What is Gaelic?

I can’t claim any credit for what follows.  I found it here: http://cristean-macmhicheil.co.uk/learning-gaelic/ (go check it out!) and thought it gave some good background.

Cùl-fhiosrachaidh (Background Information)

Gaelic is the living language of communities in several parts of Scotland and is officially recognised as one of the national languages of Scotland. It can be found in many different aspects of modern Scottish life such as education, broadcasting, employment, heritage and the arts. Gaelic is also the oldest living language in Scotland and has been spoken here from before the 6th century. Indeed it is a sign of Gaelic’s strength that it has continued despite economic, social and political pressures which have taken it from being the language of the vast majority of Scotland to a minority language.

Although the overall number of Gaelic speakers has been declining over a long period, that decline is beginning to slow. One reason for this is that children and adults from all walks of life are learning Gaelic across Scotland, regardless of geographical area.

An robh fios agad? (Did you know?)

  • There are over 45 million speakers of minority and lesser used languages in the European Union.
  • There are 58,652 Gaelic speakers in Scotland.
  • 3,000 Scottish pupils are receiving education through the medium of Gaelic.
  • 3,500 Scottish pupils study Gaelic as a subject in secondary school.
  • There were 366,000 viewers for the recet BBC 2 series “Tìr is Teanga.”

Tha muinntir na h-Alba ag aontachadh (Scottish opinion – Agreed)*

    • 87% – “Scottish pupils should be enabled to learn Gaelic if they so wish”
    • 76% – “Scottish pupils should learn about Celtic and Gaelic heritage”
    • 71% – “There should be more opportunities to learn Gaelic across Scotland”
    • 66% – “Gaelic is an important part of Scottish life and needs to be promoted”
    • 59% – “More Scottish people should attempt to learn Gaelic”

*MRUK Research, September 2003, “Attitudes to the Gaelic Language”

Studying original local Gaelic placenames can be a quick and useful way to find out if Gaelic was or is a language spoken in your area of Scotland – for instance, Inbhir Nis (Inverness), Inbhir Theòrsa (Thurso), Peairt (Perth), Inbhir Pheofharain (Dingwall), Eilginn (Elgin), Moireabh (Moray), An Gearasdan (Fort William), Obar Dheathain (Aberdeen), Dùn Èideann (Edinburgh), Dùn Dè (Dundee) and Dùn Phris (Dumfries) to name but a few. There are also Gaelic names for Orkney (Arcaibh) and Shetland (Sealtainn) where Gaelic was not traditionally spoken.

The Scottish Executive, through the passing of the Gaelic Language Act 2005 and the establishment of Bòrd na Gàidhlig is working to promote and develop the status of the language. The Gaelic Act accords equal respect to Gaelic and English.

Gaelic is a precious inheritance which the people of Scotland should be proud of, and it is a living language wich is relevant in every way in today’s world.

For useful information about various Gaelic organisations, publications, cultural groups, learning opportunities and so on see:



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