Goraidh - A Gaelic Language Tutor

Suas Leis a' Ghàidhlig!

How to Learn Gaelic - Tips and Resources

How to Learn Gaelic

Tips and Resources

Congratulations on making an excellent choice! Learning Gaelic is fun and provides a window into a rich, ancient, and contemporary culture.

I get asked questions about learning Gaelic all the time! What follows is some guidance to common questions that I am asked.

Literacy & Fluency

There is a difference between fluency and literacy. Fluency is the ability to speak a language. This is the way most human beings have operated as many societies were non-literate (nothing was written) or illiterate (where only an elite may have been educated in reading and writing) - until recently. The valuing and expectation of literacy is a relatively recent development. It was once believed that to be truly educated, one needed to know (Ancient) Greek and Latin. These languages were not in common usage, so literacy became important for accessing learnedness. Language classes were developed to facilitate learning (Ancient) Greek and Latin, which provide a template still used in language classes to this day.

However, as anyone who has taken a foreign language course knows, the template developed to unlock (Ancient) Greek and Latin may result in a degree of literacy and conversational ability, it rarely results in fluency. To do that, an immersive learning technique is required.

The best option is to go to the place where the language is spoken and immerse yourself in it. There are a couple problems with this, however. Most adults do not have the option to suspend their lives in order to go to Scotland (or Nova Scotia) to become fluent. Also, Scottish Gaelic has the difficulty of all Gaelic speakers also being English speakers. The temptation to simply revert to English is high. This is not to say that it is impossible however.

There are two programs that I have experienced that help with fluency. The first is Language Hunters, a game based system of discovery. The other is Total Immersion Plus, developed by Finlay MacLeoid at The Moray Language Center. This methodology is called Gàidhlig aig Baile in Nova Scotia and has been used there to increase the Gaelic speaking population.

Finlay has developed a Learning Gaelic on Your Own Course, which is available to buy via PayPal. He can be reached at finlaymlc@btinternet.com . Language Hunters is available in the Seattle/Portland/Vancouver area through Seumas Gagne (see below).

Books

(Check The Gaelic Books Council (link below) for availability)
  • Ceumannan (Stòrlann) - A series of four textbooks and e-books. This is a very thorough program designed for Scottish secondary schools. Everything is available online if you know where to look (http://www.storlann.co.uk/ceumannan/). There are numerous exercises and an audio program. I use this for my private tutoring. See the link below under 'Resources (Book)'.
  • Colloquial Scottish Gaelic (Katie Graham) - I have the older (2001) version of this book, which is good. I have not seen the newer edition (2014). This program starts with dialogs and uses the speech reveal the grammar. The audio program was a separate purchase for me, making this a very expensive program to buy. I would say that this is a middle of the road approach to phrase-based language and grammar. It is good, but not my favorite.
  • Complete Gaelic (Robertson & Taylor) - This is the updated version of 'Teach Yourself Gaelic'. Get the one that comes with CDs if you can [UPDATE: I hear that the version with the CDs is now out of print and out of stock! If you want it, you'll have to get it used.]. I do not believe the audio program has changed between the older and newer versions. This has a related (GOOD) dictionary called Essential Gaelic Dictionary (formerly, Teach Yourself Gaelic Dictionary) and supplemental audio program called Speak Gaelic with Confidence (formerly, Teach Yourself Gaelic Conversation) The dictionary and supplemental audio program are separate purchases. This uses a phrase based methodology with grammar explanations. 
  • Scottish Gaelic in Three Months (Hugo) - See Scottish Gaelic in Twelve Weeks. The audio program for this book is ok, but not very complete as the program goes along. Old spelling conventions are used. 
  • Scottish Gaelic in Twelve Weeks - (Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh and Ian MacAonghuis) This is the updated version of Scottish Gaelic in Three Months, with a new audio program and new spelling conventions. The advantage of this program is that the audio doesn't go into explanations, meaning you can set your player to 'repeat' and drill pronunciation without having to listen to explanations over and over. This book is good as a grammar reference but can be light on explanations or provide too much concise information at crucial moments. I have used this book as a text in my classes for many years. 
  • Scottish Gaelic (Levels 1-4) by Muriel Fisher - This is the program that I learned from. Muriel Fisher is a native speaker from the Isle of Skye who teaches at the University of Arizona. Contact her directly (link below) to purchase her materials. There are 4 Levels of study. Each level has a book and CD set. 
  • Speaking Our Language (Cànan) - This program at one time included 5 workbooks, 72 television programs and 9 cassette tapes that were all coordinated with each other. The books and the TV programs are still available. TV programs are available now on DVD! YAY! This is one of the programs I use when teaching. Phrase based methodology with some grammar explanations. Much of the content can be found on learngaelic.scot.
  • Teach Yourself Gaelic (Robertson & Taylor) - See 'Complete Gaelic'
  • Teach Yourself Gaelic (Roderick Mackinnon) - Old version of the book which is excellent for grammar. Uses old spellings. No audio program (that I've ever found). 

