Gàidhlig: còta mòr air a shuaineadh mu dhuine do-fhaicsinneach?

Tha inbhe aig a' Ghàidhlig ann an Alba an-diugh nach robh aice ann am mòran linntean. Gu dearbh, a rèir Achd na Gàidhlig (Alba) 2005, a chaidh aontachadh gu h-aona-ghuthach le Pàrlamaid na h-Alba, thathas ag aithneachadh na Gàidhlig mar 'chànan oifigeil an Alba a tha a' dleasadh spèis cho-ionnan ris a' Bheurla'. A dh'aindeoin na h-aithne oifigeil seo, agus gach adhartas a rinneadh airson ath-bheòthachadh a' chànain sna beagan deicheadan a dh'fhalbh, tha pailteas dhuilgheadasan agus dhùbhlan ann. Gun teagamh, 's an duilgheadas as cudromaiche sìor chrìonadh na Gàidhlig sna coimhearsnachdan sna h-eileanan far an robh i làidir thar iomadach linn. Tha cunnart ann gun caillear smior is cridhe na Gàidhlig agus nach bi air fhàgail ach 'còta mòr air a shuaineadh mu dhuine do-fhaicsinneach', mar a dh'earalaich an sòsio-chànanaiche Coinneach MacFhionghain.

Thàinig piseach mòr air suidheachadh na Gàidhlig ann an siostam an fhoghlaim gu h-àraidh. Nuair a stèidhicheadh siostam sgoiltean poblach an Alba fo Achd an Fhoghlaim 1872, bha a’ Ghàidhlig air iomall an iomaill, agus am beachd cuid ’s ann a thug na sgoiltean ruagadh air a’ chànan. Bho mheadhan nan 1980an, ge-tà, tha foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig air fàs gu mòr: tha faisg air 70 sgoiltean air feadh Alba a’ tabhann foghlam tron Ghàidhlig a-nis. Tha a’ mhòr-mhòr-chuid den chloinn ann am foghlam Gàidhlig a’ tighinn à dachaighean gun Ghàidhlig agus a’ togail a’ chànain tro bhogadh. ‘S ann ann am bailtean mòra na h-Alba a tha na h-àireamhan as luaithe a’ fàs; fosglar an treas bun-sgoil làn-Ghàidhlig ann an Glaschu as t-samhradh 2018.

Ach tha cnapan-starra is cunnartan a’ bagairt air foghlam Gàidhlig. Tha gainnead leantainneach de luchd-teagaisg ann, gu h-àraidh aig ìre na h-àrd-sgoile, agus gu ruige seo chan fhacas an deòin phoilitigeach a dh’fhuasgladh na duilgheadasan seo. Tha structar ùr curraicealam nan àrd-sgoiltean a’ toirt droch bhuaidh air a’ Ghàidhlig (agus cànanan eile); gu tric feumaidh sgoilearan a’ Ghàidhlig a leigeil dhiubh agus prìomhachas a thoirt do chuspairean STEM. Tha còrr is 90% de dh’Albannaich a’ dol tro 13 bliadhna de dh’fhoghlam sgoile gun fhacal Gàidhlig ionnsachadh; chailleadh cothrom crathadh a thoirt air an t-siostam nuair a chuireadh an sgeama ‘1+2’ an sàs air feadh Alba.

Chunnacas adhartas mòr a thaobh leasachadh craoladh sa Ghàidhlig cuideachd. Tha an t-seirbheis telebhisein BBC ALBA deich bliadhna a dh’aois a-nis. Tha BBC ALBA air a bhith soirbheachail ann a bhith a’ tarraing luchd-coimhid gun Ghàidhlig: aig amannan bidh suas gu 750,000 daoine a’ coimhead an t-sianail ged a tha nas lugha na 90,000 a’ tuigsinn a’ chànain, a rèir cunntas-sluaigh 2011. Ach aig an aon àm, tha cuid den bheachd gu bheil BBC ALBA a’ toirt prìomhachas do luchd na Beurla, le cus phrògraman spòrs is ciùil agus fo-thiotalan Beurla nach gabh an cur dheth. ’S e an duilgheadas as motha nach eil am buidsead idir mòr gu leòr: tha e doirbh farsaingeachd prògraman a dhèanamh a riaraicheas an luchd-coimhid. Tha buidsead BBC1 mu 60 uiread buidsead BBC ALBA.

Fo Achd na Gàidhlig, chaidh buidheann leasachaidh oifigeil, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, a stèidheachadh, agus tha dleasdanas farsaing air airson adhartachadh a’ chànain. Feumaidh am Bòrd Plana Nàiseanta Gàidhlig fhoillseachadh a h-uile còig bliadhna agus faodaidh e iarraidh air buidhnean poblach Albannach planaichean Gàidhlig a chur air dòigh. Gu ruige seo tha planaichean Gàidhlig aig mu 60 buidheann phoblach, nam measg Riaghaltas na h-Alba, 26 de na 32 comhairleean ionadail, Poileas Alba, Àrainneachd Eachdraidheil Alba, agus còig oilthighean, a’ gabhail a-steach Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann. Uile-gu-lèir tha na planaichean feumail ann a bhith a’ cur ri follaiseachd na Gàidhlig ann am beatha phoblach na h-Alba, ach tha cuid dhiubh gu math lag agus is dòcha nach robh Bòrd na Gàidhlig ag iarraidh gu leòr air na buidhnean.

