Scottish Gaelic Day One: Basic training

I think the first few days of learning any language are the hardest.  The words all look so very very foreign.  Even if the language is in the same family as your native one all similarities hide when you look at a page of words in a completely unfamiliar language. It becomes a bunch of gibberish.  I have a feeling a lot of people who try to learn a language on their own give up in the first week.  And I can’t say I blame them.  Flipping through a page or two of a language book and finding you can’t make heads or tails of any of it is kinda scary.  It looks so esoteric you are just not smart enough to learn it.  I think language books should make a point not to put large blocks text in the language you’re learning anywhere on the first five pages, so as not to freak people out.  Because I’m good at languages; I pick them up pretty quick, I find the patterns on which they’re built with relative ease, and my knowledge of language families helps me find similarities between languages.  I went into this with a level head, knowing I’m perfectly capable of learning this language. I almost gave up after looking at a page of Gaelic text.

It’s the orthography of Gaelic that’s scary.  Their spelling system is almost as complicated as English’s.  Lot’s of single sounds are represented by two letters together, or could be represented in two different ways, or is represented by a letter which also represents an entirely different sound, or aren’t pronounced at all. And sometimes there are letters in a word whose primary function is to tell you how to pronounce some other letter. And there are h’s everywhere.  It looks completely impossible.

So I decided I needed a plan of attack, a way of breaking the language up into manageable chunks.  I downloaded the Colloquial Scottish Gaelic e-book and associated audio files, and I’m going to work through it carefully, repeating and rewriting all dialogues and completing all exercises, half a chapter a day.  In addition, I found a website that has lots of videos in Scottish Gaelic with good English subtitles.  I’ll watch one of those a day too, in order to get a semi-immersive aspect going.  And for later, once I have a pretty good grasp of the language, I found a bunch of Gaelic fairytales I can try translating, to improve my fluency.    And every fifth day will be review of everything I’ve learned thus.  Oh, and as a bonus I wrote down a pretty long list of useful or entertaining Gaelic phrases so I could familiarize myself with the spelling system in a less overwhelming way, one sentence at a time.  I may also post video or audio files of me reading the dialogues and stuff so that, on the off chance this gets any actual followers and one or more happen to speak Gaelic, I can get some feedback on pronunciation

I think it’s a pretty good plan, actually. I have no idea how long it’ll take to get to a reasonable level of ability (enough to be able to carry on short conversations an read with average skill) but I hope to be ready to pick a new language in no more than six months.  Then I’ll continue to improve my Gaelic with reading and videos while I start learning the basics of something else.

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