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Seo mi – anns a’ Ghàidhlig!

9 Oct

Is mise GMM. Tha mi às an Eaglais Bhric ach tha mi a’ fuireach ann an Glaschu.  ‘S e tidsear a th’ annam ach chan eil mi ag obair an-dràsta.  Uill, tha mi nam Weight Watchers leader ach chan eil mi ag obair aig sgoil an-dràsta.  Tha mi ag obair air Diluain, Dimàirt agus Diardaoin.

Tha mi pòsta agus tha dithis chloinne agam – tha mac agus nighean bheag agam.   ‘S e Monster a th’ air mo mhac agus ‘s e Minx a th’ air mo nighean.  Tha Monster coig bliadhna a dh’ aois agus tha Minx dhà bliadhna a dh’ aois.  The dithis pheathraichean agam.

Tha mi a’ bruidhinn Beurla, Frangais, beagan Eadailtis agus tha mi ag ionnsachadh Gàidhlig.  Tha mo mhac aig Sgoil Ghàidhlig Glaschu.  Tha mo nighean aig croileagan Beurla agus pàrant is paiste Gàidhlig.

‘S e Dimàirt a th’ ann an diugh agus ‘s e feasgar brèagha a th’ ann ach tha i fuar. Tha e fichead mionaid an-dèidh coig feasgar.

Is toil leam seòclaid agus a’ leughadh, ach cha toil leam ball-coise.  ‘S fheàrr leam pinc.  Tha mi ag iarraidh sùgh – Irn Bru!


Do you have to learn Gaelic if your children are in GME?

19 Mar

At the recent Gaelic school facilitation day, I was struck by the idea that some people aren’t sure if learning Gaelic is a necessary part of sending your child to a GME school.  I suppose it struck me as unusual because I had never really pondered the question.  I’m sending my children to a Gaelic school so I want to learn the language too.  Whether it’s necessary or not to learn it had never really crossed my mind.

Perhaps the first thing to consider is the reason for choosing a Gaelic Medium Education for your children.  There are so many benefits including being bilingual, supporting a minority language – our minority language – and also the possibility that your local Gaelic school/unit has an excellent reputation.  But there are also cons to weigh up – if your child has additional support needs will they be met appropriately, will you cope with the homework, will the other children in the class stay so far away that it’s not easy for them to meet up out of school?  Certainly, deciding on the Gaelic school was a big decision for us but as part of that decision making process we had to consider our ability to prioritise the time to learn a new language.

In order to give my children the best support at school my husband and I want to be able to understand at least the basics of the work they’re doing.  We accept that it’s unlikely that we will ever achieve the fluency that our children will have, but it would be great to be able to share their reading books and school work with them, and follow their school concerts or assemblies.  For that to happen, we need to apply a little elbow grease.

However, learning a new language is easier said than done.  The time we can commit to it is limited because my husband works during the day whilst I care for the children, and then this is reversed three nights a week when I go out to work.  Ùlpan courses sound really effective but neither of us can go out twice a week for them, and the same applies to local beginners classes that I have found listed online.  Fortunately for us, I have begun An Cùrsa Inntrigidh, the course with a weekly phone tutorial and, though it is early days, so far it seems to be really good.  We all listen to the course work CDs in the car, I don’t need to leave the house for tutorials, and it helps to reinforce what we are learning as a family at the Saturday Gaelic Club.  Could I hold my own in a conversation with a native speaker?  No.  Not yet, anyway.  But it’s a start.

Of course, very few of these courses are free, and when finances are tight (as they are for us) the cost of courses is a major consideration.  I’m fortunate that I qualify for ILA funding but I have no idea how I’m going to pay for next term, which starts after the summer.  I’m sure we’re not the only family with those concerns, and this is just the tip of the iceberg – there are a number of issues that each family needs to address in order to start learning Gaelic.  So if your family is facing these or other/more obstacles, is it fair to be judged for choosing Gaelic medium education but not Gaelic family learning?

