In recent months, ACGA has been taking a closer look at what we’re calling “Gaelic-Learning Communities.” There may not be many Gaelic-speaking communities in North America, outside Eastern Canada, but Gaelic-learning communities may be found everywhere. Do you belong to one of these communities?
It’s good to first recognize what they are. To date, “Gaelic-learning community” has principally been used to refer to Gaelic learners as a whole, i.e. “the Gaelic-learning community of Scotland,” the overall number of people learning Gaelic in Scotland.
We’ve got a new definition:
A community of Scottish Gaelic learners living in a particular place or region, such as New York, Toronto, Seattle or Dallas.
An online or virtual community of Gaelic learners, connected via the Internet.
A Gaelic-learning community is not an official class, though it may include a study group and formal classes. It may be focused on other activities involving the language, from social evenings to group outings. It may consist of people living close to each other who take an online course and meet only occasionally. In short, the Gaelic-learning community is a network of people who want to learn Scottish Gaelic.
Gaelic learners need interaction with other learners and speakers. Many ACGA members have expressed a strong desire to join a “community” of Gaelic learners and speakers, both local, national and international. That’s often why they come to ACGA, seeking that a doorway to that community.
There’s obviously a need to better connect local Gaelic Learning Communities and individuals throughout North America. ACGA’s Membership and Outreach Committee was tasked by the Board of Directors with surveying teachers and study groups known to ACGA as a first step in identifying Gaelic-Learning Communities or “GLCs” and determining how ACGA could assist them. The initial survey will soon be available on this website. We’ve already followed up with surveys sent to individual Gaelic learners.
Eventually, the survey results will help ACGA create and publish a new list of Gaelic-Learning Communities. The first step though, is identifying where those communities are. Some major metropolitan areas, naturally, have stronger GLCs – New York, Toronto, Seattle, Washington DC, Baltimore, Denver. But we’ve heard from people who want to start communities in Oklahoma City, rural North Carolina and the Southwest.
How can you help? You can help us “map” the Gaelic Learning Communities of North America. If you belong to such a group, or would like to form one, let us know. We will eventually change our Classes and Distance Learning page to a Gaelic Learning Communities page, with more information where to find a GLC, what they do, and how to start one, if you’ve got a couple of people and the required misneachd!
The Scottish Gaelic periodicals published in Nova Scotia in the early 20th Century contained many short stories and news bulletins that are interesting, information and often amusing, opening a window into the world of the Gaelic reader in times past.
We’ll be publishing occasional selections of these bits or “criomagan” of news for visitors to our website both as a learning exercise and for fun. Try your hand at translating them!
This first criomag is from the first issue of Fear na Céilidh, March 1928, Vol, 1, No. 1. The sentiment rings true today:
“Leis gach gnìomh oillteil air am faighear fios anns na pàipeirean, tha daoine buailteach air bhi smaoineachadh gu’m bheil an saoghal a’ sìor dhol dh’ionnsaidh an uilc. Ach feumar a chuimhneachadh gu’m bheil cùisean air atharrachadh gu mòr o chionn dà fhichead no leth-cheud bliadhna. Aig an am sin cha bhiodh de naidheachdan aig an t-sluagh ach na thigeadh à earainn bhig de’n dùthaich fhèin: bhiodh mort (ag)us reubainn a’ dol air adhart an dùthchannan eile air nach faigheadh iad forfhais ri’m beò. An-diugh, bithear a’ faighinn brath a h-uile latha as gach cearna de’n t-saoghal, agus ‘s i an droch-sgeul a’s luaithe ruigeas sinn.”
The connection between the Gaelic language and the landscape of Scotland (and Ireland and Man) runs deep. “The land speaks to us through our language,” Ruairidh MacIlleathain or Roddy Maclean said in “Gaelic in the Landscape,” a study of place-names in the Northwest Highlands.
“The backbone of our place-name heritage is Gaelic and, for a better understanding of our landscape, it is necessary to understand our language,” MacIlleathain said.
The Gaels did not literally “create” their landscape when they named each beinn and gleann, allt and cnoc, but they did create a lens through which they perceived the landscape in which they lived and expressed their relationship to it.
Place names that translated or transliterated into English might leave a traveler bemused or indifferent can resonate with meaning for a Gaelic speaker, especially one who has lived in intimate contact with the local landscape and environment.
But landscape as perceived through the Gaelic language is about more than just moorland and machair. It’s the bedrock on which accretive layers of history and legend have been laid that tie people to place together in ways fast being forgotten.
MacIlleathain hopes to illustrate this connection in a weekend course June 16-19 in Kindrogan, Scotland. The Inverness-based Gaelic journalist (creator of the popular Litir do Luchd Ionnsachaidh podcast for Gaelic learners) will take participants to locations associated with legends of Fionn MacCumhail and his warrior-band, the Fèinn or “Fingalians.”
Attendees will “explore some of these stories (through English translations) and visit places where they are rooted in our landscape in place-names, old manuscript records and oral tradition,” according to the course description.
The course includes visits to sites in Glenshee associated with the story of the doomed lovers, Diarmaid and Gràinne, as well as Aberfeldy, Killin (Finn’s Grave), and Glen Lyon.
More information on the program is available here from the Field Studies Council. This is a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation of the Gaelic language and culture and the Scottish landscape — and how truly intertwined they are.
Two classic Scottish Gaelic songs — Gillean Ghleann Dail for men and A Fhleasgaich Òig as Ceanalta for women — were chosen as prescribed songs for the Gold Medal competition at the U.S. National Mòd this September. These are both highly popular songs that have been recorded by several artists, including Arthur Cormack, Flora MacNeill and Maggie MacInnes.
The men’s prescribed song, Gillean Ghleann Dàil (“Lads of Glendale”) was composed by Iain Dubh MacLeòid, known as Iain Dubh Dhòmhnaill nan Òran (Black Iain son of Donald of the Songs). The song is a warning to the young men of Glendale on the West Coast of Skye about the hardships of life at sea in the 19th century. Iain’s brother Niall MacLeòid is a famous 19th century Gaelic Bàrd or poet, best known for his collection Clàrsach an Doire (1893), which may contain some songs by Iain Dubh. The works the father and both sons are featured in “The Glendale Bards,” edited by Meg Bateman and Ann Loughran (Birlinn, 2014).
The women’s prescribed song, A Fhleasgaich Òig as Ceanalta (“O Young and Gentle Lad”) allegedly was composed by one Ceit NicFhionghain of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. Our version has the object of her affection being a MacPhàil from Mull, though there are several different but closely related versions.