Your other national language

Posted on October 22, 2011


Saturday evening sees me pottering around on the netbook while I wait for the lamb tagine (which is currently flooding the place with some amazing spicy smells) to cook. And in the background I’ve got this afternoon’s St Mirren v Hibs match on BBC Alba, with commentary in Gaelic.

No, I do no speak Gaelic, but the content of football commentary is the same no matter what language it’s in. You still get the rhythm and cadence as the excitement of the match ebbs and flows, but you don’t have to listen to the usual string of banality and cliche (actually BBC Scotland has some genuinely good commentators, especially on the radio, but you get the general point).

I do go through phases though of thinking I really ought to learn Gaelic. It’s one of our national languages, after all. And I love the sound of it too. But it would require effort and planning, and time (not something that’s in plentiful supply at the moment), so it’s constantly on the “one day” list.

Which is not to say that I particularly feel under pressure to learn the language – I don’t believe it’ll die out without my help – and, besides, it’s the language of the Highlands and Islands. I was born in the Lowlands, pretty much on the shoulder of Burns country, and am quite happy with my efforts to keep Lallans Scots in circulation (the other, other national language). As a writer, I enjoy the breadth of vocabulary Scots afford me and if it’s appropriate to the story, I like to sprinkle my work with the occasional wee pearl from my local tongue. Sometimes editors ask me to remove them. Usually I resist.

But, Gaelic. Yeah, I guess I should at least be able to garner enough of a vocabulary to do the same, without going as far as learning the grammar and all. Okay, I’ll try harder. But for now, I’m happy just to listen to it burbling away in the background.

Fitbaw’s ower. Whit noo? “Alba air Falach”? I’ll keep it on, maybe some of it’ll permeate.


Posted in: Uncategorized