Maybe we need to turn this issue on its head.  What does deciding not to learn Gaelic mean?  Will it mean, for instance, that homework, when not bilingual, becomes harder and harder to support them with?  Of course, homework should be a consolidation of what they’ve already learned but children often forget what they were asked to do, or don’t understand how something is worded in English, never mind Gaelic.  However, with a good support network of other parents I’m told that this is not an insurmountable challenge.  In fact, I believe there’s even a live homework help at night on and I suppose we could see it as an extra opportunity to really share our children’s learning with them.  Every cloud has a silver lining, and all that.

For me, I wonder what it would suggest to my children if I didn’t make the effort.  How do I answer them if they ask me why it is important that they learn a new language and explore our heritage, but not me?  If I can put my hand on my heart and say that I have made an effort to learn, and am continuing to, is that a sufficient response, because surely there cannot be an expectation that as adult learners without the benefit of immersion that we must learn Gaelic to fluency in order to have our children qualify for GME?  Certainly, the school has never made me feel that it is a requirement.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong answer to this question that will fit everyone.  I’m sure that the school prefer families to learn Gaelic but they are well equipped to deal with supporting those families who, for whatever reason, are not in a position to do so.  Each family must make a decision based on their own circumstances and no one should be judged for whatever their decision may be.  For us, who knows what the future holds, but we have started out learning Gaelic as a family and I hope that that continues.

Gaelic for Toddlers: pàrant is pàisde

7 Feb

More and more, in the last few weeks, I have wished that there were a pàrant is pàisde AKA Gaelic parent and toddlers for my daughter to attend.  My son’s Gaelic nursery kindly gave me details of one in the west end of Glasgow but we can’t make it because we wouldn’t be able to drop off & pick up my son from nursery.  They also gave me details of a local playgroup but, though it may be a little handier, it’s still not practical.

I’m seriously tempted to set up something informal – just tea & biscuits at my house (for the adults, I’m sure I could drum up something more appropriate for a few wee kids) with some other mums I capture meet at my son’s nursery and at the Saturday Gaelic club, and just see how it pans out.  Yes, this means that I’d need to tidy up, a skill I still need to hone, but it would be much more flexible and relaxed than turning up as the new girl to yet another club.  I’ve joined a couple of clubs with my daughter recently and been feeling so out of my depth that I really don’t need to add to it, so maybe that would be the solution.

The difficult question to answer is: what do I actually want out of a pàrant is pàisde?  Whilst an abundance of toys and activities for my daughter would be lovely, I don’t think that’s a crucial part of what I’m looking for (though a few would be good).  In essence, I’m looking for a simple place to go with my daughter where she can play with other children who may one day be in her class and where we can practise some simple songs and phrases to use about the house. I want a place to chat with people who perhaps already have children in the school – not just about school issues, but to know that I could would be great.   I want somewhere to try out this new, alien vocabulary with people who are in the same boat. I want to make some friends who understand this journey we are on.

A quick look on Netmums flagged up a Pàrant ‘s Pàisde in Kilmarnock.  It sounds right up my street, except that sadly, it is nowhere near my street so I can’t pop along.  It describes itself like this:

“The toddlers group is a relaxed, informal group where parents can chat over a cup of tea/coffee and find out more about benefits of a bilingual education and the children can play, take part in craft activities and learn some Gaelic songs and nursery rhymes.  Why not come along and find out more about this fantastic opportunity?”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it!?

But at the end of the day, none of this matters if I’m the only one who feels a need for something like this.  It would be a very lonely (though tasty) biscuit if I’m the only one sitting eating.  I suppose I should put my feelers out and try to guage interest.  Or maybe just stick with the original plan to capture people at the gates.  Wait, did I just say that out loud…….?

If you (or anyone you know) would be interested in a pàrant is pàisde (or anything like it) then I’d love to hear from you – I’ve got my fingers crossed.

The Boy and the Bunnet

31 Jan The Boy and the Bunnet

The Boy and the Bunnet

What a wonderful story the Boy and the Bunnet is, with its slaverin’, snochterin’ scary Urisk and beautiful Scottish music.

