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Articles from Finlay MacLeod
The Taic/CNSA Gaelic In The Home Course


This handbook reveals and explains the many and varied facets that make up a Gaelic In The Home Course. Explanations apropos, why we need such strategies, right through to what comes next, once one has reached the desired Gaelic fluency.

Gaelic In The Home Course client groups are those couples considering parenthood, expectant parents, grandparents, neighbours, friends, relations, and those who wish to acquire a Gaelic conversational fluency, all of which occurs in this model in an uninterrupted 9 weeks block. Overall the purpose of which is to increase the number of Gaelic speakers Scotland wide.

One of the unique features of this course, is that the work is carried out in a setting that replicates a home, thus taking in all the tasks, with the associated items, articles, utensils etc. that come with the territory.

Another interesting feature is that in this initial phase there is absolutely no reading, writing, grammar or translation for a student to grapple with.

Yet another highly important aspect of a Gaelic In The Home Course is the team work format, which means no top student, no worse student; team centred thinking ensures that there are only good students, ready and willing to help others make the grade.

As one would expect, in such a stress free environment there is always a great deal of fun and enjoyment to be had, thus progress is swiftly made by one and all.

Finally, my thanks to Derek Farber for helping compile this material and for putting it into a presentable and accessible format.

Fionnlagh M. Macleoid

11 Campbell Street
…01542-836322 Fax …01542-836402

An Explanation

Who are they for?

The Gaelic In The Home Course is primarily for any adult over 18 years of age who wishes to acquire a conversational Gaelic fluency in the shortest time possible. Irrespective of whether one is a complete beginner or highly fluent, these courses have something to offer wherever one is on the learning spectrum.

The client groups

The client groups are made up of expectant parents, couples considering parenthood, parents of newly born children, grandparents, relations, friends, neighbours, pre-school staff, parents with children up to the age of eighteen years and those who simply wish to acquire the Gaelic fluency on offer. Whichever group one belongs to, the big picture objective is for everyone to come away with a command of every day functional Gaelic that comes as close as possible to being a native Gaelic speaker.

Why Gaelic In The Home Courses are so well-liked

Gaelic In The Home Courses are accessible and supremely user-friendly, inasmuch as they contain no reading, writing, grammar or translation elements for a student to contend with in this initial stage. Thus one can make speedy progress, with the minimum of stress.

The “Gaelic only rule” ambience also gives an impetus to the students to gain the language speedily, while at the same time giving Gaelic status in the eyes of students.

As one would expect, the Gaelic In The Home Course learning environment is based on a home scenario with most of the appropriate props, items, articles and such like, that one is likely to find there.

The benefit of having all these items etc. available, is that they help students identify, name and eventually use in conversation.

Students gaining a fluency through a home based scenario, can then in the comfort of their home, quickly replicate and practice what they have covered during the learning sessions and in doing so, help themselves considerably in driving their own progress forward.

The team work ethos found on all Gaelic In The Home Courses means that no one has to be the top student or by association, the worst student either; everyone supports everyone else. Such an atmosphere without pressure of this kind, always seems to inject a great deal of fun and enjoyment among the participants.

Although most Gaelic In The Home Courses start with beginners, very soon into the first session, almost all the students can say some Gaelic words. In fact, within not too long a period, a novice will be able to converse with fluent speakers albeit, very stiltingly at first, which in itself moves a learner’s progress forward no end.

Intergenerational transmission

After many years of research, trial and error and experience, we have found it to be an undeniable truth, that if Gaelic is to be passed on from one generation to another, it must begin with children and as early as possible in their lives. To leave it until later on and the intergenerational transmission battle is already lost.

The whole thrust of the work is to first equip the relevant client groups with a high degree of language fluency, who will then be able with skill and commitment, pass Gaelic onto their child(ren) in the most natural of ways and in the most conducive of atmospheres for young children; namely the family home environment.

To this end Gaelic In The Home Courses have a key role to play inasmuch as they endow those found in the client groups with the language wherewithal to help pass Gaelic onto the next generation.

The Gaelic In The Home Course format

A Gaelic In The Home Course seeks to bring an adult to a Gaelic language conversation fluency in full time, uninterrupted 9 week blocks; this means five all day sessions per week. One of the unique features of this course, is its flexibility, whereby, variations to this schedule can easily be made to suit whatever lifestyle students have.

Another relevant fact to ponder, is that in 9 week blocks, such courses are both financially competitive and highly cost effective.

Through thirty 8-16 hour themes that all have at their heart, the home and all the usual everyday tasks that most of us undertake in keeping such an establishment going.

Also found within the thirty themes are a number, that take one out into the wider community; the shops, stores, doctors, dentists, visiting friends or relations, walking, in a car, on the bus, train etc.

What will Gaelic In The Home Courses achieve

Throughout this document we have in some detail described what one may get from participating on a Gaelic In The Home Course. Notwithstanding, we have drawn up a simple bullet point list of some of the main benefits.

The acquisition of everyday conversational Gaelic fluency appropriate to the home, one’s lifestyle and being out and about in the wider community. Then again, the language used by tutors on Gaelic In The Home Courses is very different from that found in Gaelic medium schools, colleges etc.: not better or worse, simply different.

