From a report on the position of the Scottish Gaelic language in Nova Scotia, published by the Metro News Canada website yesterday:
“Nova Scotia’s Office of Gaelic Affairs says the traditional Scottish language isn’t dead — it’s just sleeping.
…Frances MacEachen, a community development officer with the office, said organizations that promote Gaelic culture are helping to awaken a new generation’s interest in their history, not unlike the province’s Mi’kmaq and Acadian communities.
The office has announced more than $40,000 will go to nine non-profit organizations for projects dedicated to the advancement of everything Gaelic, from playgroups to language immersion classes.
MacEachen, who grew up in Cape Breton among Gaelic-speaking parents, said people of all ages are becoming increasingly interested in reclaiming that heritage and learning to speak the language.
“People do think we’re trying to revive something that belongs in the past,” said MacEachen, who speaks Gaelic with her colleagues in the Cape Breton hamlet of Mabou.
“But people who make those comments don’t understand the interest in the language and culture and how it brings people together and how it attracts people to our province.”
The office said census data indicates the number of Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia rose to 1,275 in 2011 from 890 in 2006.
In 2011, 300 people identified Scottish Gaelic as their maternal language.
Later this month, more than 100 young people will descend on Englishtown, a small community overlooking St. Ann’s Bay, to take part in language, song and drama programs at the Gaelic College.
Shay MacMullin, a language teacher and self-described Gaelic advocate, recently helped organize a two-week tutor-training and immersion program through the Whycocomagh and District Historical Society. The organization is among the nine to receive government funding.
MacMullin said her grandfather was a native Gaelic speaker who had no choice but to assimilate and speak English as a schoolboy in Nova Scotia. As a result, the language wasn’t passed down.”
While it is good to see such enthusiasm for the Scottish language in the formerly Gaelic-speaking communities of eastern Canada it is perhaps unfortunate that the article is accompanied by a picture labelled, “A sample of the Gaelic alphabet.” Unfortunate because the picture is actually a playful sample of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional Tengwar script adapted for Scotland’s indigenous tongue. In other words, not a traditional Gaelic alphabet at all. And as much as I love Tolkien and the use of Tengwar for the Elvish dialects of Quenya and Telerin, I believe that Gàidhlig, the Scottish language, and the historic scripts and types it shares with Irish and Manx have a rather greater importance and beauty to them.