Are you intrigued by “the Gaelic language”? Are you looking for online resources to learn Gaelic? Then you have come to the right place! In the article below, we will explore the Gaelic language and its features and help you find the best places to learn Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, and Manx online.
Where is Gaelic spoken?
The term ‘Gaelic’ means “pertaining to the Gaels”, i.e. an ethnolinguistic group native to Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. Those three geographical areas in Northwestern Europe are where Gaelic dialects are spoken. Also, Gaelic is spoken by the ethnic minorities living in the Canadian region of Nova Scotia.
The three Gaelic dialects
There are three Gaelic dialects: Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, and Isle of Man Gaelic, which is called Manx. While these dialects are closely related and there are plenty of similarities between them, they are distinct enough to be considered different languages.
Gaelic speakers in numbers
- Scottish Gaelic: It is estimated that there are almost 90,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland and nearly 4,000 speakers in Nova Scotia, a province in Canada.
- Irish Gaelic: There are 170,000 regular speakers of Gaelic in Ireland and it is argued that there are approximately 1.2 million speakers of the Irish language in total around the world.
- Manx: While numbers of Manx speakers are slowly increasing each year, currently there are around 2,000 speakers of the dialect.
1. Why learn Scottish Gaelic?
Getting an insight into Scottish culture by learning to speak Gaelic
Learning Scottish Gaelic can undoubtedly help you gain an insight into the local culture. Speaking a language allows individuals to truly immerse themselves in a cultural experience, as it means they can develop an in-depth understanding of important works, from songs and literature to popular TV series.
Understanding Gaelic songs
The culture in which the Scottish Gaelic language was nurtured was largely oral and, for this reason, songs grew to become one of its most important elements. Today there is a growing group of young Scottish singers who choose to perform in Gaelic, finding inspiration in their culture, such as the very-talented Julie Fowlis.
Learning Gaelic will unlock your ability to understand the words behind the beautiful melodies of Scottish Gaelic musicians and will allow you to fully enjoy a cèilidh, a traditional joyful gathering where stories are told and songs are sung.
Using your knowledge of Scottish Gaelic for entertainment
You will most certainly find that speaking Scottish Gaelic opens up new entertainment opportunities for you, both offline and online.
If you are a Scottish Gaelic speaker, you will be able to enjoy a fun range of entertainment outings in Scotland! Not only will you be able to attend Gaelic learners’ choirs and the Gaelic Gin Club in Glasgow, but you will also have the chance to fully immerse yourself in the Royal National Mòd, which is Scotland’s main Gaelic cultural festival and takes place annually in October.
If you speak Scottish Gaelic but can’t travel to Scotland, don’t worry! There are many ways you can entertain yourself and perfect your language skills online. There are many Facebook groups for Scottish Gaelic learners, while you can also tune into programs in Gaelic BBC Alba iplayer or make use of Bruidhinn ar Cànan’s fun interactive lessons.
Scottish Gaelic and career growth
The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, otherwise known as the Gaelic language plan, is an initiative by the Scottish Parliament, which aims for the prioritization of Gaelic-medium teaching, publishing, media, and tourism and, essentially, hopes to revive and increase the use of Scottish Gaelic.
In Scotland, it is becoming more and more common to teach all the core subjects in schools in Scottish Gaelic, meaning there are plenty of career opportunities for teachers. There is also increasing demand for teachers of Scottish Gaelic as a foreign language, which makes learning Gaelic a smart move.
Scottish Gaelic speakers will also find that there are a lot of opportunities in the field of publishing. Organizations such as The Gaelic Books Council (Comhairle nan Leabhraichean) have been working hard and successfully at raising the language’s profile and increasing the reach of Scottish Gaelic books in Scotland and internationally.
In mass media
Speaking Gaelic can also open doors in the mass media industry since there is a growing demand for professionals who know the Gaelic language and culture well. There is currently a need for individuals who can represent the culture on social media and platforms like TV.
There are also huge amounts of career potential for those who speak Scottish Gaelic in the tourism industry. The Scottish government is urging businesses to capitalize on the language and Gaelic heritage by actively promoting it to visitors and teaching them its origins.
Speaking Gaelic also creates career opportunities for writers, with institutions like Creative Scotland serving as a helpful resource for present one’s written work, sometimes even on a paid basis.
