Gaelic Baby Talk – 2

My daughter Róisín will be 3 in November, and I have spoken Gàidhlig exclusively to her all of her life. Still, we live in a very anglophone community, I work full-time and I’m the only person she hears speaking Gàidhlig (apart from the occasional reinforcement offered by my wife).

It’s a real challenge to try to maintain the language in the home, especially when resources are scarce and Gàidhlig is a minoritized language. She’s already intuitively catching on to these asymmetries of prestige and dominance. How can I keep her engaged despite these difficulties?

Children have two characteristics that I have realized could be exploited for certain aspects of language learning/teaching at this age:

  1. Vanity – they like attention and things that highlight themselves;
  2. They enjoy being oppositional to parents.

Although she enjoys videos in general, and I’ve managed to procure a few Gàidhlig videos for us to watch together, she really enjoys seeing herself on video. She likes to watch and re-watch the videos I’ve made of her, and since she speaks Gàidhlig in them, it actually seems to reinforce her interest. She even imitates herself in them.

In the course of her emerging opposition, we developed a little “opposites” word game that I believe helps reinforce her vocabulary. She is supposed to respond to the opposite of whatever word I say to her in Gàidhlig.

So, for whatever it’s worth, here’s a little video of us interacting: (a) the opposites word game, (b) me asking her where various body parts are, and (c) singing a song together (“Tha mi sgìth”).

8 thoughts on “Gaelic Baby Talk – 2

  1. I understand, from people who’ve done this with other minority languages, that so long as one parent uses the language consistently with the child, then the language will be acquired.

    However, knowing a language is not the same as ‘owning’ it, which again is not the same as using it. Children generally acquire the language (and accent!) of the wider community once they’re old enough to have much social interaction beyond the home. So your daughter might will lose interest in the language at that stage, unless there are others, outside friends, relatives etc. who make it seem like a ‘real language’ not just ‘Daddy’s hobby’. She may never lose her ability, but might see no practical use for it.

    Then there is the question of opportunity. Even if your daughter becomes an enthusiastic supporter of the language, she can only use it in her later life in situations where there are other speakers. This of course is the problem faced by most adult learners also. You can create very many isolated speakers, but if they’re scattered around the country and not in any kind of regular contact, then they will be unable to use (and indeed develop) their ability in the language, since it takes two to have a conversation.

    This is a big problem with all the minority language, not just in Scotland, but in Ireland, Wales, Cornwall … everywhere where the traditional geographic communities are much reduced or non-existent. Without some kind of strategy for community-building, much of the effort currently going into helping people to learn the local minority language will be wasted.

    Ach dèan do dhìcheall-sa agus Cothrom na Féinne dhuit. Có aig tha fios gu dé’n seòrsa eòin a thig as an ugh seo.

    • Language revitalisation is one of the most complex and challenging social issues I’ve encountered, but there are thousands of groups working on exactly this issue for many different languages (native and immigrant) across North America. Your caveats are essentially legitimate ones that I’ve commented upon before, though your assumptions about the goals of such work do not entirely apply.

      There are many different approaches and rationales for this. and I have summarised a bit about these where Gaelic is concerned, and the North American context, in previous blog entries, especially these three:

      https://virtualgael.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/gaelic-baby-talk-1/
      https://virtualgael.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/revitalizing-gaelic-in-nova-scotia/
      https://virtualgael.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/from-highlanders-to-tar-heels-part-1/

      Anglophone countries are notoriously insular, smug and ignorant about the rest of the world. Improving the ability to understand and engage fruitfully with non-Anglo communities is vitally important for many reasons in our global village.

      There is no better way to build linguistic capacity and consciousness in people than exposing them to a second language while young (which is why Spanish- and Chinese-medium schools are relatively common in the US, inc in the area where we currently live). Language not only opens the mind to alternative ways of seeing and being in the world, it can help form empathetic bridges to other communities, and a minoritised one can be a powerful one in that respect.

      You seem strangely dismissive of the value of the Gaelic language and culture (“Daddy’s hobby”), but perhaps you have your own issues to resolve about this.

  2. Gabh no lethsgeul, nuair a sgrìobh mi cha robh fhios am nach robh thu ‘sa RA, agus cha robh droch-mhian sam bith agamsa. Bha beagan bheachd a’ dol timcheall ‘nam inntinn agus thachair gun robh an seo a thàinig iad a-mach.

    ‘S dòcha gum bith mi air ais an déidh móran shùl a thoirt air do stuth sgrìobhte. Ach cuir as na tha mise air a sgrìobhadh an seo nam bitheadh tu ‘nam beachd gu bheil e mì-mhisneachail.

  3. Tha e follaiseach air fad gu bheil u air falbh sìos rathad air leth an sin, a charaid. Shin na dearbh ghnothaichean a b’ àbhaist dhomh·is dèanamh nair a bha a’ chlann fìor òg. Chan urrainn dhuit an corr a dhèanamh. Co-thiù, theaga’ gun ùisneachamh tu “seadh” an àite “yeah”!

