July 9, 2009

There was a time when Gaelic was frowned on and Gaelic-speaking children were taught only in English. While such attitudes have changed, the Gaelic language, which was once the main means of communication in the Highlands, has been in decline – the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland is at an all-time low. But this week, at the 100th Royal National Mod, the major cultural event in the Gaelic calendar, the First Minister, Jack McConnell, announced that a Gaelic Language Bill will be introduced by the government into the Scottish Parliament. Details were sketchy, but the bill will recognise Gaelic as a language of Scotland for the first time and will require all public bodies to consider the need for Gaelic language plans in relation to their services.(2003)

Gaelic – A Foreign Language

Waterstone’s is a large, UK-wide, chain of booksellers with shops in all the main cities selling a wide range of books. But a tourist guide who was looking for a Gaelic dictionary in the Waterstone’s bookshop in Aberdeen was puzzled when he couldn’t find one. When he asked at the information desk, he was directed not to the Scottish books section, but to the area reserved for foreign language books. He raised the issue with the management who hastily thanked him for the “customer feedback” and said
Gaelic books would be in the Scottish section from now on.

To be fair, it may have been an aberration in Aberdeen – a city not known for the number of Gaelic speakers (they prefer the local Doric there). In Glasgow, that hot-bed of Gaelic speakers, a range of Gaelic dictionaries have always been available in the Scottish bookshelves.


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