Adult Learning

One of the most frequently asked questions in relation to learning Gaelic is “Is it a difficult language to learn?” No language can be identified as the easiest or most difficult, the best to learn or the least useful. Nor is there any guide or limit as to how long it takes one to learn a language or even become fairly proficient.

Across the world bilingualism, or even multilingualism, is quite normal. If you’re a parent with a child in Gaelic education, having Gaelic at home will allow you to help your child. So learning Gaelic as an additional language could be useful as well as recreational. And it may even benefit your health and well-being. Recent research has produced evidence, for example, that being bilingual can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in old age.

The single most important factor in learning any additional language is application and patience, creating the best possible circumstances for learning. Frequent practice is very important. If learners can become immersed in a language, by living and or working in a community where the language is used on a regular basis, then the chances of picking up a language are much improved.

Listening to television and radio output helps, as does reading, particularly if a language is being assimilated to study literature.

Successful adult learning in the community might include the Ùlpan method, based on a model that was used successfully to reintroduce Hebrew in Israel and which has been used to teach Welsh for many years.

Ùlpan in Scotland offers a quick way to learn conversational Gaelic and may be adapted for other teaching circumstances in the future. Another model is Total Immersion Plus (TIP), which has been used with success, particularly in Canada, revitalising Gaelic in Cape Breton.  In 2019, Duolingo introduced Gaelic to its learning platform and it is thought that large numbers will access Gaelic learning through this method.

Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (The Gaelic Books Council) can offer advice on learners’ tools such as DVDs, CDs and other materials. Other useful sites with advice on where and how to learn the language are listed at the bottom of this section.

A number of institutions and organisations offer distance or online learning courses. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye is the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture and an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands. SMO provides high quality education and research opportunities through the medium of Gaelic. In addition to distance and online learning options, there are Easter and Summer short courses, and it has excellent learning resources on-campus including an exceptional library collection, broadcast and recording facilities, residential student accommodation and a Gaelic-medium childcare facility.

Universities offer a variety of degree courses in Gaelic and/or Celtic Languages with combinations of many other subjects. The main institutions teaching Gaelic are the Universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, along with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Lews Castle College in Stornoway, Telford College in Edinburgh and Stow College in Glasgow.

Useful Words

Gàidhlig Gaelic
Ag ionnsachadh na Gàidhlig Learning Gaelic
Sgoil School
Bun-sgoil Primary School
Àrd-sgoil Secondary School
A’ dol don sgoil Going to school
Tha mi anns an sgoil I am in school
Tha an sgoil math The school is good
Neach-teagaisg/Tidsear Teacher
Cuspair Subject
Sgoil mhòr/Sgoil bheag Big school/Small school
Sgoil Ghàidhlig Gaelic School
Colaiste College
Tha mi sa cholaiste I am in college
Oilthigh University
Tha mi aig an oilthigh I am at university
Tha mi nam oileanach I am a student
Tha mi ag ionnsachadh I am learning
Bidh mi a’ dol gu clas Gàidhlig I go to a Gaelic class
Is toil leam a bhith a’ bruidhinn I enjoy speaking
Èist rium Listen to me
Tha leughadh a’ còrdadh rium I enjoy reading
Tha mi a’ tuigsinn I understand
Chan eil mi gad thuigsinn I don’t understand you
Can a-rithist e Say it again
A’ bruidhinn a-mach Speaking out
’S e an t-ionnsachadh òg an t-ionnsachadh bòidheach Early learning is beautiful learning
Creative Scotland The Scottish Government Bòrd na Gaidhlig Highland Council Argyll & Bute Council William Grant Foundation We are a Living Wage Employer