Scottish Gaelic supporters are trying to reverse the rapid decline of the language

When John Finlayson was growing, almost everyone in his community on Skye was fluent in Gaelic. Despite decades of official support for what was once the dominant language in most of Scotland’s highlands and islands, Finlayson is now the only neighbor of the island family’s croft that speaks it. Can think about.

“We have been trying to make Gaelic language sustainable for years. So why are we failing? That’s a big problem,” said the Highlands Provincial Board of Education. Former principal Finlayson, 63, who chairs the board, said.

The issue of increasing political urgency is a sign that the long Gaelic linguistic retreat is being defeated.

A survey of regions where Gaelic is relatively strong found that ancient Celtic could “disappear as a community language in any part of Scotland,” as announced last year.

“The rest of our home network cannot survive anywhere for more than a decade under the current circumstances,” he said. the study, Led by ConchúrÓ Giollagáin, Professor of Gaelic Studies at the University of the Highlands (UHI).

John Finlayson can only think of one Gaelic-speaking family croft neighbor © Charlie Bibby / FT

The Scottish Nationalist Government is currently considering emulating Ireland by grouping areas with relatively strong languages ​​into “Gàidhealtachd” (areas that receive special treatment to support the language).

Gaelic has interparty support for Gaelic spoken throughout Scotland before it was eaten by Scottish and subsequent English in the 11th century.

Scotland 2011 Census Over 1% of people could speak Gaelic.

Skye, the historic center of Gehrig culture, reveals the challenges and complexity of stopping language decline.

Choiring Mountains at the northern end of Skye
Choir range at the northern end of Skye © Charlie Bibby / FT

Young people who have learned a language at home or through a Gaelic middle school system have a hard time finding a job or home on the island. On the island, Southerners who are enthusiastic about living on the island often build their homes.

Working from home allowed Katie Kroll, 30, to return to Sky 10 years after her proficiency in Gaelic was significantly reduced. Currently, the lack of fluent local peers makes brushing up difficult.

“I have a lot of Gaelic-speaking friends of my age and want to come back to their community, but they can’t because they don’t have much non-hospitality work and no accommodation at all,” Kroll said. Told.

Katie Kroll
Ten years away from Sky, Katie Kroll’s fluency in Gaelic has dropped significantly © Charlie Bibby / FT

At Staffin on the north coast, with its jagged ridges on the island of Skye, almost half of the inhabitants reported in 2011 that they had some proficiency in Gaelic.

“English is omnipotent, popular, and completely dominant. Unless you are assertive, Gaelic is simply pushed to one side,” Ross said.

Aonghas Ros
Aonghas Ros:’English is all powerful, pervasive and completely dominant’ © Charlie Bibby / FT

Since Scottish Gaelic speakers also speak English, the increasing number of single-language English speakers in the community will have a dramatic impact on the language used in social situations.

If only Gaelic-speaking people are on the Staffintrust board, the meeting will be in Gaelic, but things will change if no board member understands the language.

“You always tend to follow the fact that someone is an English-speaking person, a monotonous person, or you would exclude that person,” Ross said.

Calum Munro, chairman of the Gaelic Commission of the Highland Council, said the researchers’ verbal predictions of the collapse were true.

“It’s getting late. We know the situation now, so I think morally we have to face the challenge and try something,” he said.

What to do is being contested. The UHI study called for the creation of a new grassroots co-operative to take responsibility and some of the resources of Bòrdna Gàidhlig, the organization responsible for promoting the Gaelic language.

Calum Munro
Calum Munro © Charlie Bibby / FT, Chairman of the Gaelic Committee of the Highland Council

However, Wilson MacLeod, a professor of research at the University of Edinburgh in Celtic and Scotland, said the study was unfair in condemning current policy and did not provide evidence of its proposal.

It can be highly dependent on the judgment of Shirley Ann Somerville, who is responsible for Gaelic policy as Scottish Secretary of Education.

Somerville has promised a new legislation to support the language and reviews of Bòrdna Gàidhlig. However, the Chief Cabinet Secretary has not yet elaborated on how Gaelic-speaking Gàidhealtach works, or if other new policies could help save the language.

Authorities are discussing this issue in preparation for more formal consultations. “I get into this with a very open mind,” Somerville told the Financial Times in August.

Portree Post Office signs in both English and Gaelic
Both English and Gaelic Post Office Signs in Portree, Skye © Charlie Bibby / FT

Some English-speaking Scottish people suffer from additional Gaelic spending, but bold action is required to reverse its decline.

Bòrdna Gàidhlig Chair Mairi MacInnes said the right to Gaelic education needs to be strengthened and almost all policies affecting the island’s community need to be revised to make much more resources available.

UHI’s research was critical of the official attention paid to teaching Gehrig as a second language. While suggesting that more focus should be placed on the support of native speakers, MacInnes welcomed an increase in the number of people learning languages ​​in Scottish cities.

“The use of a language is equally valuable, whether by someone who is learning it, who has learned it fairly well, or who always has it,” MacInnes said. ..

Gaelic children's books
Gaelic children’s books used in nursery schools on Syke Island © Charlie Bibby / FT

Some Sky residents are reassured that young native speakers and learners are increasingly using Gaelic in their daily lives and on social media.

28-year-old Anna Pelikan manages Gehrig’s Instagram page and runs a playgroup that introduces her children to the language.

Pelicans blamed the decline of Gaelic linguistic oppression and the infamous 18th and 19th century clearances of the Highland and Island population for more profitable sheep.

But she now believes that enough young people care about language and revive it. “I’m optimistic,” she said. “We are slowly climbing the hill ourselves.”

Anna Pelican and Playgroup Toddlers
Anna Pelican’s playgroup introduces Gaelic to children © Charlie Bibby / FT

Also, young speakers are often more willing to speak imperfect Gaelic than Shire or the more sensitive elders. This is an approach that raises the profile of the language and encourages others to use it.

“Even if the Gaelic language isn’t perfect, you should speak,” said 36-year-old Sky entrepreneur Ragnar Robertson.

“Is it the Gaelic bhristena Gài dhligsachiste?”, Robertson quoted the saying. “If you die Gaelic, you should break Gaelic.”

Scottish Gaelic supporters are trying to reverse the rapid decline of the language

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