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Last Day of the Gaels


Today the language of Scotland is English. But until 1616, when James I forbade people to speak Gaelic, Gaelic had been the language of the Highlands and islands for fifteen hundred years. Scots Gaelic is a Celtic language, related to Welsh and to Irish Gaelic. Today only about 89,000 people speak Gaelic. They live mainly in the Hebridean islands and in some parts of the Highlands. Quite a lot of effort is being made to keep the language and culture alive. For example, there are daily broadcasts on radio and TV; students can take Gaelic as a subject in the School Leaving Certificate; more and more people are going to evening classes to learn the language.

1. Why is it important to speakers of minority languages like Gaelic to keep their language alive?

2. Are there any minority languages like Gaelic in your country?


Learn some and find out!

1. Read the conversation and translate it into English. Use the Grammar Notes and Vocabulary to help you.

2. Practise reading the conversation aloud with a partner.
Aon Ciamar a tha thu?

Catriona is visiting her neighbour Anna. She is about to when Anna's husband Jan arrives home from work.


Hallo. Ciamar a tha thu?


Hallo. Kemmer a ha oo?

Tha mi gu math. Tha mi sgith. Ciamar a tha thu, Catriona?

Ha mee go ma. Ha mee skee. Kemmer a ha oo katreena?


Tha gu math, tapadh leat.


Ha goo ma, tahpa lat.

An gabh thu cofaidh, Ian?


An gav oo koffee, eean?

Gabhaidh. Tapadh leat.

Gavee. Tahpa lat.


An gabh thu cofaidh, Catriona?


An gav oo koffee, katreena?

Cha ghabh. Tapadh leat. Tha mi sgith.

Cha ghav. Tahpa lat. Ha mee skee.

(She gets up to go home).

Oidhche mhath, Anna. Oidhche mhath, Ian.


*Oicha va, anna. *Oicha va, eean.

Oidche mhath Catriona.


*Oicha va, katreena.

Oidhche mhath.

*0icha, va.

* Pronounce eh as in Scots loch or German Tochter

Grammar notes

The verb 'to be': Present tense tha mi I am

tha thu you are (to a friend)
tha e he is

tha i she is

tha sinn we are

tha sibh you are (formally or plural) tha iad they are.

YES and NO.

In Gaelic there are no words for yes and no. To say 'yes', repeat the verb used in the question. To say 'no' use cha before repeating the verb in the question. Find examples of'yes' and 'no' in the conversation.


sgith: tired

tapadh leat: thank you

uisge-beatha: whisky

oidhche mhath: good night

Ciamar a tha thu?: How are you?

An gabh thu...?: Will vou have...?

Task V. Read the following text, do the tasks.

Last Day of the Gaels

Six small children sit in a school corridor in Broadford on the Isle of Skye reading and chatting in Gaelic. They are the last of a dying tribe, the northern remnant of what was once a glorious Celtic culture stretching far across the European continent. In their time the Celts produced fine ballads and outstanding art, keeping the light of Christian culture burning while the rest of Britain languished in the Dark Ages.

Now the Gaelic children of Skye are reading translations of Biff and Chip's Birthday Party and Pip and the Little Monkey in their native tongue. The teaching materials are all improvised. Only a few years ago the Gaelic language was proscribed in school and it is not long since any child who spoke it in the classroom was severely beaten. Only 473 Scots children under five still speak Gaelic according to the last

census, in 1981.

Yet Skye was once thought of as the heart of the Gaeltachd, the land of the Gaels. The only large concentration of Gaelic speakers still left on the island live on the north-east tip, the Staffin peninsula. This parish is of the last redoubts of the northern Gaels. All around the Gaelic culture may be dying, but in Slaffin the traditional community survives.

Main Ross, who lives in Staffin, commutes daily to Portree to work in the Caledonian Cafe. According to her, all the children in Staffin know Gaelic but seldom use it now. They dropped it when they went to school in Portree. At the Portree high school the other children teased the Gaelic speakers, calling them teuchtars - that is, bumpkins (uneducated people of the land).

"It doesn't bother me," says Mairi "but some of the other Staffin kids get very upset. I now feel comfier speaking in English. Gaelic will probably die out. It's a shame but people just aren't bothering.

