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International acclaim for Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s short courses

Students from 22 countries have attended Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s short course programme this summer which runs from May to August each year. The short courses in Gaelic and traditional music began at Skye’s Gaelic college in 1973 and now over 700 people annually attend Sabhal Mòr each summer to learn a host of different skills. Courses include Gaelic, drama, fiddle, accordion, step-dancing, piping, piano, whistle and singing and are delivered by a talented and well-known team of tutors.

Speaking of their success and international flavour, Short Courses Manager, Alasdair MacKay, said: “We are very happy with the short courses that we have been running so far this year and particularly with the number of students that have been coming to the College in order to partake in a course. Each year the SMO short course timetable gets better and more diverse and we have had many new courses in 2012. It always amazes me just how committed our students are and the effort they make to come to SMO for a week’s tuition. This year, this has been evident in how popular the courses have been and the incredibly high number of international students we have had coming to study at the College. We hope that the courses we are planning to run in 2013 will be better again with a wider range of new courses and subject choices running throughout the year and through this we hope to attract many first time short course students and we’ll also ensure that a  warm welcome awaits those who will be returning for another year.”

Short courses student Angela Gergel, who travelled from the Ukraine with her daughter to take a step-dancing course at the college this year, said: “I first heard about Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in 2007 when I was looking for colleges where I could learn Gaelic. I wanted to learn the language because being a philologist and teaching different foreign languages I noticed the close relationship between languages, and I understood that there should be something common in their origin. And when I started learning Gaelic I was surprised by how close some words and structures between Gàidhlig and Slavic languages are! I have been coming to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig every summer and have been learning not only the language, but also songs, dances and history.

“This summer the step-dancing course was really good, and I learned the new steps which I also found in the West-Ukrainian dances (I went to the Carpathian Mountains just after my trip to Scotland). We will definitely come back to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig next year and we are sure we will enjoy the courses as always.”

Another student who enjoyed their time at the short courses was Daniel Funk from Chicago: “The idea to take a class all started when I got a notice on Facebook from my friend, Muriel Fisher, that she was teaching short courses at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. I met Muriel a few years ago at a Language Immersion Weekend in the US and knew what an excellent teacher she was. I thought about taking some of the courses and mentioned it to my friend, Lita Tulloch, who lives in San Francisco. It was actually Lita who talked me into going to the class. She said she had never been to Scotland and always wanted to find out about her Scottish roots (she’s half Scottish and half Japanese). We decided to take the ‘Exploring Skye through Gaelic’ course which was geared for beginners and non speakers of Gaelic. Muriel was teaching and there was no doubt in my mind that it would be a fun class! Muriel’s teaching style is wonderfully easy for non-Gaelic speakers to comprehend and she provided enough of a challenge for me, who has studied Gaelic off and on for the past six years, to feel challenged. My friend, Lita, was born and raised in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese. I was quite surprised that by the end of the week she was understanding quite a bit of Gaelic and had good pronunciation!

“The course was everything I hoped it would be! We got to see much of the Isle of Skye, we got to interact with native speakers when we stopped at different places and we learned about the history of different areas of the island. We had so many field trips I started calling the class, ‘Gaelic in Motion’. The class size was small so everyone got questions answered promptly and we all felt comfortable with each other and brave enough to actually use Gaelic phrases in conversation. What one student couldn’t remember, another student did, which really helped with the learning of Gaelic phrases. The fact that this class was offered at the same time as the Alasdair Fraser fiddle workshop really made the evenings enjoyable because all the fiddle players would play for fun well into the wee hours. The class at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig gave me everything I wanted my vacation to be: fun, relaxing, educational and entertaining. All this while having ample opportunity to visit with old friends, meet new ones, and all on one of the most beautiful places on Earth. This was truly a fantastic experience!”

The 22 countries from which the short course students came are: America, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Japan, Luxemburg, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and Wales.

Photograph: Australian performance artist Ariel Killick who attended two short courses at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in the summer.

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