No, I’m not just muttering gibberish. Well, OK it may seem like that to some. Tha mi ag ionnsachadh Gàidhlig, I’m learning Gaelic. This summer I was able to spend two fabulous weeks on the Isle of Skye attending 2 back to back short courses at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (SMO), the Gaelic College.
My time at the college will be unforgettable! I had the opportunity to meet so many very interesting people from all over the world. In a recent update on SMO’s news there were people from 22 countries attending the short courses over the summer.
I took two courses, Gaelic 1 and Gaelic 2. I debated with myself about taking level 1, but in the end I was glad I did. It really gave me a better understanding of the language and really prepared me nicely for level 2. I was really lucky to have the same tutor for both courses, I think it made things a bit easier, you know, not having to re-train another tutor just for a week haha
Besides learning the language, the biggest highlight of my two weeks at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig was the very welcoming and inviting environment they provide. With the exception of the first couple days when I arrived over the weekend, I never felt out of place or unwelcome. The first weekend was a bit odd, the place was quite empty as it does on the weekend during the transitions between courses. The main centre for evening entertainment is the Talla Mhòr (Pronounced: Tall-a Vor). One of the main suppliers of entertainment during the 2 weeks was SEALL, check out their website. The Talla Mhòr was hopping most nights, either with gigs put on by SEALL or just individuals that gather for a Session. These were good fun with lots of people singing and playing various instruments. I was shocked at how many songs I knew and could sing along too (but not too loudly hah), I suppose years of listening mostly to Gaelic music helped a lot. While I didn’t pull up the courage to play my tin whistle, I did get a lot of practice in and some one on one tutelage that helped improve my playing. I’ll keep practicing and memorizing songs, when I go back I’ll have to have a go at joining in or giving it a go for a solo.
On the Thursday night of each short course the have a course Céilidh. These evenings start off with some opening music for a few mins, then each class will present something that they’ve prepared. In both of my classes we went for singing. Scary stuff, 1) Singing in front of people and 2) Singing in another language (see number 1). But in the end it was good fun. After the class presentations are complete then it’s into the Céilidh with the house band. They could really pump out the tunage and kept the party going until about midnight, after that what happens is anybody’s guess haha one night the party raged on until after 5am!! I didn’t stay up for that one.
Here’s a video from my Level 1 class singing our song, the song was Bratach Bana (The lyrics here in Gaelic and English)
My plan right now is to continue to trying to improve my Gàidhlig and return to SMO in 2013 and do Level 3, would be nice to do 2 weeks again, but we’ll have to see how that goes. What I need to do is find some more localish people that speak the language and want to get together to practice and help each other. I need to track down some people that do Skype based tutoring as well. I should have gotten some names while up at SMO. If you’re reading this and know any Gàidhlig speakers / tutors that use Skype, please let me know.
I could really go on forever about my adventures at SMO but very similar tales are all over the Internet … simply put, it’s a fantastic place and in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back”. In the mean time, check out some of my photos from the Island (and a few from the trip there and back) .. An t-Eilean Sgitheanach agus Alba
(Click to enlage, or use the link above to see them on Flickr)
I would love to hear from other Gaelic speakers that find my page, especially if you’re around the Cambridge / Cambridgeshire area.