Acting as a catalyst in bringing a whole family to a Gaelic speaking fluency.

Providing strategies whereby adults and then their children and wider family members feel confident and at ease in using Gaelic through activities and their daily lives.

Having decided to embrace Gaelic in one’s life, then being given the range, depth, richness, vocabulary etc., of the language, in order to make this as all embracing as possible.

Create a positively encouraging scenario from which intergenerational transmission can grow strong and flourish.

What is different about Gaelic In The Home Courses

Speedy, painless, flexible language acquisition without reading and writing, grammar and translation tasks etc.

Team-centred, means no best or worst student, lots of help and support from and for each team member as well as the tutor, so that everyone wins. Such a positive environment naturally and strongly motivates, while at the same time, drawing forth lots of fun and enjoyment from all participants.

Uniquely “hands on” site based language learning, with a great deal of role play strategy used throughout the proceedings, will familiarise students with the work when trying out things in their own home.

Gaelic dialects incorporated, indeed enthusiastically encouraged for bringing in added richness and diversity.

All Gaelic In The Home Courses have at their heart the Total Immersion Plus (TIP) strategies. In doing so, they not only bring comprehensive language to a student, they also do the job, quickly and effectively, thus boredom with the time taken to acquire the fluency is minimised.

As was stated earlier, the “Gaelic only rule” gives an impetus to the students in gaining the language as quickly as possible, while at the same time giving Gaelic status in the eyes of students. It may seem a harsh and uncompromising stance from which to begin what will be quite a difficult task, especially in the early stages. However, it is in this precise environment that a student finds the strongest and most dynamic motivation in picking up the language quickly and decisively; an absolutely essential part of the learning process.

As expected and remembering that the Gaelic In The Home Course learning model is based on a home with appropriate props, items, articles etc., that one would find there; all of which is in the cause of helping a student identify, name, imprint and eventually use with ease and confidence in conversation.
With this in mind, it is then, most necessary that a course tutor has a large and diverse range of items, articles, utensils, props etc. Remembering that the tutor who has made the greatest effort in making their range of props etc. the most exciting, stimulating and imaginative, generally has the least bored, most progressive students to enjoy and inspire.

Why we need Gaelic In The Home Courses

Other than the ongoing Taic/CNSA Gaelic In The Home Courses there are no courses that serve parents and other adults in acquiring an everyday, ordinary lifestyle conversational Gaelic. Moreover, one of the unique features of these courses is that they are all centred around a home setting with all that entails. There is also a venturing out into the wider community regarding visiting, social activities, shopping, doctors, dentists, friends etc, equipped with Gaelic that will allow one to make progress smoothly and effectively.

Within the Gaelic speaking community there is a large number of fluent Gaelic speakers, especially in the over 40 year old age group who cannot read and write in Gaelic. Thus they are denied an easily and accessible way of passing the language onto the next generation, except by way of embracing a Gaelic In The Home Course.

A great many parents have approached Taic/CNSA saying that all too many language learning courses do not provide them with a range of Gaelic that they could use in their own home, with their children or out and about.

True, language courses related to holidays, work and formal schooling abound. However, if a parent wants to engage in conversation with their two year old child regarding dressing, putting on shoes, socks, putting on a jacket, buttoning a shirt etc., there is virtually nothing on offer. For all this type of thing, the language range is inadequate, apart from Gaelic In The Home Courses which do provide exactly this type of language, in great depth and in the widest variation.

Children are the life blood and future of Gaelic, for they are the ones who, with support and encouragement, will carry it forward. And children being children, naturally, ask their parents many, many questions about the world they live in. Consequently if parents cannot provide a Gaelic answer that meets their child’s language needs, one can be certain that it will be abandoned very soon, for a language that does provide answers.

Gaelic In The Home Courses find a logical place in our thinking due to our growing awareness that the intergenerational transmission habit will not break out spontaneously in families. If parents are to proceed and in a well prepared way for their children to become Gaelic speaking by the age of three years, much work will have to be undertaken by them. For one thing, they will have to begin the process before the child is born or very soon afterwards; leaving such work till later on, merely makes the job harder, to the point where the space before the three year deadline is so short, as to make it impossible to meet.

Gaelic In The Home Course history

In 1985 Taic/CNSA created the first Family Language Plan document for five very good reasons.

We were convinced that if parents wanted their children to grow up fluent both in Gaelic and English, it would then be essential for them to plan strategically for the implementation and subsequent use of Gaelic, both in the home and the wider world.

Despite the growing amount of information regarding language learning, parents and children were and still are, largely at sea as to how to handle the language strategy in any one of the following situations:

A home where both parents are Gaelic speakers.
A home where one parent is a fluent Gaelic speaker.
A home where neither parent speaks any Gaelic whatsoever.

Ground rules governing language use must be laid down and then always adhered to when using the two languages. This is absolutely essential in order for a child to feel secure and therefore confident in knowing that the language they are using at any time is the right one.

It is important that parents when applying The Family Language Plan maintain a strong thread of consistency throughout the language strategies they use with the child. If consistency is not maintained parents will be left with a child who speaks only English and no Gaelic whatsoever.

