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Community and conversation at the heart of the Gaelic Summer School

Gaelic higher education students from across Scotland were given the chance this week at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig to improve their Gaelic conversation skills as part of the 7th Sgoil Shamhraidh Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig (or National Gaelic Summer School) which finished today (Friday 7 September). The language scheme gives students the chance to improve their spoken Gaelic and use it in a number of different and stimulating situations. Students from several institutions attended this year’s Summer School which was held over three weeks.

The School was established in 2005, and this year’s School was run by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college on Skye. The college designed a programme of events and classes which was both diverse and interesting and students were given the opportunity to use their Gaelic in a wide range of situations, from the classroom to the croft.

In the first week, students were based at Sabhal Mòr for a ‘language week’ where they concentrated on grammar and conversation classes through the day, and then were given various opportunities outwith the classes to converse in Gaelic. In their second week students enjoyed the hospitality of the community of Flodigarry in north Skye where they took part in various activities and events and were immersed in the life and Gaelic of the local people. Then in the final part of the school this week, students focussed on creative activities in order to improve their spoken Gaelic, as they turned their attention to music, media and other specially-chosen subjects and activities.

Abi Lightbody, a student at Glasgow University, said of her time at the Summer School: “I’m delighted that I had the chance to take part in the Summer School at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig this year, as the college is a great facility for improving and using my Gaelic. The week in Flodigarry was brilliant. The cooking was the activity I enjoyed the most, and the fact that we were staying in a Gaelic-speaking community such as Flodigarry really helped and made the whole experience more enjoyable.”

Fiona Dunn, Gaelic Officer at Glasgow University and Summer School Coordinator, said: “The Gaelic Summer School gives students from across Scotland a fantastic opportunity to improve their spoken Gaelic and enhance their conversation skills. When you learn any language, it is vital that you are given the chance to use the language in different settings and students of Gaelic, especially those from Scotland’s cities, benefit greatly from opportunities such as those offered by the Summer School. The School has gone from strength to strength since it began as a pilot in 2005 and we hope to be able to continue to hold the event in the future with the support of our funders and the higher education institutes involved such as Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and Lews Castle College. These kind of opportunities are key to the future of Gaelic if we want confident students who are not only willing to use the language but pass it on to the next generation.”

Commenting on the success of the course, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Deputy Director of Education, Archie MacLean, said: “We are very pleased that Sabhal Mòr Ostaig had the opportunity this year to hold the National Gaelic Summer School. It was a pleasure for us to be able to host the event and to welcome the students to the college. We hope that we have been able to provide a stimulating programme for them, with various events at the college and in Flodigarry in the north of the island which allowed them to use their Gaelic in different situations.

“We are also delighted that the students have enjoyed the Summer School so much and that they have been given the confidence and encouragement to improve their spoken Gaelic. It’s crucial that the Summer School receives the funding and support required to continue this good work in the future and to help new generations of Gaelic speakers to feel confident in using the language.”

The National Gaelic Summer School is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and is open to Gaelic students in Higher Education who are going into their third or fourth year of an honours degree or are taking a post-graduate course.

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