Monday, 20 July 2015

We Need to Talk - and the Solution is Simple

Learning Gaelic can be challenging enough if you live in Scotland. However, if you live outwith Scotland, it can be even more of an uphill - and satisfying - struggle.

My Study Buddy 'C' recently sent me this link to a recent BBC News story:

'Cothroman a dhìth gus Gàidhlig a bhruidhinn' is the title of the piece, 'Lack of opportunities to speak Gaelic'.

Results of a recent survey show that one of the biggest challenges facing Gaelic learners is the ability to use their language skills outwith the classroom. Some of the students surveyed NEVER get the chance to practice.

You only have to look at my earlier blog entry 'Why Won't You Talk to Me?' to see the real life challenges faced by a real Gaelic learner when in the Outer Hebrides.

Before we look at my simple and all-pleasing solution to the problem, I need to have a minor rant about additional challenges for us Non-Scots who chose to pump our money into the country and learn its language.

For starters, take that survey. If it is the recent survey that took place earlier this year, then it only concerned itself with Gaelic Learners that reside in Scotland. Despite the fact that many Gaelic Learners are in England, Wales, Germany, the USA, and Canada, our views were not courted.  Just so you know, the results are only applicable to Scottish Learners, so the chances we have outside Scotland are even slimmer or non-existant.

To add insult to injury, the fees paid by Gaelic Students in England, Wales, the USA, and Canada can be over three times higher than those paid by Scottish students. When I last looked, for me to do An Cùrsa Comais at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig would have set me back £7,500 in fees compared to £2,200 for a Scottish resident. That's fair enough I guess (thank you, David Cameron and all those who voted for him) and the same fees apply to those resident in Wales, Northern Ireland, the US, and Canada. However, were I to live 25 miles away in Calais, I'd be paying the £2,200 along with all the German, Polish, and other EU Students. I thought that the UK was in the EU? Not when it comes to tuition fees. So not only are the English, Welsh, and Northern Irish charged three times the amount of someone living South of the Irish border or East of the English channel, but our views counted for nothing in the Gaelic Learning Survey. Well Gee Thanks Eddy, that really makes us feel valued for taking such an active interest in Gaelic and Scotland and overcoming all the associated hurdles and barriers!

Rant over.

I have to be grateful that at least those of us in 'Rest of UK' have access to the wonderful BBC resources, such as the podcasts of 'Beag air Bheag' on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal, and iPlayer programmes from BBC Alba. These resources help massively.

Back to the 'Lack of Opportunity' bit. I had an idea a while ago that I mentioned to folks at my college but nobody really took any notice. I'll mention it again now.

On one hand you have Gaelic learners in Scotland and around the world with little or no opportunity to practice their language skills.

On the other hand, we have a diminishing number of native Gaelic speakers whom at one time were monolingual and had to learn English as a second language. These people speak with old dialects and rich vocabularies that are crying out to be saved. These people are the Older Gentlefolk of the Highlands and Islands. Despite the enviable sense of community in these areas, there must still be times when these retired men and women feel a little lonely and isolated. And all but a few of them will have a telephone.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

Surely it cannot be that difficult to marry up Gaelic Learners with patient older folk who would love to receive a weekly half-hour phone call from their 'Caraid Cànan' in Berlin, London, or Pitlochry?

Being down here in the South East of England I don't really know how to go about setting up something like that. Surely it can't be that difficult? It's an idea anyway. It's now out there, so let's hope that somehow it grows legs.

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