Thursday, 5 November 2015


The past couple of weeks have brought a few ups and downs in my Gaelic journey, but tonight we had a bit of a Eureka moment.

Changes and improvements can happen so subtly that you don't notice that they are happening. Sometimes, we are so obsessed with what we don't know, we forget to focus on what we do know.

I suddenly realised that I am very, very rich. No, I haven't won the lottery, and a part-time job as a train guard is never going to see me trade in my truck for a Range Rover.

Let me explain... Over the past six months or so I've been toiling away at the Gaelic, but this has been made easier thanks to resources like 'Beag Air Bheag' podcasts, watching entertaining programmes like 'Fonn Fonn Fonn' on BBC iPlayer, and enjoying the Look@LearnGaelic Videos on the smart and refreshed website. My 'caraidean-cànain' (study buddies) whom I try to Skype as often as possible have been a true source of help and support.

Over the past couple of weeks I have really upped my game... I have something 'big' to aim for which happens next week, and I will tell you about that very soon. Suffice to say that with the help and support of my caraid-cànain MR in London, I've been doing tons of work on my spoken Gaelic. I've been expanding my vocab and just doing simple stuff like learning stock phrases to questions that people are always going to get... where I live, why I am studying Gaelic, what I do in my job, and so on. It sounds so simple, but one thing I had not yet done was to invest time in learning 'stock' phrases until they became second nature. OK, the 'second nature' thing has yet to come, but we are getting there.

This work, and the fact I've had a bit of grief (haven't we all) with the Anti-Gaelic Bigots recently, made me stop and take stock of my Gaelic journey. And that is what has bowled me over completely.

'What has Gaelic brought into your life?'

Oh. Mo. Chreach. I've just stopped, thought about this, realised the richness it has brought, and I am completely blown away. Where do I start?

Music - So much wonderful music I would never otherwise have discovered.

Friends - loads and loads of new friends. All there to learn new ideas from, help widen my mind, and to support each other.

Culture - Poetry and song, live music and stories. Real entertainment from people with passion and talent, not being strapped to the telly like a brain-dead force-fed zombie.

History - Still early days for me, but history is starting to come to life and actually mean something.

Geography - That deeper understanding and appreciation of the landscape when you are in the Highlands and Islands, and the place names coming to life.

Being part of something special - Gaelic is not the easiest language in the world to learn for many reasons. It's not common. So to learn it is actually something quite special and helps form a strong bond of understanding with other learners.

Having something to say - Being at a party or meeting new people. They are all talking about their jobs in the city, the football, or how they like to do DIY at weekends. You have a story to tell about Gaelic and your journey...suddenly everyone is interested. They may not understand, they might think you're a bit bonkers, but they are interested.

A safe haven - In times of trouble and crisis, Gaelic can sometimes be an anchor, a 'safe place' where you can immerse yourself for a bit. It's consitent, it's grounding, and it's not going anywhere.

Self-belief - That feeling when you realise that you have just conversed with someone, even if it was just saying what a lovely day it is. You did it!

Being a part of the bigger picture - Every single person that learns Gaelic, at any age and to any level, is contributing to the momentum of getting the language back into the mainstream.

Hope for the future - Nobody, not even the best fluent speaker, knows it all. Gaelic is a bottomless well of riches and you will never use it all up no matter how much you try. For me personally, that hope translates into the possibilty of embarking on an Honours Degree; something I have never before acheived, and something that I never thought I would ever be able to do.

That 'Eureka' moment hit me tonight when I was asked to talk for five minutes - in Gaelic - about 'Gaelic and me'. Of course I made mistakes, but I could have talked for far, far, longer.

The journey with Gaelic, as I said earlier, is one of ups and downs. But when you are on a downer, take a moment and consider the richness it has brought to YOUR life. Me, I am absolutely blown away by it.


  1. I completely agree with your list of what Gaelic has brought into your life (if "agree" is the correct word). What took me by surprise was the mention of it being a safe haven. I have the same feeling about it, can't entirely explain how it is that for me, and thought the feeling was something peculiar to me. I'm glad to learn that I'm not at all alone in the feeling. It gives me all the more motivation to continue learning. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for the message, and I'm glad you can relate! It was a great comfort to me while we were nursing my dad in his last few months, and subsequently after he passed away. I think it is because it is something you can completely 'lose yourself' in, which helps shut out the other stuff, even if only for a temporary respite.