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The truths they don't want you to read....

Monday, February 02, 2009

As others see us....

Lifted straight from The Register

The BBC's Gaelic-language channel, BBC Alba, has seen its audience drop by a third since launch, with further drops expected as Scottish politicians desperately try to be seen doing something about the death of Gaelic.

The channel started four months ago, with more than 600,000 viewers, a total that has already dropped to 400,000. BBC Scotland told The Times it expects to see figures dropping to around 250,000, despite the channel showing Scottish Premier League football.

At the time of the 2001 census there were only 58,650 Gaelic speakers in Scotland, which is what prompted the launch of the Freesat and Sky available channel. That means that hundreds of thousands of viewers are tuning in to see programmes in a language they don't understand, or perhaps just to watch the football. Given that between 80-100,000 Scots brave the weather each week to watch a game in person, it's hardly surprising that BBC Alba can drum up twice that number to watch League games on TV, even if the commentary is in Gaelic.

Strangely, the channel won't be drawn on what people are watching, just that the target is 250,000 viewers, or 60 quid per viewer.

Gaelic has been on life support for years - drive up to the Highlands and the signposts are in Gaelic and English, but pull off the A9 and the Gaelic disappears along with the tourists. Schools and playgroups get government funding for promoting Gaelic, and local libraries are well stocked with Gaelic books - all in pristine condition, almost as though no one ever reads them. English migrants like to see their kids learning Gaelic, while the locals would prefer their children learn something someone else speaks - ideally someone with money.

Popular programmes are broadcast in Gaelic on the primary BBC channels - so even without BBC Alba you don't have to miss out on badly dubbed Charlie and Lola.

But Scotland has a culture quite strong enough to survive without demanding a different language. The problem is that it's hard to spend money promoting "culture" when everyone has their own idea what that is. So the Scottish Parliament, and the BBC, instead spend money promoting a language hardly anyone speaks, while forgetting that anyone who does speak Gaelic is perfectly fluent in English too - for when they're not talking to the tourists.




Anonymous said...

I'm assuming you're merely playing Advocate for whatever Entity pulls your strings. Surely you wouldn't otherwise trot out these tired arguments for starving the Gaelic language of the relatively small sums of money it gets.

If we don't accept the basic premise that Gaelic is a valuable and intrinsic part of our cultural heritage, then there is no point bickering about it. You either think it's worth protecting and support the new channel or you don't and you'd rather see the money spent on something else.

When the Gaelic language has so many detractors from outside the Highlands and Islands, it is even more depressing to suppose that there are more enemies within. We don't need to do ourselves down because we've got the "Sun", Rikki Brown and Michael Fry to do that for us.

What the hell - we're only Teuchs and everyone knows you've got to get out to get on.

Anonymous said...

Gaelic would do better if Gaels weren't so miserable about it.

Anonymous said...

Gaelic is dead. It has been dead for a long time. There is no point in trying to resuscitate it. Let us now bury it!

Anonymous said...

7.18pm, I think you mean if Gaels weren't so "miserly about it". A relatively small amount of cash compared to so many other true examples of waste.

What price do you think would be a fair one for protecting what's left of our language and giving it some hope of survival?

You see, I think we've already paid a high enough price for "getting on" in English.

Anonymous said...

If they keep on showing the program Rapal its no wonder they are losing viewers, The music is awful & the guys signing seem as if they are on drugs half the time the way the jump around & shout. Alot of the programs are from foreign countries too rather than alba!

Laudrup said...

Prick of the highest order. "Scotland has enough culture without needing another language" What the ned fest of the central belt?

Ignorant fool.

Anonymous said...


No I mean miserable, over-sensitive, defensive and at times downright rude.

Rather than being pleased that people are bothering to learn the language, learners have derision poured upon them. Everything from their audacity at thinking they could learn it, their poor pronunciation, wrong dialect, wrong accent, we hate incomers anyway....

Look, even many of our own native speakers don't dare speak it anymore because they have been made to feel embarrassed about their 'poor' Gaelic. What sort of message does that give?

I hardly think we offer a warm invitation. I have witnessed learners giving it their best shot, then being on the receiving end of a totally demoralising lecture about their short-comings and a whole ream of technical talk which quite frankly was boring and totally unnecessary.

Money alone is not enough, as the current situation shows. We need to change our attitudes and recognise that people want to learn Gaelic because it is fun to do so, rather than an obligation.

What do people want, a vibrant Gaelic spoken by many, in many dialects and accents, or 100 well paid professionals maintaining a perfect received dead language.

Anonymous said...

I often wonder what it is in certain people born and bred in a place that makes them fervently wish for the death of the endemic language of that it merely mindless trolling like that of 'melinda the messenger', jealousy of bilinguals or a desire to wipe out all traces of ethnicity and make everyone conform to their narrow field of view? Or do they just hate the place itself, or the people? Do the English ever carp about their language and wish for its destruction? Or the French?

I speak Gaelic in the home every day of life and when I meet people out and about who are Gaelic speakers, I speak Gaelic to them and keep on speaking Gaelic even if they occasionally lapse into English (because they feel my Gaelic or their Gaelic is a bit rusty maybe).

Gaelic being spoken every day in the home, in the streets and in schools is what matters. There is much produced for Gaelic TV that is downright embarrassing, but who would deny that it's but a tiny fraction of the relatively expensive tripe churned out daily by Channel 4 and the like?

The last paragraph of Angus's post displays such stunning ignorance that I can only assume it was written in jest. I hope so anyway.

