THE BIG PICTURE: Scotland makes push to preserve Gaelic language

World Today

Ethnic cultures and minorities face challenges all over the world, one being the preservation of languages. In this edition of “The Big Picture” we travel to Scotland.

CGTN’s Kate Parkinson explores the enduring, Celtic dialect of Gaelic.

Follow Kate Parkinson on Twitter @KTP_news

Gaelic is the founding language of Scotland, and for centuries it was spoken across the land. The language is tied into the landscape, heritage and even the music of the region. Many Gaelic phrases reflect that.

Alasdair Mackay is the media development manager at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, a public college on the Isle of Sky. He also acts from time to time in a television show called “Bannan.” It’s a Gaelic-language drama that appears on BBC Alba, the Gaelic television channel.

“It’s important to have a drama in your own language to reflect the issues in your day to day world,” Mackay said.

Gaelic is recognized as an endangered language. Today, only 1 percent of people in Scotland speak Gaelic.

“People here are very aware that Gaelic is on the decline or has been on the decline in the last 100 years or so,” Mackay said.

But starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a big resurgence took place. This was primarily seen in education. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is the only college in the world that teaches entirely in the Gaelic language.

Similar educational institutions have developed within the past 40 years. Now a region that began with some seven students has nearly 115 full-time students learning in Gaelic. The Scottish government has also made a push to introduce Gaelic into schools, with most lessons being taught in the Celtic language.

“Children are key, they really are. They are the future,” Flora Guidi of Portree Primary School said.

“We have to make the language as interesting and as lively and give them as many opportunities so that they feel confident […] and they feel that they want to use Gaelic and they want to, and they are proud of their language.”

Mackay said that just like any other language, Gaelic needs to be passed down from generation to generation in order to survive.

“It’s not going to last more than the generations that are speaking it now, so in 50 years time it just wouldn’t exist,” he said.