Tag Archives: Books

Am bu toil leibh Gàidhlig na h-Alba ionnsachadh? (Would you like to learn Scottish Gaelic?)

With the release of the Duolingo course for Scottish Gaelic there seems to be a buzz in Social Media circles for our wonderful language. I therefore thought it might be a good idea to give potential new learners some thoughts on how to start their Gaelic journey.

Websites/Apps

LearnGaelic

A superb, and recently redesigned website which is many learner’s first experience of Gaelic. Has lots of beginner lessons, an excellent dictionary (which includes sound files) and an exhaustive list of Gaelic classes – there should hopefully be one near you. If not then there is always the distance courses!

Duolingo

As mentioned in the intro, the recent surge of interest in learning Gaelic has come about due to the release of a Scottish Gaelic course on the language app Duolingo. As with all apps like this there is a free and a premium option. Not looked into the premium option so don’t know what it costs. More than happy to deal with adverts and use the free version. I’ve done about half of it so far and I’d imagine it’s a typical language learning app i.e. very repetitive and really all about remembering phrases and less about learning underlying grammar.

For me as a grammar nerd I could never have used Duolingo as the basis of my learning. However, for those looking for something to use a gentle introduction to the language, or for something to use as a bit of practice, then it’s all good. Basically anything which brings people to Gaelic is good, no matter the flaws it may have.

Distance Courses

After initially attending a local class I quickly opted for this option. There are a couple of main places people go.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

This is where I went. They run several distance courses with the main beginners one being An Cùrsa Inntrigidh. This runs for 18 months. It’s a mixture of learning on our own, weekly phone calls and end of session tests (written and oral).

There is then a follow-up course called An Cùrsa Adhartais which runs for two full academic years. I personally didn’t feel the need for this second course as two years seemed an overly long commitment for a hobby. Instead at this point I moved to Teach Yourself Books and have now covered pretty much everything An Cùrsa Adhartais would have covered.

However, if you have the time and motivation then do as many courses as you can. Just bear in mind they cost around £300 per block (Earrann) and An Cùrsa Inntrigidh had 3 blocks.

Atlantic Gaelic Academy

Don’t know much about this other than it has Skype hosted classes which last three hours. That’s way too long for me, but perhaps it would work for others. The AGA though, is about more than just the language, it offers many courses and events based around Gaelic culture. It is based in Canada but some of the tutors are from Scotland as far as I am aware. Like Sabhal Mòr Ostaig you would need to factor in cost and time if this is an option you think might suit you.

Teach Yourself Books

Not sure I could have learnt solely from a book – well, I know I couldn’t because I tried. However, maybe it will work for some. For me these books are best used as an accompaniment to a course, or for use once you already have a decent grasp of the basics. Two books I would recommend are:

Scottish Gaelic in 12 Weeks

I have two people on Twitter who I regard as my Gaelic gurus. One is a native speaker (and author), the other is a learner, but a seriously good leaner who has themselves written several books in Gaelic. Both of them, independently of each other, recommended this as the best Teach Yourself book on the market. I bought it on their recommendations and wasn’t disappointed.  Just be aware of a couple of things:

  1. Ignore the title. You will not read this book in 12 weeks unless you already know a lot of Gaelic. I read it in about 2 months but by then I had already completed An Cùrsa Inntrigidh before I started, and therefore already know a sizeable chunk of the content. Instead regard it more as 12 chapters, not 12 weeks.
  2. The book is very grammar dense. It’s kind of a bare bones look at what makes up the Gaelic language. For me that was perfect. However, I know from reading other people’s comments that it can seem a bit “dry” and tough to get into. I would say it’s maybe not a book to be your one and only source of learning – more as an aid to a course, or as a book to fill in the gaps, and extend your knowledge, after a course.

This is a book I will never stop going back to as there is always something to refresh or rediscover.

Teach Yourself Gaelic

This was the second Teach Yourself book I owned and I didn’t get too far with it. However, in revisiting it I can see that it was actually very good. One of the authors is Boyd Robertson, someone who was a key driving force behind the success of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. You can actually see this in the book. The chapters are set out like the Aonadan (units) in An Cùrsa Inntrigidh i.e. a conversation, followed by a list of the key vocab, an explanation of the grammar used and then some exercises. Again as someone who has done a fair bit of Gaelic, I now enjoy going back to this book and using the conversations for practice. As with 12 Weeks, you always pick up something when you read a book like this i.e. an idiom, a construct, a new or forgotten piece of vocabulary etc.

