First thing’s first:
GAELIC IS NOT “DEAD”! Never has been, hopefully never will be.
That topic is a whole kettle of worms of its own, which I will leave for a blog post. Just wanted to get it off my chest right away, because it is one of the most common topics that people bring up when I mention anything about my interest in Gaelic. And it kind of makes me want to throw a tantrum until everyone understands. (But instead I have started this website, which is perhaps a more constructive solution?)
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to basics here. What is Gaelic? It’s a language, certainly, but there is so much more to Gaelic than a language — it’s a culture, a history, a way of life.
So what does “Gaelic” mean? You probably have your own idea of what “Gaelic” is, and it’s probably different from everyone else’s. And it’s probably tough for you to put into words, right?
It’s more like a concept that brings all sorts of different ideas and images to mind, and everyone’s individual experiences will be different. I don’t think anybody has a “right” definition, or a “better” definition than someone else – “Gaelic” means to you whatever your experience has been, no matter what the dictionary says.
But this is MY website, so I’m going try to define what I mean by “Gaelic” here so that when you read through my ramblings, you’ll have a better understanding of how I’m using the term. Of course, please keep in mind that my definition of Gaelic will probably change over time. That being said, here goes:
Essentially, when I talk about “Gaelic” on this site, I am referring to the language, culture, and / or community of Gaelic (in Nova Scotia), including it’s people, traditions, and history. I think of it as a distinct entity that is separate from other Gaelic regions and other “Celtic” or “Scottish” cultures.
The reason I say “in Nova Scotia” is because that is what my experience is and will continue to be for the forseeable future. There may very well be similarities to Gaelic in Scotland or Ireland, but I have limited knowledge and no experience with Gaelic in either of those areas, so I’m not going to comment about them on this site unless I feel reasonably confident about what I’m saying. So for now, it’s Nova Scotia all the way.
Now, I’m certainly not an expert on Gaelic, so I don’t want to start spewing all sorts of random trivia facts about the language here, because chances are high that they would be a) wrong, b) ill-informed, c) misunderstood, or d) all of the above. The whole reason I’m here is to learn what it’s really like, and as I’m learning I’ll post my thoughts on my blog. So the blog’s the thing wherein you’ll catch the king… and by “the king” I mean, of course, the details about Gaelic that you are curious about, such as how many people speak it and where, it’s history and cetera.
So where are all the fancy Gaelic words, huh? You’ll notice that I haven’t used any Gaelic words on this site, and that might seem strange, given the fact that I want to learn and promote this wonderful, beautiful language. At some point in the future, I may start to incorporate some Gaelic into my posts, but for now, I’ve decided not to include any Gaelic for a few different reasons:
First, I’m a learner, and I don’t want to be using words incorrectly, because that’s a really great way for me to get a lot of hate mail really quickly. If I put any Gaelic in writing on this site, I’ll have to feel pretty confident about it first.
Second, I don’t want to scare people away with funny looking words they don’t understand and don’t know how to pronounce. For people who aren’t familiar with the Gaelic language, a word with 17 letters that’s pronounced with only one, or maybe one-and-a-half syllables at most can be somewhat off-putting in terms of wanting to learn the language. To be fair, I don’t think there really is a 17-letter, one-syllable word in Gaelic, but for a non-Gaelic speaker trying to read Gaelic out of context, that’s kind of what every word looks like at first. (Don’t worry, it gets much easier!)
Third, when you’re learning a language, it’s good to have as much context as possible — just seeing one word next to its equivalent in another language isn’t always going to give you enough information about what the word actually means, how it is used, or even whether people actually use that word in everyday speech. If I write anything in Gaelic here, I’d want to take the time to try to explain the terms in detail.
So that’s why there’s no Gaelic on this site. There are probably a few other reasons too, some of which I might touch on in blog posts, but I hope these reasons make sense for now.
There are lots of resources for learning about Gaelic, or learning the Gaelic language, and you can check some of them out here.