First Impressions

I just want to say how impressed I am with the Gaelic community here in Nova Scotia.

As a linguistics student, I’ve come across far too many heartbreaking stories of language loss and decline around the world, but I’ve always known that Gaelic was alive and well in certain areas.  For the past ten years though, I’ve been experiencing people’s discouraging attitudes towards Gaelic and my interest in it.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect in terms of attitudes and support in the Nova Scotia Gaelic community when I decided to move here – there might have been very little support, or possibly negative attitudes, but in fact I have found the opposite.

In a language revival situation, there are countless hurdles to overcome.  In addition to needing resources available to help teach and learn the language (such as people who speak the language, books, recordings, etc.), one of the biggest challenges is actually getting people interested in learning the language in the first place.

You could have everything in place – teachers, funding, textbooks, you name it – but if nobody wants to learn the language, well, you can’t (or at least you shouldn’t) force people into it. Sadly, there are communities in which people have little or no interest in learning the language of their heritage.   

In Nova Scotia though, even in just my first month here, I am amazed at how much interest people have in the Gaelic language and culture.  Of course, there is always room to grow, and to get as many people interested as possible, but the fact that there are already so many people supportive of the language and interested in learning it is just really, really incredible.

I find it remarkable that people of all ages are attending language classes, interacting with elders, native and fluent speakers; parents are teaching the language to their children; young people get together to socialize in Gaelic; and there is a Master-Apprentice program in place that has probably three times as many applicants than there are spots available.  All of this speaks volumes to the level of support there is for this language and culture, especially considering some of the language situations I’ve learned about through my studies.

Of course there hasn’t always been such an interest – which is why I am so impressed by the Nova Scotia Gaelic community.  I don’t know the specifics, but I can only imagine how much effort has gone into promoting the language and drumming up interest over the years to get to this point.  People have dedicated their lives to learning the language and culture, teaching it, recording it and preserving it however they can, keeping traditions alive, defending their culture, and remembering their roots. It’s absolutely phenomenal to see the work that is being done and to know that the future of the language and culture in Nova Scotia looks very promising.

Keep up the fantastic work everyone, and hopefully the interest and support for Gaelic in Nova Scotia will continue to grow for many years to come!

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Filed under About, Gaelic, Linguistics

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