh Dr Jim, the mighty federalism has been floated again like the proverbial in a scabby public lavy. It was a pleasing role reversal to see Michelle Thomson radiating smiling good will, while Sweeney Todd looked like he’d just had his erse skelped. WTF where do Labour find them?

    • Paul Sweeney defending his dead party in the hope there might still be some kind of a job for him in it doing something, anything
      Labour has compounded its problems now by openly admitting they’re Tories by denying a vote to a people in their own country (Scotland) using the power of another (England) over it while simultaneously defending Hong Kong and other countries rights to democratic freedoms

      Tory dictatorship as applied by Labour, they’re a fine honest bunch eh

      A pity Michelle Thomson didn’t get that last word she was trying to fire out, but we’ve run out of time

  19. I left this comment in reply to an article in The National—must-start-using-lose/

    Hi Alasdair – As you say it is speaking Gaelic in everyday conversation that is required to save it. And young people will be the saviours if they are encouraged to use Gaelic beyond school or family.

    So an idea might be to continue their experience of Gaelic as they leave school – when they get on the school bus, go into a local shop on the way home etc. So all adults who can speak Gaelic should always, with young/primary pupils in particular, address them in Gaelic, and if the bairn obviously understands but answers in English then continue with Gaelic, do not revert to English – it should be made clear that Gaelic is the fall back language.

    There is a habit among Scots speakers, even where both know there is no lack of understanding, to repeat a queried statement in English – it’s a form of learned/implied inferiority in linguistic/cultural terms. And this among people some of whose forebears (possibly my own) did their best to eliminate Gaelic.

    The latter point is more important with teenagers. They are much more likely to conform with the ‘outside world’ – so they need the language to be cool, with it – to present opportunities in their own communities and beyond. BBC Alba is one obvious route with career opportunities, you need lots more like that.

    One other obvious opportunity is in the tourist industry. Some people like things being different, the more niche it is the better, and they will like to hear Gaelic spoken – and for the others, I’m sure you are well able to show appropriate football games on pub TVs.

  20. Paul, I was recently in Norfolk Island and picked up a small book on the local language, quite interesting mix of old sailors talk and Tahitian. Norfolk is where some of the Pitcairn islanders settled after Pitcairn became too small for their population.
    I know you are interested in languages and how they develop so I would happily mail it to you if you could send me an address by replying to this email I will send it on its way.

  21. If we want to speak a language, we need the background cultural knowledge to be able to use its idioms and turns of phrases that help conversations flow. We need to learn each language on its own terms, and Gaelic is no exception. Around the islands are scattered groups of elderly or aging native speakers who would be only too willing to use Gaelic in situations they feel comfortable in. A concerted effort is needed to value and draw them into community led campaigns of Gaelic learning where they can pass on their fluency to mothers and fathers who really want the learn the language and who can connect with them.

  22. The Scottish Gov is putting increasing £Millions, into Gaelic and Scottish study funding. There is a world famous centre where people can go to study, in the isles. People go and study Gaelic there. They come from all over the world.

    There are (gaelic) nurseries/ schools and centres in all major cities in Scotland. Gaelic is the primary language for studies there. The schools are over subscribed by parents/carers because they get extra funding and are considered ‘good’ schools.

    All the Scottish universities have department where Gaelic can be studied. Scottish study centres. Gaelic studies can be part of a Degree or combined Degree. £Millions go unto these courses as part of university/ learning funding. There can be limited uptake. Less students apply for the courses. Preferring to do something they consider more practical.

    Edinburgh/Glasgow/Aberdeen unis etc have world famous centres of excellent involving Gaelic/history studies. There are evening classes where people can study Gaelic. ‘o’ levels/Highers. Or what ever they are called now. Intermediary etc.

    The Scottish Gov has put a lot funding into Gaelic. There can be low uptake but the opportunity is there. The world famous Mod is extremely successful. The songs, music retained in the language. Sales worldwide. It is a big money spinner for Scotland earns £Million/Billions. Tartan tourism. Outlander, films, music etc. The tourist trail.

    There was a joke among students in the 1990’s. It was quite difficult to get into teaching. The full quota. ‘If you could speak Gaelic and play the piano. They were in. An extra qualification for entrance to teaching college. The teachers were going out into the schools to spread the knowledge to the pupils. They must have been giving lessons to primary/secondary pupils.

    It could be introduced (compulsory) into the standard teacher/training course but there are plenty of other elements going into the courses. Additional needs does not get enough support. In (unionist) university planning.

    Councils (unionists) try to cut funding put into educational (additional) needs. Cut the ratio of teachers below requirement. Despite central Scottish Gov funding increasingly given into extended nursery and educational needs. It helps the economy.

    The Westminster Gov cuts educational funding. Then cuts the Scottish Gov Grant funding without consultation. The Scottish Gov have to mitigate. Unionists on the councils try to cut the funding. They do not care. They spend the money on empty schools and offices. Already oversubscribed. Concrete jungles left empty all the time. Instead of funding essential services.

    The Westminster Tories cut Education funding £6Billion a year from 2015 to 2020. £30Billion. ConDems. Clegg (Spanish lawyer wife) was elected to protect education. Cut it.

    Clegg (lives in the US?). now a (Facebook) Millionaire ruining the world. Along with the other ignoramuses. Westminster unionist politicians they do not care. Clegg can speak five languages. Facebook’s tax evading accomplice Europe. Enabled the Brexit shambles and mess by lying. The EU Ref. Solved the EU predicament for him. Left others in the leach of insecurity.

    Stephen Gethins SNP can speak five languages. Major European experience. The ill informed in Fife voted for Wendy Chamberlain (Who?} LibDem in the 2019 GE. Stephen Gethins won the seat in 2015 GE over LibDems by 2 vote majority. The third joint closest in political history.

