A Way to Get in Touch with Ancestral Roots
Prest, Emma, The Independent (London, England)
Culture If you'd really like to immerse yourself in Scottish history, then sign up for a Gaelic or Celtic course, says Emma Prest
What do Jules Verne, Idi Amin and Mohamed al-Fayed have in common? The answer is Scotland. All three were, or are, fascinated by the country and its culture.
They aren't the only ones. Every year, hundreds of undergraduate and postgraduate students from the UK and around the world choose to learn more about this country. There is an array of courses on offer throughout Scotland, ranging from Gaelic and the media to Scottish ethnology and Celtic civilisation.
Students are drawn to Celtic and Gaelic studies for all kinds of reasons, and not all the students taking these degrees are Scottish. "We get a large number of people from across the UK, not just Scotland," says Dr Michelle MacLeod, the Gaelic and Celtic studies co-ordinator at the University of Aberdeen. "There are European and American students and people from all sorts of surprising backgrounds with an interest in the Gaelic and Celtic language and culture. International students are often particularly interested in Gaelic music."
Kyle Carey from New Hampshire, in America, for example, is studying Gaelic at the UHI Millennium Institute's Sabhal Mr Ostaig Centre. "It was mostly the music that drew me to the language," Carey says. "I went to Ireland for a study-abroad year as a sophomore, fell in love with the music and then took up the fiddle."
Another student, Beth Cole, has just finished a four-year degree in Gaelic and linguistics and is starting a PhD this September at the University of Aberdeen. "People study Gaelic for different reasons," she says. "Some do it because of their family history. They maybe don't speak Gaelic, but their grandparents did and they are chasing their ancestry. Some are strong Scottish nationalists, and Gaelic is an important part of that. Others, like me, are just fascinated by the language."
Cole has always been interested in linguistics, but had no connection to Gaelic. "The thing I love about language is how the jigsaw fits together. For Gaelic, the jigsaw is all the wrong way round. The word order is different. I found it really exciting, new and different."
To become fluent in Gaelic, there is arguably no better place to study than the Sabhal Mr Ostaig Centre on the Isle of Skye, which is dedicated to creating a Gaelic environment where students speak the language in and out of the classroom. Carey chose to come here because "there is nothing else like it, even in Ireland". She started a year ago as a beginner and is almost fluent.
Sabhal Mr Ostaig recently launched a new undergraduate degree in Gaelic and traditional music. Students learn about Gaelic song and its history, and are expected to study and perform instruments such as the bagpipes, Scottish harp, accordion, flute or fiddle. They also have to sing.
A four-year Gaelic education degree is run jointly with the University of Aberdeen for students looking to teach Gaelic at secondary school or to become a Gaelic medium primary school teacher. The postgraduate one- year diploma in Gaelic media has placements in the Gaelic broadcasting industry and, according to John Norman Macleod, the co-ordinator of Gaelic and related studies at Sabhal Mr Ostaig, is a practical course that prepares students for jobs in journalism.
The Gaelic Language Act passed in Scotland in 2005 may be improving job opportunities for Gaelic-speaking students. …
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Publication information: Article title: A Way to Get in Touch with Ancestral Roots. Contributors: Prest, Emma - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: August 5, 2010. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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