Opportunities for Scottish Gaelic speakers in Canada
Given that Scottish Gaelic is also widely spoken in Canada’s Nova Scotia, taking Scottish Gaelic classes and speaking the language could prove itself useful for people who want to live and work there.
Enhanced opportunities for learning
Learning Scottish Gaelic professionally
People with a professional interest in the language will have no problem finding specialized courses, designed to teach learners to master it, both offline and online.
Scottish universities offering Gaelic courses
Want to take Scottish Gaelic lessons? Where better to learn it than Scotland itself? Here is a list of Scottish universities offering excellent Gaelic courses:
- University of Dundee: Gaelic Intensive course;
- University of Glasgow: Gaelic (from beginners to advanced levels);
- University of Edinburgh: Gaelic (beginners and elementary levels);
- University of the Highlands and Islands: BA (Hons) in Gaelic Language and Culture.
Scottish Gaelic courses offered by native speakers
The largest concentration of Gaelic speakers lives in the Outer Hebrides, an island chain in Scotland. This makes it rather challenging to find a native Scottish Gaelic tutors delivering offline courses.
Finding original literature in Scottish Gaelic
To find untranslated Scottish Gaelic, take a look at The Gaelic Books Council’s website or search in BookDepository’s large directory. If you are in Edinburgh, you will find that there are plenty of original Gaelic books in the city’s public libraries.
2. What are the reasons for learning Irish Gaelic?
Explaining the current revival of Irish
Irish Gaelic is currently experiencing a revival. More and more young people are flocking to Dublin and choosing to communicate and conduct business in Irish Gaelic. The reasons for this include successful Irish government’s initiatives to promote bilingualism in English and Irish, a flowering of Irish Gaelic literature, and other art forms in recent decades and the fact that high-quality education is promised by the country’s government to those opting for an all-Irish education.
Irish Gaelic: An ancient language
Irish Gaelic is a truly ancient language and it is older than English. The oldest texts in Old Irish date back to the 7th century AD.
The unique linguistic features of Irish Gaelic
The Irish Gaelic language has unique features that linguistics fans will undoubtedly find particularly interesting. For example, during your Irish Gaelic lessons you will learn that:
- Irish Gaelic has one set of numbers to count people and another set to count things and animals;
- Irish Gaelic only has 11 irregular verbs, as opposed to English which has hundreds of them;
- Irish Gaelic is characterized by its unique syntax: sentences often start with a verb.
More speakers than with the other dialects
Irish Gaelic in numbers
Irish Gaelic has the largest number of active speakers compared with the other two Gaelic dialects (Scottish Gaelic and Manx). 170,000 people speak it as a first language in Ireland and, globally, there are an estimated 1.2 million speakers of Irish Gaelic.
Making use of Irish Gaelic online and offline
Taking Irish Gaelic classes and learning the language can prove to be useful both in real life and on the internet. A language is built on the heritage of a culture, so speaking Irish Gaelic allows one to truly understand the music, literary traditions, religious beliefs, and the history of Ireland while visiting the country.
If you are unable to visit Ireland, you can find plenty of resources in Irish Gaelic online, from TV shows to podcasts and discussion forums, as well as Irish Gaelic online tutors.
3. Why should I learn Manx?
Is Manx extinct?
In 2009, UNESCO declared Manx an extinct language, as it was thought to have more-or-less died out in the mid-19th century. Language experts were, however, quick to react to this declaration, calling it false and proclaiming Manx is “alive and well”, with the Isle of Man boasting hundreds of Manx speakers among its 80,000 inhabitants.
The Manx Language Strategy
The Manx Language Strategy is an initiative launched by Arbory School that dates back to 2017. It aims to broaden the appeal, understanding, and use of the native language both around the Isle of Man and internationally. In coordination with Culture Vannin and the Department of Education, Sport and Culture (DESC), it works to protect and promote Manx through cultural events and activities and making Manx learning resources widely available.
The Manx Language Unit and its role in introducing Manx to schools
The Manx Language Unit, which was founded in 1992, has played a vital role in introducing Manx to schools. The Manx Language Unit is a team comprised of a Manx Language Officer and teachers that was essentially established to provide lessons in Manx Gaelic for pupils from Year 4 onwards in all Isle of Man public schools. While these Manx classes are voluntary, more and more students are opting for them.
