Tuesday, 8 December 2015

What goes up...

What goes up, must come down. Sunshine follows the rain. Night follows day.

For some reason, media and society seem to expect a 'constant' from us human beings, and we end up beating ourselves up if we're not always on top form. Lunch is for wimps. Feeling below par? Take a pill and be happy and productive. Unhappiness is an avoidable state.

Me, I don't subscribe to this 'always up' culture that we are pressured into believing is real.

There probably are people out there who can bumble along in a constant state of industriousness and discipline. I, my friends, am not one of them.

We all know that the best way to learn something, Gaelic included, is to go for the 'slow burn' and do a little bit every day, learning just one new word or phrase a day, and keeping refreshed on what we already know.

For some reason though, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, my Gaelic learning seems to follow an intense 'crash and burn' cycle. Crash, burn, repeat.

Over the summer period this year I had plenty of time to devote to Gaelic revision. I basically re-sat my entire course from the previous academic year in my own time, hiding myself away for days on end and immersing myself in the Gaelic.

Then, come September, I simply stopped. It's a bit like that Forrest Gump scene from the film where he runs and runs and runs and runs and then one day, he just stops. After weeks of running, he suddenly doesn't want to run any more.

My ever-patient and understanding Study Buddy MR gave me some space, I did the minimum possible to keep my head above water in the new term of college, and slowly the momentum returned.

This time, the carrot dangling afore me was the interview for Beag Air Bheag that I did a few weeks ago. As the interview approached, the urgency to become as fluent as possible grew at an alarming pace, and by the end of October I once again had all my trotters in the trough and even started to dream in Gaelic. 

Then, after the interview, the music stopped. I didn't want to hear Gaelic or speak it for a while. Irritations and setbacks that I had previously managed to ignore or laugh off started to irk and cripple me.  Meanwhile, some charming young lad left a comment to a video I'd posted online proffering '...your attempt at Gaelic is actually insulting!' Curiously enough, he answered my Gaelic response in English.

I even contemplated the thought of jacking it all in. I'd had enough of being looked down on, people turning their backs to me, and being treated as very much an outsider. And people I thought would be supportive turned out to be anything but.

Fortunately, my true friends MR in London, CF in Dundee, and RK Inverness offered their empathy and support and have gently nudged and cajoled me back into action. 

For others who go through similar cycles, the important thing to remember when you are not 'feeling the love' is to be your own best friend. Don't be too hard on yourself, be kind to yourself, allow yourself a wee break, and don't feel pressured into doing anything. If, after a couple of weeks has elapsed, there is no improvement, you then do what your own best friend would do and give yourself a good kick up the backside and get out there again.

I am supremely confident that now the rain has stopped, the sun is about to come out again. To me, that's a more natural way of 'being' despite what we are told otherwise. The most important thing is just to hang in there when the rain falls, knowing that it will eventually pass. 

Anyway, if you want to hear for yourself just how much of an insult to the language my Gaelic really is, tune in to BBC Radio nan Gàidheal at 9.30pm this coming Sunday 13th December 2015, when my interview on Beag air Bheag will be broadcast. You can then at least make your own mind up if that's an acceptable level of fluency after two and a half years of learning.


  1. I totally understand. There are highs and lows and someone's random unkind comment (which is a symptom of their bad day!) can ruin your day - or month. It's good to know we all struggle with it. I had an online seminar for my UHI course this evening, and I didn't feel up to it and wanted to skip it and sulk, but I pushed myself to do it and it was really interesting. I feel a bit happier now.

    1. Cheers Laura. I think it is harder when you are a Distance Student to stay motivated. We DO all struggle with it, and hopefully just knowing that others out there understand what we are going through already makes it far more bearable. The amount of 'Me too!' responses in public and in private have been a great source of support to me. Cum ort!