    The primary pupils can get tasters of French/Spanish and other languages. Depending which teacher they have. Qualifications etc. Gaelic can/could be the same. The Highlands and Isles University must (?) include Gaelic studies. It was set up relatively recently.

    One of the home schooling project was chose a language and write five words and learn them. Children are now travelling with their parents picking up different languages, worldwide. .

    Language study at an early age. Increases knowledge in other subjects. If Scotland was Independent. More funding could be put into education, instead of redundant weaponry. Trident etc.

    Gaelic/education funding could be increased. Better schooling instead of blowing the world to bits. Might be a good idea. £Millions put into Gaelic aids the tourist industry etc. Come back with increased benefits. Pays for itself expanding the economy. Keeping history and culture alive.

    Support for SNP/Independence rising. Making history. Gaelic could come to life. Come to the fore for posterity. Retained in influence and culture,

  23. Alba subtitles, language. It looks quite complicated until people know how. Even with a knowledge of French and Spanish, Some people do have an ear for languages. Not for everyone.

  24. It is beyond ridiculous. Johnston Brexit would deny 3million EU citizen rights. Right of free movement. Yet wants 4Million Hong Kong into the fray, The usual absolutely ridiculous double standard.

    Johnston is a complete ignoramus of limited ability. Except to drain the public purse. Just ridiculous beyond words. Johnston will be gone before long.

  25. Never too old to learn. SMO is currently running its summer courses online now, and very good they are too,

    Have a look, have a search, and join up if you can.

    Failing this, there is with a weekly newsletter and an online learning with pronunciation at your own pace.
    And you could always begin to address folks with madainn mhath – good morning; feasgar math – good afternoon/evening.

    If, and when we can all return to group classes, the Callander Landscape Project, Callander’s Landscape run Gaelic toponymy courses, and you can head out on guided walks with the volunteers and project leaders to learn a little of the Gaelic names of plants, trees, hills, burns, transhumance, shielings, folklore, poetry, colours and so much more. It’s immense, and to immerse yourself in the landscape that was named by the Gaels so appropriately, but was inappropriately corrupted to suit the budget of the mapmaker, and the interpretation of the recorders, retains such irony, as the hierarchy of the fat sporran brigade and the British state, keen to tame and ‘improve’ the native non-Scots, non-English speaking Gaels, left a legacy of placenames in print, which keeps the serious enthusiasts going with peeling back the layers of names to give the real interpretations today.

    Never give up.

  26. When I was a youngster well over fifty years ago it seemed uncool to speak Gaelic even although my mother’s was fluent and both her parents were native speakers so I was no stranger to it. No other kids in the class could speak Gaelic either. My wife and I have a few words but that is all. Parents on both sides of the family married non speakers and it fizzled out in both households. If you go up the street today you are more likely to hear younger people talking an eastern European language than Gaelic.

    It’s all quite sad really as I know more words of Spanish and German than I do of Gaelic so if any young people happen to have read this all I can say is get off your backsides and learn it.

    Don’t let Gaelic die.

  27. Gaelic is dead. Sorry, but there it is. What’s the point of spending millions trying to revive a language that no-one speaks any more? If people want to learn it themselves for historical or cultural interest (like Latin) then fine, but there are more important things for the government to spend their money on just now. Like climate change.

    • This is exactly the kind of nonsense that’s killing the language. Gaelic is not dead. There it is.

      You’d probably complain if the Scottish Govt stopped spending money on Scotland’s tangible heritage. Let’s just allow Edinburgh and Stirling castles to fall into ruin eh – castles are dead, aren’t they?

  28. “However what the language is going to lose, indeed what it’s already lost, are geographically based communities where it is expected that a majority of local residents are fluent in the language.”

    This is the crucial sentence in all of this. Because a language can only remain in viable existence if it has a clear and largely unviolated heartland to be rooted in. Once that is lost, you’re trying to hold back a tsunami with a bucket and spade, especially when you’re up against a so-called ‘world language’ imposed by legislative, media and economic means whose speakers are so often full of a sense of entitlement and arrogance.

    Down here in England’s First Colony (TM), we are seeing it happen before our very eyes. At the last Census in 2011, I think that there were only about seventeen communities left where over eighty per cent of the residents spoke Cymraeg. This is not a sound basis for hope, because even if you had Cymraeg-medium or so-called ‘bilingual’ schools in every village from Saltney Ferry to St Davids, without those firm roots, you’re building on sand.

    Having failed to douse our language and identity by military and legistlative means, Greater England is now succeeding by economic means; large-scale systemic unemployment in our rural communities means that our young people leave to find any sort of work; even if they can find work in their own areas, they cannot possibly afford to live there because second-home owners, property speculators and retirees from Leamington and Leatherhead have pushed the price of even small properties out of the reach of any local (there was a case highlighted a few weeks ago where the headteacher of a school couldn’t afford to buy a home in the village she served).

    In addition, massive new housing developments have gone – and are going – up right along our north coast, but where the prices are beyond the reach of the native population. To get planning permission, the speculators claim to be building a percentage (often very low, and made lower after the application has been approved because the developers claim that they suddenly can’t make the development economically viable otherwise) of ‘affordable’ houses; but these are only ‘affordable’ to people from Alderley Edge, not Abergele; to people from Frodsham, not Frongoch; to people from Biddulph, not Bethesda.

    And so not just the northern coastal strip but now for fifteen to twenty miles inland is now nothing more than a sequence of dormitory suburbs for people working in Chester, Liverpool and Manchester. Or should the word for it be ‘plantations’?

    In short, unless you not just protect but make viable and strengthen the communties where our languages are still comparatively strong, no amount of Duolingo courses or road-signs is going to save them.

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