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16

Jan 2013

Journey in Gaelic Language Learning

Posted by / in Featured Posts, News /

By Colin MacDonald, Gaelic Interpreter, Colaisde na Gaidhlig

My name is Colin MacDonald and I work at Colaisde na Gàidhlig as Gaelic/Music Interpreter, and Tour Guide for the Great Hall of the Clans museum.  I took my first Gaelic class when I was in grade 11 at Dalbrae Academy in Mabou.  Margie Beaton was the Gaelic teacher at the time, and I enjoyed her class so much that I challenged for credit my grade 10 Gaelic class, and also took Gaelic again in grade 12.

After graduating from high school, I continued my pursuit for the Gaelic language at Cape Breton University, where I began my BACS degree in Fine Arts.  Hector MacNeil taught me Gaelic in my first year and he helped spark my interest in an exchange program offered by CBU to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Gaelic College in the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

In my third year at CBU, I went on exchange to the Isle of Skye, Scotland.  Being abroad for the first time was like being in a different world.  Arriving at Sabhal Mòr was an experience in itself; the small modern looking campus stood at the edge of a body of water that reaches across to a barren, rocky mountain chain.  My bedroom was in a tall building called the “Tower,” and I had a beautiful view looking across the water to the small town of Mallaig.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig was my first experience of Gaelic immersion, and I don’t think my brain had worked that hard ever before.  Before going off to our first class, an assembly was held with the principal and all the teachers and we made a promise to them that we would only speak Gaelic inside the classroom as well as outside.  I enjoyed all my teachers and classes very much.  Some days I felt like I was coming along fairly well with my Gaelic, but other days I felt like I was climbing up a steep mountain and I would never reach the top.  In a way I was right in thinking that I’d never reach the top, but that shouldn’t have made me feel overwhelmed or discouraged.  When learning Gaelic, or any language for that matter, you never reach a point where you’re finished.  I’ve been learning English all my life and I still make mistakes and learn new words on a daily basis. Many of my Gaelic teachers explained to me in a similar fashion that when a learner feels overwhelmed by all they haven’t learned yet, this means they are making progress.

I really enjoyed my Gaelic immersion experience overseas, but I enjoyed coming home to Cape Breton and getting involved in the Gaelic community here even more.  When I moved back home and got involved in the Gaelic community here, it gave me a strong sense of identity and connection to my ancestors.  Currently, I am working full time at Colaisde na Gàidhlig, I’ve been teaching immersion classes (Gàidhlig aig Baile), and I am extremely grateful to be making a living for myself in my home, Cape Breton.

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