Learning Scottish Gaelic: A Personalised Method

Halò! A bheil Gàidhlig agaibh?

( Hello - are you a Gael?)


If you understand and speak Scottish Gaelic then you are in a rather tiny minority. In 2011, only 1.1% of Scots (57 000 people) reported an ability to speak the language. No definitive global statistics are available, but a quick scout through language forums does reveal a greater revival outside of Bonnie Scotland that one might think.

For those who have the passion and interest to learn, and who didn't grow up speaking it daily in the outer Hebrides, each one of those 57,000 voices is connected to a fascinating history and culture, making every hour of muddling through the pronunciation worth it.

As a Scot from the North East, my interest in learning Gaelic doesn't come from personal connection. I don't know how far back in my family tree I would have to go to find a native speaker. Many have also argued against the Scottish Government's long-term Gaelic plans and budgets as being irrelevant, dated and a misguided attempts to repair the damage caused by violent discrimination against Gaelic speakers in the past.

That being said, there are many reasons to take the plunge and start learning. Its grammatical 'quirks'; an almost stress-inducing eight forms of definite article, for example; make it a linguist's dream (or nightmare?).

The hugely successful Outlander television series (which features Blackness Castle, seen here on the right, in the series) has brought Gaelic to the mainstream with its tales of Scots in the 18th century. And aside from all that, there is a certain magic to learning rare languages - I know you agree as your curiosity wouldn't have allowed you to read this far, otherwise. So let's take a look at some of the best ways to approach learning Scottish Gaelic.

Favourite Online Resources

I will take the liberty of assuming that, like myself, you don't have hours and hours to devote to learning such an odd wee language. The key is to go little by little (pun intended - as you will see). Set aside just ten minutes to look at tricky things, and incorporate a bit more Gaelic into your every day with podcasts, radio and television.

Just click on the blue links to connect to the recommended pages.

1. Beag air Bheag - Website

Beag air Bheag means Little by Little, and so it introduces visitors to the very basics of the language and provides a good overview to keep bookmarked and refer back to as and when needed. Although this version of Beag Air Bheag has now been archived and is no longer updated, it is useful, and there are many interesting stories from past users worldwide explaining where their interest came from.

2 Beag air Bheag - Radio Podcast

This podcast comes out regularly and is a great way to engage with the language in a more modern context. Listen and read the transcript and you'll be picking up phrases before you know it.

3 Listen to Gaelic Singers

Check out Margaret Stewart. has beautiful examples of traditional styles.

Mairi MacInnes was born in Baghasdail A Tuath, a small township on the beautiful and remote Hebridean island of South Uist. Gaelic was spoken exclusively at the home she shared with six siblings and it was not until Mairi went to school that she learned English.

Runrig A quarter of these songs are in Gaelic, more rocky sound (although the particular song we love especially for this amazing video on Youtube

Maeve Mackinnon YouTube video with a modern update of traditional styles.

4 For a few different free online resources, I quite like LearnGaelic - it has a mix of reading, writing and listening resources which appeal to me as immersion can be a very effective tactic for learning the language.

For people living in Scotland, even more options are available. I have a local cafe called For Fika Sake in Glasgow's West End which hosts Gaelic meetups on Thursday, and local pub the Lios Mor ) is a wonderful spot to listen to traditional music and keep an ear out for Gaelic. Do some research and keep an eye out for local opportunities.

Gaelic festivals also take place throughout the year in Scotland. Search Feis + Location to find them - but do be warned that sometimes Google thinks you are trying to type 'fetish' and some frankly alarming festivals come up ­ just the danger of learning Gaelic online, we suppose!

Some resources can seem dated, but that is all the more reason to use them, to introduce a little bit of Gaelic into your everyday life and to feel that connection to this flickering, mysterious language still present on the edges of modern Scottish culture.

Will you use any of these ideas, or do you use them already? Would you ever consider learning Scottish Gaelic, and why?

If you need a Scottish Gaelic translator fast, then please get in touch with us at Global Language Services , a Scotland-based translation company committed to providing speedy, efficient and accurate service no matter what. Otherwise, do let us know what you think of this article by email to David - and for all those feeling inspired to begin a journey into Gaelic - Gur math a thèid leibh! (Good luck! )

About the Author

Sara McQueen is a Digital Marketer for Global Language Services. She is a French and English Literature graduate now spending any spare time studying Scottish Gaelic and walking her neighbour's Cairn Terrier.

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