A Simple Guide to Learning Gaelic in Learning
Ever fancied learning Scottish Gaelic? There's no time like the present. Check out our tips on getting started.
Learning a new language can be a daunting task. With all the different options that are available it can be hard to decide which will suit you best and get you on the right path to that final goal – fluency!
There are many benefits to learning a language, not just Gaelic! New languages always come hand in hand with new cultures, stories and music which can lead to opportunities that weren’t previously available to you. Gaelic is no exception - so why wait?
If you're interested in learning an other language have a look at our Learning a Foreign Language page.
There’s no one ‘best’ course, book, series or website to choose but rather a combination of several and of course it’s also important to use the most valuable resource available to you - other people!
Here’s a good guide for where to start and where to find the best possible mix of resources to help you achieve your Gaelic goals.
Start With Pronunciation
Gaelic is a phonetic language. Certain letters, when grouped together in a word will always make the same sound, but not the same sound as they would in English. There’s a slight learning curve but it also means that once you know and understand the sounds you can apply them to any word in Gaelic, and upon hearing a word for the first time can have an idea of how it would look on a page.
It's much easier to learn this right the first time round rather than learning the words without hearing them and having to teach yourself again at a later stage. There are some fantastic resources available to help with this online such as BBC Beag air Bheag or the Learn Gaelic Dictionary where there are recordings of the pronunciations.
Books can be an excellent resource for learning Gaelic. There are a great number available and one of the easiest ways to learn, is getting one that comes with an audio CD included, to ensure the correct pronunciation. Complete Gaelic and Colloquial Scottish Gaelic are great examples although they can be a bit pricey.
If you decide to go for a book-only option, make sure you use them alongside online pronunciation resources to keep you on the right track.
DVDs, although perhaps a little dated with the rise of streaming services, can still be a useful resource! 'Speaking our Language' is a good example and is available on the Learn Gaelic website and on YouTube as well.
News programs, such as BBC An Là, are another great way to improve your language skills and vocabulary. They can seem daunting and hard to follow at first but if you use Learning With An Là on the Learn Gaelic website there is a text box that highlights what’s being said in real time, making it much easier to follow, and will also help with connecting the way words sound and the way they are written and spelled. This will also help with getting to grips with Gaelic’s grammar and sentence structures, as they differ from the structures used in English.
Distance and Short Courses
Distance and Short courses are one of the best resources available to any Gaelic learner. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, a Gaelic college that’s part of The University of the Highlands and Islands offer a number of both short courses and distance learning courses.
Short Courses allow you to learn at your own rate using the resources available and if you have some spare time, you can enroll yourself into a course that lasts no more than a week or two, run by excellent, experienced tutors who can help with the finer details and any of the basics you might struggle with. There are short courses for people of all levels so you won’t be left stuck in a class that is too easy or too hard for you, no matter your fluency level!
Distance Learning Courses provide a more long-term, structured learning option and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Through the use of online video calls and phone classes, lessons can be had on a regular basis to help keep your grasp and understanding of Gaelic steadily advancing.
This is without a shadow of a doubt the best resource available to you!
Many people put off conversation when they start learning a new language for fear of judgment or criticism, opting instead to “reach a level of conversational fluency” before engaging with other speakers.
That all sounds well and good until you realise that reaching conversational fluency is almost impossible without… conversation!
The best thing for any Gaelic learner is to engage with other speakers as early and often as possible in their learning journey and there are a number of ways to do this.
In a lot of communities in Scotland there are Gaelic speaking groups who meet on a regular basis so that speakers of all levels can come together to use and improve their Gaelic in an open, friendly, helpful environment. Most of these can be found with a quick search online and they’re always looking for new members!
With the rise of social media there are also easy ways to engage with Gaelic speakers online. There are a multitude of Gaelic speakers groups such as Scottish Gaelic Speakers Unite! where people share not only news and social stories about Gaelic or that would be of interest to Gaelic speakers, but also any questions they have from the most fundamental basics to the upper complexities of the language. These pages are full of learning opportunities and are a great way of meeting other new Gaelic speakers in your area which, if you play your cards right, might even lead to friendship!
When learning a new language it’s best to use multiple different resources instead of just one. Every resource has different benefits and by using more than one you can ensure that you’re not missing out on anything.
For more guidance on how to learn Gaelic, or any language, you can visit Fluent in 3 Months.