Before the child is born or as soon as possible after the birth, is the best time for putting The Family Language Plan into practice. The timing of which is crucial, for it can be difficult to change the language spoken to a child, once a pattern is established.

An unexpected additionality role of The Family Language Plan is in the providing of another important source from where fluent Gaelic speaking children within the birth to three years age range can be found.

What the development of the above also revealed was that the Gaelic to be used at home and with one’s child and then out in wider community, lacked range, diversity and application to these three elements.

Hence the need for and subsequent birth of Gaelic In The Home Courses, providing as it does very effectively, a comprehensive amount of Gaelic that a family would use in their daily lives.

This development in turn saw the creation of Altram Courses which added yet add another much needed dimension to a families’ language requirement.

Altram Courses

The four fundamental elements of an Altram Course are:

Focusing on parents who have a child up to the age of three years with a highly functional range of Gaelic.

Easy to use themes built around familiar daily tasks and experiences that parents encounter in their home and out and about in the community.

On another level, enabling parents to engage with their baby or very young child, by way of a meaningful range of intimate Gaelic language of affection; still a highly unique and unusual feature to be found in language leaning courses.

The client groups are made up of expectant parents, those considering parenthood, pre-school staff, grandparents, relations, friends, neighbours and parents of children from birth to three years.

The various stages students go through on the road to a Gaelic fluency

All students are obliged to attend a Student Information Meeting prior to joining a Gaelic In The Home Course or Altram Course.

Moreover, within this new learning method, the Student Information Meeting is essential, as it contains explanations, guidance and information that makes language acquisition better understood and accordingly, progress is made that much quicker.

The information meeting will include the following subjects:

The Gaelic Declaration
The Gaelic Only Rule
The course and how it works
Why the course focuses on the spoken word
Non verbal communication
Course organisation
The tutor
The stages of learning Gaelic for a student
Practising Gaelic at home
How students can help themselves
Fluent Gaelic speakers
Question & answers
The way ahead

The various stages apropos a 9 week block course

Using words, phrases and short sentences that have been learnt by way of repetition, firstly with the tutor and then on one’s own.

A student feeling very overwhelmed by the intensity of the learning process and the lack of understanding, leading to extreme tiredness by the end of the day long session. Discomfort and frustration are also factors in these early days; it is somewhat unfortunate to feel this way, however, it is absolutely essential, for such feelings are most beneficial, inasmuch as they act as triggers for the “moving to Gaelic as quickly as possible” process to be truly effective.

Moving on from the above and believe it or not, a student will now begin and quite quickly too, understand some Gaelic. Also occurring at this stage a student will very often reply to a question with the Gaelic Tha and Chan eil.

Phrases and short sentences heard often enough will be remembered and then repeated quite easily.

At this stage a student’s progress frequently becomes uneven, as they will most likely hit the first of many plateaus, resulting in them feeling that they are going nowhere or even backwards. Then all of a sudden a great progressive leap forward is made and the sun comes out.

A student will begin internalising the language and stop translating from English to Gaelic and vice versa.

Words, phrases, simple sentences and short conversations now come unevenly, sometimes in chunks as understanding grows apace.

A breakthrough to conversation in Gaelic with the tutor.

Themes helping to enrich vocabulary and strengthen fluency, while gap filling continues as does the making of lots of errors.

Student now able to ask and answer questions without too much difficulty.

Student feeling confident in their Gaelic fluency and able to converse quite comfortably with the tutor and other students.

Where opportunity exists meeting and talking with fluent speakers from other sources, will be both rewarding and beneficial to a student’s language skills.

A continued increase in a student’s Gaelic vocabulary, phrasing, sentence building, use of idioms and interaction with other fluent and native Gaelic speakers. In addition, on courses where there is a large proportion of fluent speakers as helpers or among the student body, progress can be made even faster.

The next steps

Of course, to be a fully rounded Gaelic speaker, one must now embark on learning to read and write in Gaelic, which in turn means, joining an appropriate course.

Also certainly worth considering is the joining of a Gaelic activity group, that are now growing in number around Scotland. If one has a hobby, interest, skill etc. there may be a group of other likeminded Gaelic speakers to be sought out.

If there are no groups around, why not make contact with some other Gaelic speakers and start a Gaelic activity group of your own choosing.

After all there is no point, if after having spent so much time and effort in gaining a Gaelic fluency, to then have no one to share it with.

Let us not forget, that it is an awful waste of student’s skills if it finds no expression; it doesn’t do much for expanding the pool of fluent Gaelic speakers either.

Points worth considering

Learning Gaelic through action and activity is very effective

Language of endearment essential for close family intimacy

All tutors undergo 10 days of personal training

Because translating from one language to another is such a major drawback to progress, a special section apropos explanation, problems and solutions may be found in the handbooks mentioned below.

A great deal more highly relevant and useful information for a student may be found in the Taic/CNSA

Total Immersion Plus For Adults The Student’s Handbook 7(G)

The Family Language Plan 5(G).

For more information or enrolling on a Gaelic In The Home Course Contact:
Taic/CNSA by email or telephone...01542-836322

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