Book-purchasing


The Zero to Gaelic Master Index (Ted ‘Brian’ Neveln) - This is a chart which lists common Gaelic grammar points, which confound Gaelic learners, and lists where you can look up those topics in common or popular Gaelic textbooks. VERY HELPFUL!

Also, check out the free Gaelic Orthographic Conventions PDF under Resources (Books, Apps, etc.) for more information on spelling rules, accents, etc.

Twitter users might want to follow:
The Scottish Gaelic Texts Society (Twitter)
Scottish Booksore (Twitter)
Gaelic Books Council (Twitter)

Pronunciation help

  • The Gaelic-English Dictionary, by Colin Mark, Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0-415-29761-3., has 19 pages of pronunciation guide.
  • Blas na Gàidhlig, by Michael Bauer, Akerbeltz, 2011, ISBN 978-1-907165-00-9., is a large volume all about Gaelic pronunciation. There's a related website with audio (see Akerbeltz below).
  • Akerbeltz.org (Check out 'Fuaimean na Gàidhlig' for the pronunciation guide)

Teachers

Of course I would recommend learning Gaelic with the help of a teacher, like me! That's why you've found my website or Facebook page! I have classes online via Zoom/Skype, at my home, and at Seattle Central College. Teachers are essential because they fill in the gaps that textbooks have and provide essential assistance and feedback on pronunciation. For more information, continue exploring my website, or email me: geoffrey (at) gaelicseattle.com.

But there are many excellent teachers and classes out there. To name a few:
  • Muriel Fisher - (Tucson, AZ) A native speaker from the Isle of Skye, from whom I learned the Gàidhlig. She teaches private lessons and credit classes at the University of Arizona.
  • Seumas Gagne - (Seattle, WA) A musician and expert Gaelic language teacher who uses the Language Hunters methodology.
In Seattle, you will want to check out Slighe nan Gaidheal. There are groups people people learning Gàidhlig in Boise, Idaho, and Portland, Oregon, also.

Elsewhere, you will want to use these websites to find local teachers:

There is also the North American Association of Celtic Language Teachers (NAACLT)

Courses (In person and distance learning)

NOTE: Due to Covid-19, most classes are now offered online. Check with the programs below to confirm.

  • Seattle Central College - MY CLASSES (Take them!)
  • University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ, USA - in person)
  • Slighe nan Gaidheal (Seattle, WA, USA - in person) Gaelic Intensive Days, Feis Seattle
  • Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (Scotland-An Cùrsa Inntrigidh (beginners) and An Cùrsa Adhartais (advanced). I took both these programs and greatly enjoyed them. The summer short courses are great, too.)
  • Atlantic Gaelic Academy (Canada-Distance learning) a.k.a. AGA
  • Colaiste na Gàidhlig (Nova Scotia, Canada)
  • Sgoil Ghàidhlig an Àrd-Bhaile (Nova Scotia, Canada immersion courses-in person) Using Gàidhlig aig Baile methodology.
  • Daily Gaelic (distance learning)
  • Online Gaelic Courses with Ann Desseyn
  • Àrainneachd, Cànan is Dualchas - Scottish Gaelic language, nature and the environment
  • italki online video teaching with a teacher
  • Moray Language Centre - If you want to learn to speak quickly, the Total Immersion Plus program methodology is the way to go. I took the tutor training course and it was intense but extremely productive. Finlay has a number of different types of courses but for those not in Scotland, the Learning Gaelic on your Own course might be useful. The course manual can be purchased online via PayPal for £15 HERE (link takes you to a Facebook page with the PayPal button). You won't get reading/writing or grammar - Finlay's program is all about speaking to a fluent level quickly.

Other schools, colleges, and universities

Resources (Media)

Resources (Digitalia, Apps, and Other Websites)


Select Twitter accounts

Resources (Blogs)

Resources (Online Dictionaries, Pronunciation, Grammar, IPA)

Resources (Children, teachers and new learners)

Resources (Conversation and Advanced Learners)

Gaelic Cultural Groups & Learners Groups

Music, Festivals, and other Arts

Music is one of the major ways people connect with the language and culture of the Gaels.

Festivals

Musicians & Bands

Seattle Area:

Theatre

Government(ish) Agencies

Additions? Any of the links need updating? Please let me know!

Updated 29 July 2020
Land acknowledgement

I acknowledge that we live on the unceded lands of the Coast Salish People, such as the
Duwamish, whose ancestors resided here since time immemorial and whose descendants are with us today, honoring and bringing to life their ancient heritage.