    Innsidh mi dhuit a-nis mar a nì mise an gnothach a’ Gháidhlig a chumail aig cridhe ghnothaichean an seo. Chan eil duine sam bith làmh ruinn aig a bheil ùidh ann an bruidhinn ruinn, gead a tha corra dhiucha fanachd mun cuairt.

    ‘S mar sin, ‘s fheudar dhuinn Gáidhealtachd a ghleidheil taobh staigh an taighe. Nì mise sin le bhith toirt seachad beachd air dé a th’ ann am Beurla ‘s dé a th’ ann an Gáidhlig.

    Bhon fhìor-thóiseachd, dh’innis mi dhaibh nach e Beurla ach na h-inneal leis am bith ead a’ bruidhinn ris a’ chorr den t-saoghal. Chan eil cutram innte idir, ‘s e rud ùiseil a th’ innte ‘s shin agad i a-mhàin. A’ Gháidhlig ge-tà, their mi, shin agaibh fuil ur cuislean, fasgamh sa ghaillean ‘s mar a thubhairt Murchadh còir MacPhàrlain, claidhe nur làmh. Nair a tha ur saoghal dorcha, cha ruig sibh leas ach Gáidhlig a bhruidhinn no a sheinn ‘s gheobh sibh dreach á sin.

    Thig sinn uile comhla a h-uile h-oidhche chum òrain a sheinn ‘s sgeultan a thoirt seachad ás an dùthaich air son an saoghal mar a chì sinn e mar Gháidheil a chumail beò.

    Chan eil e ceadaichte san taigh againn Beurla a bhruidhinn am measg nan Gáidheal. Faodaidh ead Beurla a bhruidhinn ri duine sam bith eile anns an t-saoghal aig nach eil Gáidhlig, ach chan fhaod ead Beurla a bhruidhinn ri chéile air dòigh sam bith, aig uair sam bith. Bithidh ead a’ bruidhinn Beurla ris am máir ge-tà ‘s mar sin, tha ‘d fileanta innte. B’ fheàrr nach bitheamh facal ga bruidhinn san taigh idir, ach chan eil Gáidhlig aig mo bhean ge bu ghoirt a dh’fheuch mi a teagasg, tha a comasan ri fhaodainn taobh mach saoghal nan cànan ‘s nach mór ead gu dearbh!

    Faodaidh a’ chlann leughamh ann an cànan sam bith a thogras ead, faodaidh ead seinn ann an cànan sam bith a thogras ead, ach chan fhaod ead aon fhacal de Bheurla a ràdh ris a chéile. Shin agad an dearbh rud a th’ air a bhith dhìth. Tha na Gáidheil fo eagal air fad gun tréig na daoin’ òga a’ chànan ma bhitheas sinn tuilidh sa chòir cruaidh orra, ach tha ‘m beachd sin air a stéidheachamh ann am Beurla mar rudaigin cumhachdail, cutramach. Chan e sin am beachd a bheireas mise seachad don chloinn agam. ‘S e Gáidhlig a’ chànan as briagh fo ghréin ‘s chan eil Beurla ach na deideag air a’ chladach ri a taobh. Dé mar as urrainn dhuit a bhith cruaidh air cuideigin nair is e rudaigin bòidheach a tha u toirt seachad dhaibh? ‘S e “cruaidh” air a h-ùisneachamh mar sin, a leigeil air a’ ghnothach gu bheil dìth Bheurla na bochdainn! Chan e idir, gu sònraichte leis gum faigh a’ chlann an leòr dhith ann an àite sam bith a théid ead, an dà chuid an Albann ‘s fa bheil usa, a Mhìcheil.

    ‘S e a’ chomhairle as motha a th’ agam·sa do dhaoine eile gum feum ead a bhith daingean air fad. Theirinn gum bu chòir dhuinn uile feuchainn air a’ Gháidhlig as glaine, as siubhlaiche as urrainn dhuinn bruidhinn ‘s an sin, cha bhith aithricheas ann. Tha tuilidh sa chòir Gháidheil ann a-nis nach do ghabh móran suim ri sin ‘s nach duirt gas ris an clann nair a bhruidhinn ead Beurla agas a-nis chan eil dad ach aithreachas ann agas dìth Gháidhlig uasach air an clann.

    Ma chumas tu ort mar a tha u ‘s mar an striochd u a-chaoidh fo impidh saoghal na Beurla, bithidh sibh gasta. Chan e “cur-seachad Bhobain” a tha seo, ‘s e an rud a th’ agaibh comhla tuilidh air a’ ghaol fhéin a chumas sibh dlùth ris a’ chéile gu bràth….

    Theirinn gu bheil e fuasach cutramach gun do thug u ainm Gáidhlig dhith. Dé chuireas ise ort ‘hé?

    Seo an fheamhainn agam·sa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKcl0l-n8_k

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