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Gaelic Medium Education in the Western Isles

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Gaelic medium education possible if we can’t speak Gaelic ourselves?



    Yes. Most children in Gaelic medium education come from non-Gaelic speaking homes. There is help available and plenty of opportunities for parents to learn Gaelic.

  • Does my child have to go to a pre-school Gaelic group before going into Gaelic medium education?



    This is not absolutely necessary but it is advisable whenever possible and most Gaelic medium provision does now have attached nursery provision.

  • What are the advantages of being bilingual?



    Research shows that children who understand more than one language are able to think more flexibly and creatively.

    There are definite economic advantages later on when your child is looking for a job, as more employers today ask for bilingual skills than ever before.

    It can help to build a bridge between generations, if grandparents,family or community members speak Gàidhlig.

    A bilingual person can communicate with a wider variety of people than a person who can speak only one language.

    It provides the opportunity to experience two different cultures.

    In Gaelic-speaking areas, it gives people the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of community life.

    Some research has even indicated that being bilingual may help to keep the brain sharper for longer.

  • How do we use the Gaelic language at home if only one partner can speak it?



    This is a fairly common situation, not only in Scotland in the case of English and Gàidhlig, but also in many other countries all over the world where two or more languages are spoken. The first step is deciding that you want your child to be bilingual. It's then important that the parent who can speak Gaelic continues to use the language as much as possible in the home so that the child becomes familiar with hearing both languages. There's no need for the non-Gaelic speaking partner to feel left out, just remember that children love explaining and translating what's been said in Gaelic. That partner can use English so that the child becomes fully bilingual.

    Support your child by taking an interest in their education and in as many aspects of Gaelic activity as possible – television, radio, out-of-school activities and social occasions. There are also many opportunities for parents to learn some Gaelic, very often in special classes for parents.

  • I’d like my child to have a bilingual education but I’m worried that I won’t be able to help with homework?



    Parents usually find that once their child is in school that they need not have worried about homework but when necessary there is support available for parents from teachers and in some schools from Gaelic speaking parents. Homework clubs and other parental support structures are also now more widely available. Schools can provide tapes and CDs so that children can listen to reading books being read aloud, particularly at the early years stage. All schools can supply Heinemann Maths homework sheets with English on one side for parents who can't read Gaelic.

  • I like to read to my child at home. How can parents do this if they are not fluent in Gaelic?



    You can ask the school for a loan of Gaelic books on tape which you could use together with your child and there are some books with audio available to download from the internet, for example the website for parents www.gaelic4parents.com. There is no reason whatsoever why you should not also read in English to your children.

  • How will Gaelic medium education affect my child’s English?



    Children in Gaelic medium education are initially taught almost entirely in Gaelic and English reading and writing are generally introduced from P3. Children transfer skills acquired in one language to the other so tend to progress quickly once they start reading in English. In fact, a study conducted at Stirling University in 1999* showed 'that P7 Gaelic-medium pupils performed better in English than English-medium pupils.' *Prof. Richard Johnstone, The Attainments of Pupils Receiving Gaelic-medium Primary Education in Scotland, Scottish CILT, Stirling University, 1999.

  • Why should we bother with Gaelic at home if they are being taught the language in school?



    The home environment has a crucial role to play in every child’s education, reinforcing work done in the school. Using Gaelic at home enables children to acquire many valuable aspects of language skills which may not be part of formal education.

  • My child is fluent. Why should I choose Gaelic medium education?



    GME reinforces the language of the fluent speakers and encourages them to continue using Gaelic in all situations. It also enables them to become fully literate in the language.

  • What if my child has special needs?



    Children with special needs can reach their full potential in Gaelic-medium education just as they can in any other system. There's no evidence that bilingualism contributes in any way to learning difficulties. If you have any doubts, take specialist advice, preferably from a professional with experience of dealing with bilingual children.