Ach ged a tha inbhe fhoirmeil agus phoblach na Gàidhlig ag èirigh, tha an àireamh de luchd-labhairt a’ leantainn oirre a’ tuiteam sna beagan deicheadan a dh’fhalbh, mar a rinn i airson 150 bliadhna roimhe sin. ‘S ann anns na h-eileanan a chithear an crìonadh as motha. Am beachd mòran, chan eil cus luaich ann an sgoiltean Gàidhlig sna bailtean mòra air neo seirbheis telebhisein nàiseanta mura h-eil an cànan tèarainte ann an coimhearsnachdan anns a bheil dùmhlachd dhaoine ga bhruidhinn ga làitheil. Tha am Plana Nàiseanta Gàidhlig as ùire (2018-2023) ag aithneachadh an duilgheadais seo ged nach eil plana-gnìomh soilleir ann airson adhartas deimhinne a dhèanamh. Tha laigse a’ chànain sna h-eileanan dlùth-cheangailte ri ceistean eaconomach: gainnead chothroman obrach is taigheadas freagarrach, tuarastal ìseal agus mar sin air adhart. Aig an aon àm, ge-tà, tha lagachadh a’ chànain a’ ciallachadh gu bheil a’ mhòr-chuid (no glè fhaisg air) de mhuinntir nan Eilean Siar gun Ghàidhlig a-nis; mar sin chan eil ceangal dìreach eadar fuasgladh nan duilgheadasan eaconomach seo (ma ghabhas am fuasgladh) agus ath-bheòthachadh na Gàidhlig sa sgìre.

Dè chuirear am broinn còta mòr na Gàidhlig a-rèist?


Gaelic: an overcoat wrapped around an invisible man?

Gaelic enjoys a higher status in Scotland than it has for many centuries. The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament, recognises Gaelic as ‘an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect with the English language’. Despite this formal recognition, and the significant revitalisation activity since the 1980s, serious problems and challenges appear almost everywhere. By far the most significant concern is the ongoing decline of Gaelic in its traditional heartland communities in the Hebrides. If this continues, all that may be left is ‘an overcoat wrapped around an invisible man‘, as the sociolinguist Kenneth MacKinnon has warned.

The position of Gaelic in the education system has greatly improved. The public schools established under the Education Act of 1872 gave almost no place to Gaelic, so that schools effectively ‘taught out‘ the language. However, since the mid-1980s, there has been a remarkable growth of Gaelic-medium education, now involving more than 70 schools across Scotland. The great majority of children in Gaelic education come from non-Gaelic speaking homes and learn the language through immersion. The growth has been most dramatic in Scotland’s cities; the third Gaelic primary school in Glasgow will open this summer.

But there are significant obstacles and challenges for Gaelic education. There is an ongoing shortage of teachers, especially at secondary level, and the authorities have not shown the political will to deal with the problem effectively. Changes in the secondary school curriculum are squeezing out Gaelic (and other languages) as pupils now do fewer subjects than previously. And while the Gaelic sector has grown, the great majority of Scottish pupils still do not learn a word of Gaelic at any stage of their schooling, and the much-vaunted ‘1+2’ languages policy has done little to change this.

Provision for Gaelic broadcasting has also been transformed. The Gaelic service BBC ALBA recently celebrated its tenth birthday. BBC ALBA has been remarkably successful in attracting non-Gaelic speaking viewers, with audiences sometimes reaching 750,000 even though fewer than 90,000 people can understand Gaelic, according to the 2011 census. Yet some critics complain that BBC ALBA places too much emphasis on attracting non-Gaelic speaking viewers, with English subtitles that cannot be switched off and too many Gaelic-lite sport, music and reality programmes. The most important challenge is the service’s inadequate budget, which makes it difficult to provide a diverse and attractive mix of programmes for the Gaelic audience. BBC ALBA’s budget is only about one-sixtieth of BBC1’s.

The Gaelic Act established a statutory agency, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, with a wide range of responsibilities in relation to Gaelic promotion. The Bòrd must prepare a National Gaelic Language Plan every five years and may require any Scottish public authority to prepare and implement a Gaelic language plan. Around 60 public bodies now have Gaelic plans, including the Scottish Government, 26 local authorities, Police Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and five universities, including the University of Edinburgh. These plans have been helpful in raising the profile of Gaelic and strengthening its role in public life, but Bòrd na Gàidhlig has arguably been over-willing to accept plans with few substantive commitments.

Even if the formal public status of the language has improved, the number of Gaelic speakers continues to decline, as it has for well over 150 years. The most dramatic recent declines have been in the islands. For many, there is ultimately little point in urban Gaelic schools or a national television service unless the language has a strong base in its traditional heartlands, with a concentration of speakers using Gaelic as their normal means of daily communication. The current National Gaelic Language Plan (2018-2023) recognises the importance of this issue even if it does not set out a concrete programme to tackle it. The weakness of the language in island communities is closely bound up with economic issues: the lack of employment opportunities and affordable housing, low wages and so on. At the same time, only a little over half the population of the Western Isles can speak Gaelic now, so that dealing with these economic and social problems will not necessarily bring about language revitalisation in the area.

What then will fill the Gaelic overcoat?


*Illustration by Emily Donnelly*

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