There are a growing number of opportunities for young people to use Gaelic outwith the classroom in youth clubs (Sradagan), music and drama (Feisean) and through other initiatives organised by Comunn na Gàidhlig e.g. John Muir Trust, football competitions, residentials. Pupils’ Gaelic language skills, especially social language, are enhanced and they are more likely to use Gaelic beyond school if they participate in these community activities.
Comunn na Gàidhlig (CnaG)
One of CnaG's main focuses is the support and development of young people who speak Gaelic, are learning or would like to. We organise and deliver various youth events throughout the year including certificated programmes such as the John Muir Award and Duke of Edinburgh Award. These programmes include a residential element and we also hold open residential events throughout the year.
The advantages of bilingualism
Bilingualism means being able to conduct aspects of everyday life in two languages.
Bilingualism is much more common in other countries than it is in Britain. It is estimated that between 60% and 65% of people in the world use at least two languages in their everyday lives.
Children are born with the ability to become bilingual and multilingual. There is more than enough room in the brain for two or more languages.
The advantages of being bilingual
Some of the potential advantages of bilingualism and bilingual education currently publicized are:
- Wider communication (extended family, community, international links, employment).
- Literacy in two languages
- Broader enculturation, a deeper multiculturalism, and two ‘language worlds’ of experience
- Greater tolerance and less racism
- Thinking benefits (creativity, sensitivity to communication).
- Raised self-esteem
- Security in identity
- Increased curriculum achievement
- Easier to learn a third language
- Economic and employment benefits
‘A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism’, Professor Colin Baker, International Expert on Bilingual Education
3 Congitive Advantages
The educational benefits of bilingualism are well documented. It is widely accepted that children speaking two languages seem to have a greater facility for handling all aspects of the thought process. Bilingualism can also enhance a child's prospects of successfully learning other languages.
Is the bilingual child slower in learning to talk?
No strict rule can be laid down as to when a child begins to talk but it is usually between the age of eight and fifteen months. Generally girls talk a little earlier than boys and the first child in the family tends to begin to speak earlier than the second or third child. There is no evidence that the child who is spoken to in two languages from birth utters his / her first words later than the child who is spoken to in only one language. There is a danger however that if a child is slow in beginning to speak, relations or health professionals might try to persuade parents that this is because they are speaking two languages to him / her and wrongly advise that they should switch to only using English.
Does the bilingual child have equal proficiency in both languages?
Equal proficiency in two languages is rare. Normally a person goes through periods when one or other language is dominant and bilinguals are usually more comfortable speaking about certain topics in one rather than the other of their two languages.
Gaelic medium education in the primary school involves the use of the Gaelic language for all learning and teaching, across all subjects in the curriculum, using immersion methods in P1 and P2. English reading and writing are generally introduced from P3 but the principal language of the classroom is Gaelic throughout primary. The aim of Gaelic medium education, through the government's national guidelines, is to take children to the same level of fluency in Gaelic and English by the time they leave primary school. In most instances Gaelic medium education is delivered in Gaelic medium departments within English medium schools but some areas now have Gaelic medium schools.
The number of pupils who are in Gaelic medium education at primary school level has risen from 24 in 1985 in 2 schools to over 2,500 in the school year 2012-2013 in 60 schools.
Does Gaelic medium education hinder children’s development?
No. Studies have shown that children in Gaelic education do as well as or better than their peers in all subjects including English.
How can I support my child’s education when I do not speak Gaelic myself?
Support your child by taking an interest in their education and in as many aspects of Gaelic activity as possible – television, radio, out-of-school activities and social occasions. There are also many opportunities for parents to learn some Gaelic, very often in special classes for parents.
I like to read to my child at home. How can parents do this if they are not fluent in Gaelic?
You can ask the school for a loan of Gaelic books on tape which you could use together with your child and there are some books with audio available to download from the internet, for example the website for parents www.gaelic4parents.com. There is no reason whatsoever why you should not also read in English to your children
How will Gaelic medium education affect my child’s English?
Children in Gaelic medium education are initially taught almost entirely in Gaelic and English reading and writing are generally introduced from P3. Children transfer skills acquired in one language to the other so tend to progress quickly once they start reading in English. In fact, a study conducted at Stirling University in 1999 showed 'that P7 Gaelic-medium pupils performed better in English than English-medium pupils’.
My child is a fluent Gaelic speaker. Why should I choose Gaelic medium education?
GME reinforces the language of the fluent speakers and encourages them to continue using Gaelic in all situations. It also enables them to become fully literate in the language.
Can children with additional support or special needs receive Gaelic-medium education?
They can and do. Many local authorities have excellent inclusion policies that apply equally to Gaelic and English provision. You should be able to access advice from your education department regarding the learning needs of your child and what Gaelic medium education can offer.
If my child needs to travel to access the nearest Gaelic-medium facility, will transport be provided?
Education authorities often provide Gaelic medium education on an area basis so do have transport arrangements in place for children who require to travel past their local school. Contact your own Authority for detailed information on travel arrangements.
Gaelic medium education in secondary ensures continuity in the learning experience of children who have been educated through the medium of Gaelic in the primary school. This enables pupils to become more competent, gaining an understanding of Gaelic as a modern language through which secondary education can be delivered.
Most Gaelic medium pupils are able to study Gaelic for fluent speakers as a subject in secondary school. The Scottish Qualifications Authority currently offers Gaelic - language examinations in a range of subjects including maths, geography and history and several schools offer Gaelic - medium tuition in these subjects.
The Glasgow Gaelic School which opened in August 2006 will offer tuition through Gaelic in all secondary subjects and other schools will benefit from the new curriculum developments and resources on offer.
Wouldn’t it be better for children to learn a more “useful” language like French or German?
In Scotland, with the rapid growth of cultural industries, Gaelic is in fact as useful a passport to employment as French and German and can offer a direct line to many attractive job opportunities. These opportunities will increase as organisations and public bodies are required to meet their obligations under the Gaelic Language Act. Parents should note that pupils may also study a European language as well as Gaelic at secondary level.
Pre-school Gaelic medium provision, in the form of playgroups and nurseries, is an important first step in the formal education process.
Many areas have Pàrant agus Pàiste, parent-and-toddler groups, which are usually run by a volunteer committee and may employ a play-leader.
Cròileagan, Gaelic play-groups, are again run by volunteer committees and most employ one or more play-leaders. In some areas Cròileagan groups take the place of nursery provision.
The national body responsible for these voluntary pre-schools groups is Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
Council-run nursery provision is now available in most areas and is normally attached to the school or schools in which the authority offers Gaelic-medium primary education.
Is Gaelic medium education possible if we can’t speak Gaelic ourselves?
Yes. Most children in Gaelic education come from non-Gaelic speaking homes. There is help available and opportunities for parents to learn Gaelic.
Does my child have to go to a pre-school Gaelic group before going into Gaelic medium education?
This is not absolutely necessary but it is advisable whenever possible and most Gaelic medium provision does now have attached nursery provision.