Tiree School Kids Beat Microsoft

July 9, 2009

Campaigners who are trying to keep Gaelic alive had been planning to ask Microsoft to include a custom spell-checker in the Office suite for the ancient language. The giant software company recently released a spell-checker for Irish Gaelic but the Foundation for Endangered Languages says that Gaelic is 1,135th in the table of about 2,000 known languages with fully developed written systems. So the chances of Bill Gates investing in the development was probably remote. But seven sixth-year pupils at Tiree High School have already beaten them to it anyway. They devised the software as part of a Young Enterprise competition – and are already selling it on CD for £18.50. The spell-checker examines word processing documents and underlines in red any which are incorrect and offers a list of alternatives. But it is not as sophisticated as standard Microsoft products and does not have a full Gaelic lexicon. It was the first time for many years that the school on the island of Tiree had enough sixth-year pupils to enter the competition. There are now less than 60,000 people left in Scotland still speaking Gaelic, though there are also a number of Gaelic speakers in other parts of the world, especially on the eastern seaboard of Canada. Bord na Gàidhlig, or the Gaelic Board, argues that a spell-checker would help students to combat the dominance of Scotland’s English-speaking majority. Rampant Scotland 2004

Thig crioch air an t-saoghal ach mairidh gaol agus ceòl. The world will come to an end but music and love will endure.

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