On the politics of learning Gaelic

Madainn mhath!  Good morning!

I’ve been learning Gaelic for the last year, and whilst droch-oileanach Gàidhlig (bad Gaelic student) perhaps best describes my efforts, I love it.  Of course, learning any language is a political statement too, and that is very apparent in relation to Gaelic in Scotland: for many reasons, Scots have often scorned Gaelic-speakers, failing to recognise Gaelic’s deep connection to Scottish history and contemporary (self-)understanding, as even this little article in today’s Herald showed.

Earlier this week, The National published an article by Vonny Moyes on Gaelic.  I like Moyes’ commentary and journalistic engagement (and follow her in a list on Twitter), but I thought this was a rather strange article: she was defending and arguing for its preservation, but seemed to do so in a rather obscurantist way, as if resigned to its inevitable decline.  The following day, The National published my letter in response, which you can read here, along with a letter from Aonghas Mac Leòid.

It turns out Moyes is a Gaelic learner too, though I would not have guessed that from the article (and presumably The National’s editor didn’t think that either, or he wouldn’t have published my letter encouraging her to learn it!):

In any case, I really like the fact that an awareness of the place of Gaelic in Scottish life is growing.  This is thanks to the hard work of many people over many years, and it continues today.  If you’re interested in learning Gaelic too, there are lots of opportunities to do so, and the Learn Gaelic website offers details.  I’m doing the Ulpan course at Glasgow University, but there are many other opportunities to learn the language.

And apart from being a political statement, it is also very enjoyable!

Here are (mobile telephone) photos of Moyes’ original article and the letters page.