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Dear Ed, – I write in response to the recent correspondence by two of your readers regarding their objection to teaching Gaelic to school children.
Both were at pains (lest we, in our ignorance didn’t know) to explain that Gaelic was not the language of the lowland Scot, pointing out the Anglo Saxon and Nordic roots in both our language and place names.
Yes, this is true; the language also includes Latin, Greek, Flemish, Dutch, French (and much more) in its origin; in fact, if we travel far enough back in time all languages have a common origin.
I’m sure when we walked out of Africa we all spoke the same language.
Linguistic similarities can be found throughout the world; some Gaelic words have very close association with words found in North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.
Language develops and changes according to the life experience, culture, climate and geographic location of its user (note that the Scots have many words for rain while the Greeks have only one).
This, however, does not mean that a people’s linguistic inheritance is of no value and should be allowed to die because it doesn’t suit the dominant culture.
Scotland has several distinct languages; Scots Gaelic, Doric and Lallans (a variant of the modern Scots word ‘lawlands’ meaning the lowlands of Scotland). All are worthy of being saved from the linguistic ethnic cleansing they have undergone over several centuries.
It is true that historically, Gaelic was spoken in the highlands, western isles, Argyll and Galloway; Doric mainly in the North East; and Lallans in the Scottish Borders but it must be borne in mind that most lowland Scots share common ancestry with all of these people.
While history is invariably written by the winners, I doubt that many Scots have forgotten the huge upheaval experienced by our recent forebears, forcibly removed from their ancestral homes and dispersed throughout Scotland and abroad. It took my research into only three generations of my family to find that of my eight Great Grandparents, only two had lowland names. Five had names from the western isles and one from the north east.
Just as we were ethnically cleansed from our land, so was our language attacked. Gaelic was all but banned after 1745, certainly in the classroom. I remember being chastised at school for using a lowland Scots word and admonished to “speak the Queen’s English”.
As a child I witnessed Glaswegian classmates being disciplined for referring to their own city as “Glesga” or “Glesgie”, both of which, as we all should know, is closer to its Gaelic origin “Ghluscha”.
I have a close friend who was physically beaten at school for speaking Gaelic; a profound and disturbing experience for a child whose first language was Gaelic and who, at the time, had few English words.
Given these experiences, within living memory, is it any wonder that our linguistic inheritance is threatened and that many Scots view their own colourful and expressive languages as something more akin to a lower form of speech?
That these dire experiences are being addressed by a few enlightened educationalists, engaged in actively encouraging children to express themselves in their own language, is to be applauded.
We have long known the learning advantages gained by children who are introduced to different linguistic sounds at an early age. It is well proven that to be bilingual at an early age increases the chances of being multilingual in later life.
Among my ‘New Scots’ friends are one from Cyprus and another from the Indian sub-continent who clearly see this value, as they both have been well-schooled in the colonial experience.
That this enlightened approach may be too little, too late and do nothing to dry the tears and heal the wounds of our parents and grandparents, we at least owe them an attempt to preserve as much evidence as possible of their existence.
I, for one, will resist the homogenised, Anglicisation of my cultural and linguistic heritage and, regardless of how many Gaelic speakers remain, will defend their language to the last one speaking, writing or reading it. – Yours etc.,
Check the facts!
Dear Ed, – (Gaelic - Revisited). Following a recent letter by my colleague Councillor Ed Archer concerning the teaching of Gaelic in schools and the Scottish Government’s “waste of money as such”.
I wish to clarify the correct position.
The Scottish Government is committed to supporting ALL of Scotland’s indigenous languages, including Gaelic.
The economic and cultural benefits that continuing education in such languages will bring to Scotland will promote a more positive and vibrant society.
Councillor Archer is incorrect in his statement that the Scottish Government has “instituted a Gaelic programme for all local authority areas”.
There is NO such programme or any expectation that local authorities need to find £10 million per annum for five years to support Gaelic.
Albeit the Scottish government is keen to support any local authority who is seeking to expand Gaelic education in their area.
The government is currently working with public bodies across Scotland to promote this.
I am happy to provide any constituent with details of departmental officials within the Scottish Government to clarify this information.
In future, I suggest that Councillor Archer checks his facts, before launching into print with incorrect and ambiguous comments. – Yours etc.,
COUNCILLOR VIVIENNE SHAW,
SNP, Clydesdale North Ward.
Dear Ed, – I read with interest the last two weeks of discussion about the history of the Scottish tongue.
Perhaps it would be remiss of me not to point out that should the peoples of this Nation vote for an Independent Scotland and move towards the European collective, then history would not matter one jot, and other languages would by direction have to be taught in our schools.
It would not be a matter of the languages of our fathers but may even be the language of the fatherland. – Yours etc.,