Parents learning Manx together with their kids
With younger generations now taking Manx classes at school, many parents are finding themselves unable to help them further their new knowledge. The Manx language has skipped a generation, which means that it is children who will become its gatekeepers. Many parents in the Isle of Man are choosing to take Manx lessons alongside their children, in order to catch up.
The learning process
Learning Manx as a speaker of another Gaelic dialect
If you already speak Scottish or Irish Gaelic, you will find it relatively easy to learn Manx, which is closely related to both. In fact, Manx descends from the old form of Irish that was brought to the Isle of Man by Irish colonizers around 700 AD. When the Isle of Man’s ties with Scotland and Ireland weakened, the Manx language started growing and developing its own unique characteristics.
An increase in resources for learning Manx
With the proliferation of mobile and internet technology and a renewed linguistic interest in Manx, it should come as no surprise that an ever-increasing number of resources for learning it is becoming available. There are many language-learning websites that offer sessions with native tutors and a plethora of Manx Facebook groups, Youtube channels, and forums.
The importance of Culture Vannin’s Manx dictionary
Culture Vannin published a Manx dictionary in 2016, which constitutes an excellent resource for the learners of the language. Not only does the dictionary feature definitions of words, but it also includes examples of how the terminology could be used in everyday situations.
The publication and success of this important resource is proof of the renewed interest in Manx. Young generations are keen to keep their language alive, and Culture Vannin’s Manx dictionary is a great indicator of the bright future of the language.
Want to learn Manx online but don’t know where to start? Here is a brief look at some of the best Manx resources on the internet.
Videos in Manx
- manx.net TV features news videos from the Isle of Man;
- Lovely Greens on Youtube is a popular Manx vlogger showcasing the best of the Isle of Man;
- Manx Schools Videos on ManxRADIO features educational historical and cultural videos specifically designed to be used in schools.
Podcasts in Manx
- The Manx Theatre Podcast hosts discussions which aim to bring Manx Theatre to life;
- The Manx Budget provides in-depth analysis into Isle of Man economics with expert guests and politicians;
- Manx Radio Dramas is a series of different radio dramas and productions made for Manx Radio.
- @manxheritage is an account that works to preserve and protect the Isle of Man’s national heritage sites;
- @manxnostalgia is an account sharing images and videos of the Isle of Man’s past;
- @BBCIsleofMan is the official account of the BBC for the Isle of Man and features the latest news.
Manx apps for smartphones
- Manx Radio AM is an app that allows you to stream Manx Radio’s services in high-quality stereo;
- Learn Manx is an app designed to introduce beginners to Manx Gaelic;
- Manx.net is the app of the homonymous website, which is Isle of Man’s most comprehensive online community.
Finding an online tutor of Manx
- Eurekly is a leading online learning platform where you can find numerous Manx tutors and native speakers;
- Just Learn is a distance learning website where you can find Manx online tutors to help you achieve your learning goals;
- Learn Manx is a website that constitutes a one-stop shop for all things Manx Gaelic.
Contributing to the preservation of the Manx language
Learning Manx is a fantastic way to contribute to the preservation of the language. If you want to go even further, you can assist the work of organizations such as the Manx Gaelic Society, the Manx Heritage Foundation or Friends of the Manx Language, which all work to serve the goal of protecting and spreading Manx Gaelic.
Profiting from the knowledge of Manx as a young researcher or doctor-to-be
Manx offers great opportunities for exploring unique research topics that have not been studied properly yet. Young speakers of Manx will be in a unique position to be able to effectively communicate with older generations, i.e. the people holding the keys to exploring the Isle of Man’s rich cultural past and history.
Choose a Gaelic dialect to learn!
The three Gaelic dialects, i.e. Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, and Manx, are currently experiencing a revival and benefiting from numerous language protection and preservation efforts led by the governments of Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man respectively. Learning to speak a Gaelic dialect allows individuals to deeply appreciate these unique, ancient languages and their cultures, and there are many resources available for online learners.
Learning Gaelic dialects on Eurekly
Eurekly gives learners the opportunity to take Gaelic language lessons with experienced native tutors from Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced speaker, Eurekly is one of the best online resources to help you reach your learning goals in no time!