Tag Archives: Distance Learning

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.

A bheil Gàidhlig Agam?

Well, after nearly 5 months on Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s distance learning course for beginners – An Cùrsa Inntrigidh – the answer is I have a lot more Gaelic than I did at the start. The course is primarily focused on grammar, which I like, and so far we’ve learnt several key building blocks which allow relatively basic sentences to be constructed. What I am now able to say, while sounding quite impressive, is limited to the kind of conversation featured in the course.

What you see below is an example of what I can come up with based on some of what we’ve been taught so far. It’s a bio of a made-up friend, which was something I wrote for one of the weekly phone tutorials a few weeks back. The plan is to keep writing about this character, and as my Gaelic gets better more will be written about Emil and his family.

“Tha caraid agam. ‘S e Emil Nielsen a th’ air. Tha Emil à Copenhagen anns an Danmharc. Tha Emil a’ fuireach anns an Tòb anns na Hearadh a-nis. ‘S e baile mòr trang a th’ ann an Copenhagen ach ‘s e àite glè bheag sàmhach a th’ anns an Tòb. Tha Emil ag obair air an aiseag eadar an Tòb agus Beàrnaraigh – ‘s e MV Lochportain a th’ air an aiseag. Tha e pòsta agus ‘s e Màiri-Anna a th’ air a bhean. Tha Màiri-Anna à Bagh a’ Chaisteil ann am Barriagh. Tha i ag obair ann am bùth anns an Tòb.

Tha a theaghlach anns an Danmharc agus anns an t-Suain. Tha a mhàthair agus athair a’ fuireach ann an seann taigh mòr ann an Copenhagen. Tha dà phiuthar agus bràthair aige. Tha a phiuthar bheag Sofia agus a bhràthair beag Jesper a’ fuireach fhathast ann an Copenhagen còmhla ri am pàrantan. Tha a phiuthar mhòr Freja a’ fuireach ann an Stockholm anns an t-Suain. Tha Freja ag obair ann an coimpiutairean ann an oifis ann an Stockholm fhèin.

Tha nighean agus mac aig Emil. ‘S e Murchadh agus Mòrag na h-ainmean a th’ orra. Tha Murchadh còig agus tha Mòrag tri a-nis. Tha cù agus cat aca. ‘S e Bonzo agus Bobby a th’ orra. Tha bràthair aig Màiri-Anna. ‘S e Fionnlagh a th’ air agus tha e a’ fuireach ann an Èirisgeigh. Tha a pàrantan a’ fuireach fhathast ann am Barraigh. Tha Hyundai aig Emil agus Màiri-Anna. Tha rotharan aig Murchadh agus Mòrag.

Tha caraid aig Emil agus Màiri-Anna air a’ Thairbeart. ‘S e Seumas MacLeòid a th’ air. Tha Seumas ag obair anns a’ bhùth-èisg anns a’ bhaile. Tha carabhan aig Seumas anns an Tòb cuideachd. Tha Seumas agus a theaghlach a’ fuireach anns a’ charabhan aig deireadh na seachdain.

Agus sin mo charaid Emil Nielsen.”

Translation

“I have a friend. His name is Emil Nielsen. Emil is from Copenhagen in Denmark. Emil now lives in Leverburgh in Harris. Copenhagen is a large, busy town but Leverburgh is a very small, quiet place. Emil works on the ferry between Leverburgh and Berneray – the ferry is called the MV Loch Portain. He is married and his wife’s name is Mary-Ann. Mary-Ann is from Castlebay in Barra. She works in a shop in Leverburgh.

His family is in Denmark and Sweden. His mother and father live in a big, old house in Copenhagen. He has two sisters and a brother. His little sister, Sofia, and his little brother, Jesper, still live in Copenhagen with their parents. His big sister, Freja, lives in Stockholm in Sweden. Freja works in computers in an office in Stockholm itself. 

Emil has a son and a daughter. Their names are Murdo and Morag. Murdo is five and Morag is three. They have a cat and a dog. They are called Bonzo and Bobby. Mary-Ann has a brother. His name is Finlay and he lives in Eriskay. Her parents still live in Barra. Emil and Mary-Ann have a Hyundai. Murdo and Morag have bikes.

Emil and Mary-Ann have a friend in Tarbert. His name is James MacLeod. James works in the fish-shop in the town. James has a caravan in Leverburgh too. James and his family stay in the caravan at the weekend. 

And that is my friend Emil Nielsen.”

Impressive? Maybe not, but I’m fairly pleased with the progress so far. Yes, my canvas isn’t particularly large but once we begin to explore verbs things should begin to open up. Over the summer I will be spending time reviewing what I’ve learnt so far, as well as adding some new vocabulary and brushing up on my pronunciation i.e. when the second part of the course starts I’ll know what I need to know, and a bit more.

That’s all for now, but I will post another blog in a couple of weeks covering my thoughts on the course itself i.e. what I liked, what I didn’t – that sort of thing. Until then, as always, thanks for reading.

Le deagh dhùrachdan.

Pòl.

An Cùrsa Inntrigidh – Aonad a H-Aon

Fàilte air ais!

It’s been a good few weeks since I blogged about my decision to start a Gaelic beginner’s distance learning course offered by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s only Gaelic language college. Well, in those few weeks the course has begun and we formally completed Aonad a H-Aon (Unit One) last week. We are now getting stuck into Aonad a Dhà (Unit Two) – in total there are six units in this block, ending with Aonad a Sia, which wraps up in mid-June. There are then a further two blocks which will take place in the Autumn and then early next year. I haven’t yet signed up for these other blocks, known as Earrann a Dhà and Earrann a Tr­ì, but probably will. However, one step at a time.

Content-wise, the course is made up of one hour long tutorial per week allied to roughly 10-12 hours of my own time reviewing the relevant notes. At the moment the tutorial still contains a fair amount of English language conversation, with the clear aim being that over the coming weeks it will become almost entirely Gaelic. To do this we are currently learning to be able to say handy things like:

  • Ciamar a tha thu ag ràdh …?  How do you say …?
  • Ciamar a tha thu a’ sgriobhadh …?  How do you write …?
  • Gabh mo leisgeul, can sin a-rithist!  Excuse me, say that again!

At the moment my range of conversation hasn’t moved much beyond initial pleasantries i.e. how are you, what’s your name, where do you live etc. However, I get the feeling that the pace will ramp up over the coming weeks and so hopefully by the end of Earrann a H-Aon I will be able to make Gaelic small talk that reaches into areas more akin to what I might actually say to someone in English.

One thing I am very keen to do is to have conversations with other learners outside of the class. This would be in the form of Skype calls. Nothing elaborate, just 15 minutes of chat in which we cover a combination of class notes and ad-hoc conversation. There are a couple of very lively Facebook pages, primarily Let’s Learn Gaelic, which will hopefully provide one or two willing accomplices. Pronunciation is one of the hardest things to master in Gaelic and the more conversations you have the better.

The last thing I will say, for now, is that you need to want to do this sort of course. There is quite a lot of work, and with most of it being done on your own, you have to have the right motivation. I like to think I do and so far I’ve really enjoyed getting to know every new word and grammar rule.

Le deagh dhùrachdan.

Pòl.