Learning Scottish Gaelic

Duolingo Scottish Gaelic logo

Today marks a full year since I started learning Scottish Gaelic on Duolingo. I'm really enjoying it!

Tha mi air a bhith ag ionnsachadh Gàidhlig = I have been learning Gaelic.

Gaelic (or more properly, Gàidhlig) is in many ways more of a challenge than any foreign language I've ever studied. In the beginning, I kept muttering to myself, "This language has no rules!!" As I learned more, I saw that my first impression wasn't really accurate. It's not that Gàidhlig has no rules; it's just that the spelling, and sometimes the word order, changes depending on a number of different factors, some of which (like lenition) don't exist in English. So it takes a lot of practice to get the hang of it!

So far I have completed 48 out of 69 units in Duolingo's Scottish Gaelic course. (Yes, that means it's taken me a full year just to get about 69% of the way through the course!) I try to spend about an hour on it every day, as you can see from my stats for last week:

Duolingo stats 2

The course combines written and audio lessons, so that you get practice in reading, writing, and listening to native speakers. There's a lot of review and repetition built into the exercises, to practice concepts you may have had trouble with. Duolingo uses "gamification" techniques, like awarding points for reaching each new level, and I am finding that rather addictive.

Math fhèin! Cùm a' dol! = Excellent! Keep going!

Learning Gàidhlig vocabulary can be quite challenging. Many words and expressions in Gàidhlig bear little or no resemblance to their English equivalents, so there is a lot of memorization required. I've always been good at languages (I was a straight A student in French all through high school) and I'm finding Gàidhlig much more difficult. It takes a fair amount of repetition just to keep the words straight. But eventually, if I see and/or hear the word enough times, it sinks in.

It's entertaining to me when I learn a new word that I've heard on the OUTLANDER TV show. For example, you may recall in Episode 101, "Sassenach", when Murtagh first rescues Claire from Black Jack Randall, he says something to her that sounds like "Trooit!", motioning urgently for her to follow. I see now that he was saying, "Trobhad!" (Come here!)

What about the rest of you? Have you ever taken a course in Scottish Gaelic, either in-person or online? If you know of any good online resources for learning Gàidhlig, please leave a comment here or on my Outlandish Observations Facebook page.

One site I like very much is LearnGaelic.scot. I recently discovered that they post a "Gaelic Word of the Day" ("Facal an latha") on Twitter here, which you might enjoy.

Looking for translations of the Gàidhlig used in the OUTLANDER TV show? Check out my friend Mandy Tidwell's Great Scot blog.

Here are the links to the "How to Speak Outlander" videos that STARZ released during Season 1.

Finally, here's a recording of Duncan Innes's caithris from DRUMS OF AUTUMN, provided by the Gaelic singer Cathy-Ann MacPhee some years ago.


Stephanie Jane @ My WorldReads said...

I'm a Duolingo Scottish Gaelic learner too. I've got to section 43 in a little over a year and am still very enjoying my daily lessons. I also listen to the SpeakGaelic podcasts - I think a new series is starting up soon - and have recently starting listening to the weekly An Litir Bheag podcasts too. These are only each about t3-4 minutes long and, admittedly, I haven't fully understood one yet, but it is encouraging that I am definitely able to follow more now than, say, three months ago.

Unknown said...

I am glad to hear your comments on this. I did do the free version for a while but came to the conclusion that I would not be able to do well unless I was actually with Gaelic speakers. Your info on the oral aspect of the lessons is encouraging. I may have to reconsider.

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