The older crofters are little more enthusiastic. "It's a good language," says John Mackenzie, a crofter whose brother runs the village shop in Staffin. "But I'm not sure it's a hundred per cent necessary. And the young people are not very keen: the newcomers seem far more interested than the locals."

"The Gaelic pressure groups are full of London newcomers," said one of the teachers at Broadford. "They stick a tuft of heather in each ear, dress up in kilts and start learning Gaelic. But the young people here aren't interested. Gaelic is presented as something that's one million year old. They think it doesn't get you anywhere; you just on your croft and stay poor. As far as they're concerned, It's better to learn English and head south."

Task 1. Match these synonyms with the words underlined in the first three paragraphs:

a) banned d) strongholds

b) remains e) lost it strength

c) mass f) invented

Task 2. Read the same paragraphs again. Complete the table with brief notes on the differences between the past (then) and the present (now).


  then now
Celtic culture    
Celtic languages    

Task 3. Write an article about a language that was once widely spoken but has now died out or almost died out. Think about these questions.

1. Who speaks (spoke) the language?

2. Where do (did) they live?

3. Is (was) the language encouraged or discouraged?

Gaelic in Ireland

Years ago, all Irish people spoke Gaelic, and this language is still spoken in some parts of Ireland, although today all Irish people speak English also. Evidence of Gaelic is still found in place names, for example "bally" - town, "slieve" - mountain, "lough" - lake, "inis" - island, "drum" - mountain top, "glen" - valley.

The influence of Irish Gaelic is also found in the names of people. Here are some typical Gaelic first names:

Sean [∫ :n], same as John

Seamus [∫eiməs], same as James

Liam [li:əm], same as William

Seanna [∫ :nə], same as Joanna

Brid [brid ], same as Bridget

Cahail [kæhil], same as Charles

Mind, Scottish and Irish Gaelic are different.

Nowadays the official language in Scotland is English. But most of the people speak English using some special dialect words and the language spoken in Scotland is often referred to as Scottish English. Some of the more common of these dialect words are worth learning.

aye:yes loch:lake dreich:dull

ben:mountain to mind:to remember janitor:caretaker

brae:bank (of river) bairn:child lassie:girl

dram:drink (usually whisky) bonny:beautiful outwith:outside

den:valley burn:stream wee:small

kirk:church stay:live ken:know

Task 1. Below you have some statements made by a Scot. Answer the questions.

1. Marry had a bonny wee lassie last night. What happened to Mary yesterday?

2. They stay next to the kirk. What noise is likely to wake them on Sunday, mornings?

3. He's got a new job as janitor at school. What kind of duties will he have?

4. It's a bit dreigh today. Is it good weather for a picnic?


Discuss with the partner:

1. What do you know about Welsh?

2. Where is it spoken? The following text may help you.

The Welsh Language

Wales has a very strong Celtic culture. Many Celtic languages have almost dis­appeared, but Welsh is still used. Until 1825 about 80 per cent of the population spoke Welsh. During the nineteenth century there were fewer Welsh speakers, because many English and Irish workers moved to South Wales and Welsh people moved to the cities where less Welsh was spoken. At school, children were punished for speaking Welsh.

Recently, there has been more interest in Welsh. It is now spoken as a first language by more then 20 per cent of the population. It is used as a first language in

more and more schools and it is studied as a second language in all other schools in Wales.

Welsh is recognised as a minority language by the EU and Wales receives mon­ey to help its language stay alive. There are television and radio stations with Welsh-language programmes, even soaps.

To understand how different Welsh is from English, compare these lines from the Welsh national anthem with their English translation.


Gwlad! Gwlad! Pleidiol wyfi'm gw-lad;

Tra mor yn mr i'r bur hoffbau, o bydded i'r hen iaith barhau.


Homeland! 1 am devoted to my country;

So long as the sea is a wall to this beautiful land, May the ancient language remain.

Welsh and English

In Wales many people speak two languages: Welsh and English

The road stones are in both languages.



1. Can you write the English names on the road signs?

2. Read the clues and find the English words for these Welsh words/ Write the English words in the grids: the words are in the box.


St David's Day is on the 1 st of...


People speak Welsh in this country.


This sport is very popular in Wales.


This is the name of the patron

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1590

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