I’d stumbled across the website for this Scots story a while ago whilst trying to soak up as much Gaelic information as possible but didn’t follow through on it until this weekend when a free CD of the story landed in my lap.  This story of a little boy who loses his bunnet (or did the bunnet lose him?) uses a variety of Scottish instruments to represent the characters including the fiddle, cello, harp and bagpipes, and covers a wide range of traditional Scottish music styles including the jig, reel, strathspey and waltz.  It’s a magical way to not only expose children (and to be frank, many adults) to the beautiful, traditional Scottish culture around us, but to let them hear and absorb spoken Scots in all its glory.  For one of the things that has really drawn me to this story is that it’s written in two versions.  One version is written in Scots by James Robertson and music by James Ross(the one we have) and one in Gaelic – Balach na Bonaid, translated by Aonghas MacNeacail.

I’m not particularly old (she says, desperately clinging to the belief that you’re not IN your 30s till you’re 31…) but when I grew up I was taught to speak “proper” English and to consider Scots as “slang.”  “Slang” AKA “not-to-be-spoken.”  Recently I’ve come to realise how wrong that was, and wish that I could sign up to learn Scots somewhere, much as I have signed up to learn Gaelic.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m from Falkirk, live in Glasgow and my Gran does speak Scots (rather than just being really slang as I grew up believing) so I can hear and understand a fair bit of the lingo – I certainly had no problem with The Boy in the Bunnet, but I’d struggle to speak it.  I hope to encourage my children to hear, understand and, most importantly, respect not just English and Gaelic but Scottish too.

So I played the CD in the car for the children and they were enthralled!  My little boy didn’t want to leave the car to race in and play with his Leappad when we arrived home until he’d found out if the Urisk was creeping up on the boy – a miracle!  He loved trying to work out what each creature was like based on the music we could hear.  For your information, the selkie is pretty because her music is lovely and is his favourite, the craw sounds naughty and the Urisk… well, we have had to reassure him that the Urisk doesn’t live under his bed, but such is the power of the music and vocabulary in this story.  There are simply no better words in English to describe the slaverin’, snochterin’, unknown creature than you can find in Scots.  We’ve only had it for a few days but he has already asked if we can get the book (not available till March but you can preorder) in Gaelic too.  I won’t be able to read it to him, but we can listen and absorb the rich language.

This story has really sparked my imagination – I wish I was back teaching again so that I could stage a fabulous production.  I can totally see how I would do it and am itching to try it out but I think, sadly, it’ll have to wait a few years.  It was so exciting to discover that the original Scots version is being shown at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre as part of Celtic Connections this weekend (3rd and 4th of February) but sadly, even if we all go wearing our bunnets, the £31 family ticket price is beyond our reach (£13 for a single ticket) so for now we’ll settle with listening in the car.

If anyone does go this weekend, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.  And if you have a copy of the free CD that you don’t need, I’d love a spare for when ours is eventually to scratched to play.

Learning together

25 Jan

One of the challenges facing us as we enter Gaelic medium education is that we have no Gaelic speakers at home.  Whilst we’ve spoken to some parents of children in the Glasgow Gaelic School who have told us that though they have not learned the language their children are still doing well, we feel it’s important for us all, as a family, to learn as much as we can.

My son is perfectly happy to pick things up, arriving at nursery each day with a list of words he wants to understand – so far he has had a burning desire to learn “please,” “blue,” “toilet” and “sticky” – and is happy to ask when he doesn’t understand.  I am eager to learn, and try to read what I can.  I have located online beginners courses, played the children’s games on the BBC website, signed up for the Gaelic 2012 project and am awaiting the beginning of my distance learning course in about a month.  My one year old daughter will probably find the whole thing easiest of all because she won’t remember a time when there weren’t two languages floating around in her world.

It’s my husband who is going to find the whole thing hardest.