Anonymous said...

whilst i am aware you have been trying very hard to give the impression 12:17 (i am assuming you are the same as 5:47- i may be wrong) that you are from the islands - it is not entirely clear that that is so. I am from the island and while i think it is a crime of magnificent proportions that Gaelic has been allowed to die out... (this should have been tackled at least two generations ago) i largely agree with Angus. Do not let that stop you from speaking it in your own home, or even in the streets if need be. Unfortunately i missed out on was neither taught in the schools, nor did my mum and father think it advisable to teach it to me. the reason (obvious to anyone with even half a brain)that English people do not think that way about their language is that many, many more than 58,650 people speak it!

if you wish to prove you are from the Island you must answer these questions

1)what do you think of the windmill farms?

2) what does church mean to you?

3) It would be handy if we had a name (or even nickname) to go with the tag 'anon'

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:49

"if you wish to prove you are from the Island you must answer these questions

1)what do you think of the windmill farms?

2) what does church mean to you?

3) It would be handy if we had a name (or even nickname) to go with the tag 'anon'

How utterly ludicrous.

(from Anon 12:17 but not 5:47)

Anonymous said...

From Anon 5.47 but not 12.17

I'm from Lewis, I'm female and in my 30s. I speak Gaelic every day of life - at home, at work, in the street and wherever else I can. I don't have to prove that I'm from the island because I don't see what that has to do with anything. My opinion on the church and windfarms are no more relevant than my opinion on Sandy Matheson and the marag. However, as you ask, I think windfarms could be good for the local economy and I think that the church has largely been a force for good in these islands. Which is more than can be said for the narrow-minded individuals who think it's clever to have a pop at Gaelic, Presbyterianism and anything else that marks us out as Maws, teuchters or whatever.

Moiteil Maw

Anonymous said...

Well said!!

By the way what happened to the MARAG it wasn't on Isles FM.

Anonymous said...

Just a couple of points on the comments left on here:

- Far be it for me to defend Angus but the entire paragraph was lifted (Angus has pointed this out) from a press release in the Register. It is certainly not his own work, with the exception of the "discuss" comment.

- On a more personal note, I am not from the Islands and would love to learn another language. I would prefer to learn Spanish as I have a, probably ridiculous, goal that I may one day retire out there.

- When I am on my holidays in foreign climes, I think it is right that I buy a phrase book and try to converse, albeit basically, in the local language. The locals love the effort being made and correct without being offensive and try to help the learning.

- In the Islands I have heard on a number of occasions how this or that incomer speaks "learned" Gaelic and doesn't do it right and criticisms of non native speakers. I have also been told that those in Uist don't think that those in Lewis speak Gaelic correctly and so on, effectively ridiculing anyone who makes an effort.

- Surely if someone's native language isn't Gaelic or Spanish or French or wherever they happen to be BUT they make an effort to try, this should be applauded, not put down.

- And this sums up what is totally wrong with these Islands. Everything has to be exactly the way that the locals want it to be, nothing must change, no-one who is not from here can have an opinion and one should put up or shut up because that is the way it has always been done.

I have in my lifetime of living in three continents never come across such a cruel and racist society as here. There are exceptions but they are few and far between. I'm sure that the comments back will tell me that if I don't like it then I should leave but I believe that things can change and I will spend as long as it takes me to try to make as much change as I can.

Anonymous said...

I think we're missing some of the psychology of language learning (and speaking) here - that of the native speakers.

I spent some years, ages ago, in Poland in active pursuit of the massacre of Polish, and inevitably met with what seemed almost willful incomprehension, and I know I wasn't THAT bad. In those days, there were few non-Poles in Poland so either you spoke the language or you didn't. Years later, with my Polish now extremely rusty, I was there again and lo, could be understood much better. The difference, I believe, is that as Poland rejoined the western world, Poles have got their heads round other people learning Polish for communication.

I think that Gaelic learning is still an undeveloped industry, and relatively few learners make real progress, and there's always English to revert to, and so Gaelic speakers do not know how to cope with learners.

Obviously there's sometimes a degree of natural dourness too, but it's more about the psychology of language than any conscious desire to discourage.

Personally I feel we should preserve Gaelic, as a living language as far as possible, for the same reason we protect rare species and traditional-but-inefficient crafts.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:09

Spot on my view too I love it here but the out moded zeopobic and nepotistic society stinks and Iblame it directly on a backward language, self appointed local lairds/elders and the Free Church.

Why else does their youth leave enmass - locals will blame education and jobs but thats the same in any rural world difference is they will not come back to church and family control of their lives.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:09

If you don't like the smell there are plenty of ferries and planes that will take you back to where you came from and where I presume the smell is sweeter.
Young folk have left these Islands for generations to further their education and themselves, and some will return and some will not.
To blame the gaelic language and the church is so off the mark.
Courious to know who the self appointed Lairds are as I thought to become a Laird you Had to buy a considerable acreage of land with some tenants to Lord it over.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:15pm

I rest my case......

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:09

Yes they are called Community Trusts who get tax payers dosh to buy land lords lands to set thems selves up as.......

yes Land Lords. Just look at South Uist, Galston and the prospect of forced purchase buy South Lochs. The new Lairds lording it over their communities.

Anonymous said...

well done 11:05 for at least mentioning psychology - my questions have no right or wrong answer - i was more interested in the way (s)he would answer!

Anonymous said...

It's no wonder the BBCAlba channel viewing numbers are plummeting when the potential audience is out there listening for any dodgy Gaelic being spoken!