As with Scottish Gaelic in 12 Weeks, I wouldn’t necessarily advise brand new learners to use this as the only basis for their learning. Perhaps using this with 12 Weeks for more grammar depth/explanation would work. Either way it’s a very handy book to have in your collection, and one I would recommend.

Facebook Groups

There are several groups on Facebook. The one I contribute to is the Let’s Learn Scottish Gaelic group. The group has lots of links to learning resources allied to the chance to ask questions and start discussions. Like all groups it can be quiet at times, and there can be phases when conversation gets stuck at the Madainn mhath level. However, there are a few posters, such as me,  on there who are happy to dig deeper into the language, as well as helping others with their queries. Overall it’s a good group and something I would recommend you joining.

Any questions please don’t hesitate to ask – even questions on Gaelic grammar!

Thanks for reading.

Kindle Delights – Taking A Break From the Main Story

Erikson_MidnightThose who have been following me since I started blogging on here will know that I am currently working my way through Steven Erikson’s ten part epic “The Malazan Book of the Fallen”. Well I have just finished book five, Midnight Tides and have cracked open book six, The Bonehunters. Not going to give a review of book five as I don’t think I have the expertise to really critique the work of someone like Erikson. That and I don’t want to give spoilers to those who may be interested enough in my posts to start reading Erikson themselves. With that in mind I would say that what follows contains some minor spoilers, although nothing that would in any way affect your enjoyment of the series. Now onto the point of this blog. That points is to discuss what Erikson chose to do in book 5, namely to move away almost completely from the story so far.

The first four books in the series are all set in the same two locations. There are common characters between all of the books. In short the first four books feel like one large story. It’s not a straight forward tale by any means and the books do cover different, as well as on occasions, the same time periods. However, it is one coherent story. You definitely feel that one continuous epic tale is being woven. The fourth book, House of Chains, ends at a point where you are definitely thinking “I wonder what will happen next?”. Well what happens next is Midnight Tides. The fifth instalment in the Malazan series moves location to a part of our world as of yet untouched by the Malazan empire. Hence we have new characters, new landscapes and new concepts. More importantly we have almost none of anything which was covered in the first four books.

The_Bonehunters_1st_edHaving completed Midnight Tides I have now read the first 50 or so pages of the The Bonehunters. This book takes off a matter of days after the end of House of Chains and thus continues the story we seem to have taken a one book time out from. Truth is I enjoyed Midnight Tides. However, I enjoyed it as I might any other piece of stand alone fantasy fiction. Of course there were tie ins to the other books in the series but so few of consequence that you could have easily read it at any point amongst the previous four. On reflection Erikson did something similar when he dedicated the first 200 pages of House of Chains to the back story of one relatively minor character. At the time this seemed excessive to me and still does. Question is even in a ten part epic can an author afford to move the focus away from the central plot line for so long ? For me the jury is still out.

Problem I had with Midnight Tides is that over the course of the first four books I had bought in to the characters, their issues, their world, their story. To then leave that behind for 700 pages seemed a risky strategy. Perhaps after four books Steven Erikson thought that his readers were already along for the ride. Thus a change of location and the start of what was in essence a completely new arc would be be accepted. Well, I am still reading so maybe he was right. That said I am glad to be back in the world of the first four books again.

From what I have read the characters and locations of Midnight Tides will return. By then they too will feel familiar. Hopefully though when they do return they mix in with the other characters and parts of the Malazan empire we already know. With only four books left after the one I am reading I don’t think we can afford to leave the central story again for too long without potentially losing readers with only a few laps to go. Just my opinion. I’m sure some Malazan aficionados will be scoffing at what I’ve written. No, I am not an expert on fiction and writing styles. I’m just a reader who thought what an author did was a bit strange! Yes, bring us new characters and new parts of your world but maybe do so while not leaving those we have come to know, love and hate out of our thoughts for so long.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malazan_Book_of_the_Fallen