He’s always been very keen on the idea of GME, and says he wants to learn Gaelic but just doesn’t know when he’ll get the time.  Part of me wants to shake him and tell him to make the time, and another part understands that as I work 3 nights a week it will be harder for him to get out to learn it.  I think he would get a lot out of an Ùlpan course but as they generally require 2 nights a week minimum (and course fees), it probably isn’t feasible just now.  To be honest, I think a lot of his reluctance is more to do with being self conscious about using Gaelic in front of anyone else – so he won’t even try the CDs in the car, and I can understand that, but ultimately we all need to get over our nerves if we truly want to learn Gaelic.

So, even though we’re all learning Gaelic in different ways, to help us all get started  I made little cards this afternoon to stick all the way up the stairs so that we can practice numbers on the way up and colours on the way down.  Yes, it’s the frustrated teacher in me (I’m on a career break from primary teaching at the moment and clearly missing it) – everything is colourful and, of course, laminated, but hopefully it will help us start to grasp the basics.

I think we’re also going to start learning a useful phrase or two each week.  We’ve been concentrating on greetings for my son’s nursery so next week we’ll be starting with manners, because no matter where we are, manners are always appreciated.  I like the Highland Council’s Gaelic Toolkit because we can listen to native speakers rather than trying to read phonetics –  so this will be our starting point for next week.

Mas e ur toil e (please), if anyone has any other/better suggestions for how we can learn together then I’d love to hear them.

Mòran taing (many thanks)!

First Day Nerves

18 Jan

Sgoil Araich Lyoncross

This week was my son’s first week at his Gaelic nursery and, so far, he loves it.  In fact, I had to drag my screaming child from the room this afternoon because he wanted me to go away for longer and let him stay.  All the way to nursery yesterday he was practising how to tell them his name and then couldn’t resist telling every member of staff who passed him on the way into the room.  “Is mise…”  (Is misha….) the whole way there.  So sweet.  He asked them to remind him how to say good morning – though it was the afternoon – and he was desperate to find out how to say, “please.”  If only he were always so eager at home…

Today was the Chinese New Year themed day so they got Chinese food at snack (apparently the noodles were nippy but the rice was good) and I was able to peek in and see him painting his own Chinese fan.  He was very proud that he can now tell me two colours – dubh (doo) for black, and buidhe (booyuh) for yellow.  He tells me that he is going to be my teacher now.

As for me, so far I’ve chickened out of using the little Gaelic I know.  So, whilst my son gets an A+, I get a definite, “must try harder,” on my report card.

On the plus side, I heard back from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic medium college on the Isle of Skye, and I have got my place on An Cùrsa Inntrigidh – the entry level distance learning course.  Soon enough I’ll get all the information through and I can pick a suitable time to do my telephone tutorial.  I’m very excited!  Maybe then I’ll summon up the courage to speak in his nursery.

Watch this space!

Cò às a tha sibh?

18 Jan

(Originally posted Fri 13th Jan 2012)

This is the “Question of the Week” on the Gaelic 2012 board on and, although my very first Question, one that I felt I could answer.  Already, from the first couple of units on my Gaelic CD course I could understand the question and knew basically how to answer, so it should be straight forward, yes?

Clearly not for me.

The question, “Cò às a tha sibh?” asks, “where are you from?” and the simple answer to this is that I’m from Falkirk – rather prettily known as An Eaglais Bhreac, or in Scots as The Speckled Kirk/Spotty Church/Egglesbrech.  However, although I have learned a few phrases I have yet to learn enough grammar to work out quite how to structure this.

I went with:  “Tha mi à An Eaglais Bhreac, ach tha mi a’ fuireach ann an Glaschu an-dràsta,” (I’m from Falkirk, but I live in Glasgow just now,” after much debate about whether it was “Tha mi à” or “Tha mi às.”  After waiting with baited breath, a kind (and far more experienced) Gaelic speaker explained that the second sentence was fine, but the first sentence should actually be “Tha mi às an Eaglais Bhric.”  I clearly need to read up on the dative case…

So far, it looks like signing up to the Gaelic 2012 project is a good thing.  It’s going to force me to move past the basics.

I may even work out how to pronounce it all!

Tìoraidh an-dràsta!