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Using Gaelic and Edifying the Spirit. Alasdair MacMhaoirn , Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Introduction. 1) The Problem 2) The Project 3) Aims 4) Fulfilling the aims 5) Conclusion. The Problem.

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using gaelic and edifying the spirit

Using Gaelic and Edifying the Spirit

Alasdair MacMhaoirn, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Isle of Skye, Scotland

  • 1) The Problem
  • 2) The Project
  • 3) Aims
  • 4) Fulfilling the aims
  • 5) Conclusion
the problem
The Problem

It is apparent that few if any of the children who have come through Gaelic Medium Education (GME) use their Gaelic in the home, or are speaking Gaelic to their own children.

As a consequence of this, intergenerational transfer does not occur.

the problem1
The Problem
  • It is apparent that there are not enough activities outside of school to use Gaelic: exercise groups, dance groups, music groups, art groups and others are rare through the medium of Gaelic.
  • This problem is worse for those children who have no Gaelic at home. They will certainly turn to English as soon as school is finished.
the problem the answer
The Problem – The Answer
  • “You must surround them with enriching activities…” (J. Fishman, Inverness, 2004)
  • The children need a Gaelic environment with the opportunity for activities and sports.
family education community
Family – Education - Community
  • …Stage 6, consisting of home-family-neighbourhood-community reinforcement…constitutes the heart of the entire intergenerational transmission pursuit… (Fishman 1991, p.398)
  • …if this stage is not satisfied, all else can amount to little more than biding time. (ibid 399)
  • What can be done outside of school that is broad enough?
the project
The Project
  • Set up Gaelic medium martial arts classes – Karate and Ninjitsu
  • There were two classes, one in Skye associated with the college, and another in Tain, Ross Shire.
  • Funding was received from the Gaelic Language Board.
the project1
The Project
  • The classes began in September 2008, and continued until May 2009.
  • In Slèite, the children were between 5 and 9 years of age, while in Tain they were between 6 and 11. The classes were one hour each, once a week.
  • To raise the children’s confidence in Gaelic, that they see Gaelic as being natural outside of class, and that they are able to learn something completely new through the medium of Gaelic
specific goals
Specific Goals
  • To increase their knowledge of Gaelic (education)
  • To increase their cultural knowledge (community)
  • To develop self-confidence through Gaelic (personal connection to Gaelic)
  • For fun and exercise through Gaelic
achieving the goals
Achieving the Goals
  • 1) Improving their Gaelic – a) vocabulary
  • Body parts, particularly the joints
  • The children were fine with a few, but others, ankles and hips for example, were new to them.
  • The joints came up in the opening exercises of every class, so they were heard often enough to be remembered.
achieving the goals1
Achieving the Goals
  • Improving their Gaelic – b) ‘S e and Tha
  • Gaelic has a split copula, ‘S for noun + nouns,
  • THA for noun + adjective. The THA form is often mistakenly used all the time.
  • Wrong: Tha mi e. Correct: ‘S mise e.
  • Tag/ Tip games corrected the problem.

This was a bigger problem in Tain than in Skye.

achieving the goals2
Achieving the Goals
  • Improving their Gaelic – c) the verbs
  • Gaelic uses the command form as a root form. Instructions and subsequent forms are a clear indication of verb patterns.
  • Seas an àird, nuair a sheasas tu …
  • Tog do glùn, nuair a thogas tu …
achieving the goals3
Achieving the Goals
  • Improving their Gaelic – d) ways of learning
  • The children use their Gaelic outside of school.
  • They learn in an environment which is natural to them, much like how they would pick up words at home or in a play park.
  • Gaelic becomes a vehicle through which a new and interesting skill is acquired.
achieving the goals4
Achieving the Goals
  • As the children are learning new techniques they hear the same instructions over and over, such as: brush, grab, strike; brush, grab, strike.
  • The children continued to use these words, as the words aided the memory of the movement.
  • The words became like a mantra connecting the movement with language. This is unlikely to switch to English.
achieving the goals5
Achieving the Goals
  • Improving their Gaelic – d) as opportunities arise…
  • As well as the usual language used during the class, at times unexpected situations would arise which were wonderful for social language learning.
example 1
Example 1:
  • In one class a boy was tripped by someone. When I asked what happened he said, using English structures: “Rinn e mi tuiteam.”
  • The incident gave the opportunity to use the correct idiom: “Thug e orm tuiteam.”
example 2
Example 2:
  • On another occasion the class was making fun of one boy. When I asked what was going on I was told that the boy had been picking his nose, and having a snack!
  • They didn’t know the words in Gaelic, so I told them because this was another opportunity to teach that wouldn’t normally occur in a formal setting.
achieving the goals6
Achieving the Goals
  • 2) Cultural Knowledge
  • The children were involved in a situation where physical actions reflected culture.
  • “Deiseil air gach ni”: sunwise for everything. As often as possible we worked in circles, the idea of a circle is deep within Highland culture.
achieving the goals7
Achieving the Goals
  • Cultural Knowledge:
  • We didn’t use surnames, but rather personal names and polite verb forms. In GME, English naming systems are the norm. (For no good reason that I know of!)
  • Working together: this is fundamental to a Highland community
  • There were opportunities for stories which linked with oral tradition.
achieving the goals8
Achieving the Goals
  • 3) Self Confidence
  • Since the children are successful in their martial art, and because they are learning through Gaelic, it is hoped that they will associate Gaelic with success.
achieving the goals9
Achieving the Goals
  • Self Confidence and the Family
  • A class was arranged along with a Kung Fu class in Inverness, and the families were invited.
  • Everyone went out to Rollerbowl and dinner afterwards, which involved everyone.
achieving the goals10
Achieving the Goals
  • 4) Fun and Exercise through Gaelic
  • The children found out quite quickly that English was of no use in class – the main instructor pretended that he had no English.
  • It was notable how the children would translate for two children whose Gaelic was not so fluent.
example sport and language
Example: Sport and Language
  • The Letter Game:
  • This is a chasing game where the children have cards with a letter. The cards are designed to come together to create specific letter combinations in Gaelic, such as: Bh, Ch
  • H can chase B, C, and when he catches the B, for example, the B is frozen, until he says to a referee the sound that B+H make.
  • The letter combinations can be taught very quickly.
example sport and language1
Example: Sport and Language
  • It was realized that most language production was being done by the teachers.
  • To rebalance this, children who were very good at certain things were asked to demonstrate and explain to the others, thereby pushing their own language boundaries.
  • The project achieved its aims.
  • Child Care workers noted that there was an obvious improvement in language use.
  • It is hoped to continue the programme and extend into the High School years.