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Understanding the loss of Gaelic  in your own family -
and how to reverse it

We know that this might be an uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, subject to discuss - but we feel that it is important to address it openly and honestly.

Before we delve into how to get Gaelic back into your family life, there are a few things we need to examine first of all:

  • How a language is 'lost'

  • What support network is available to you

How is a language 'lost'?

Unfortunately, Gaelic is not the only language to find itself in this very complex predicament, in which there has been a 'shift' from a systematically suppressed, indigenous language to an ever-encroaching majority language - a language which usually  carries a great deal of perceived and/or real prestige and power:

'Language loss/death does not just happen, nor is it natural and/or inevitable. Rather it is always socially, culturally and politically situated within a wider nexus of (often highly unequal) power relations  between, and within, language groups.'

[May, S. (2003) 'Rearticulating the case for minority language rights'. Current issues in language planning, 4, 2:119]

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In the case of Gaelic, and indeed many other  marginalised languages across the globe, we see the lasting damage done by those who should have known better, but abused their position of power to punish and humiliate children from the day they entered the school system, for doing nothing other than  speaking the language of their family and community.

The consequence of this is that when a child is made to feel so deeply ashamed and apologetic about such an integral part of who they are, it detrimentally impacts their willingness and confidence to engage with their own language and culture. This in turn greatly reduces the likelihood that they will pass the language onto their own children. And so begins the shift from the traditional language (Gaelic) to the enforced language (English). 

Re-establishing Gaelic as a language of your Family. Where to start?

First of all, are there any native-speakers left in your family? Your own parents perhaps? Or maybe a grandparent?

Explain to them that you want to learn Gaelic and that you want your own children to learn as well. 

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