Bring Gaelic to the World
Bring Gaelic to the World
Scottish Gaelic is one of the indigenous languages of Scotland, and one of the oldest continuously spoken languages in Europe. It has a rich literary, poetic, and musical culture spanning centuries, and no-one can truly say that they have a deep understanding of British (or in fact European) culture if Gaelic literature is not included within that knowledge base.
Unfortunately, due to many factors, the number of speakers within Scotland itself have dropped from around 23% of the population in 1755 to about 1% of the population in 2011 (at the last census). The language’s future has become threatened. This is not just a concern for native speakers of the language itself, but for all people, as losing this language would mean losing a connection to a linguistic tradition and an indigenous way of life that spans back to at least the 5th Century CE.
Since 2008, the British Broadcasting Network has dedicated the channel BBC ALBA to the creation and broadcasting of content from Scotland, specifically with a focus on the Gaelic language. This is an invaluable resource for keeping the language alive, as it provides free-to-air access to modern, dynamic Gaelic content for both adults and children in the UK. It helps to keep the language modern, accessible, and a part of daily life in the homes of the people, which is arguably one of the most important things that can be done for any minoritised language.
In the last few years however, the study of Scottish Gaelic has become increasingly common outside of the UK, with people in the diaspora returning to their heritage language, and people in places as far away as Brazil and South Africa signing up to study the language using applications such as Duolingo.
Currently there are over 500,000 students of Scottish Gaelic using the Duolingo app (almost 10 times the number of native speakers), with a large percentage of them living outside of the UK. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College of the University of the Highlands and Islands also teaches online courses to many students outside of the UK. This is to say nothing of the many online and in person classes becoming more popular in places with Scottish heritage diasporas such as Canada, Australia, the USA, and New Zealand.
Unlike TG4 (Ireland’s Irish language television station), BBC ALBA has not been made available outside of its home country via a streaming service. This means that the BBC’s goal of language revitalisation and preservation is only being supported within Scotland and the greater UK, and people who are not living there are excluded.
Aside from Gaelic students, this exclusion is especially relevant to the shrinking Gaelic speaking communities of Cape Breton, Canada; the Gaelic speaking diaspora in other countries; and people who are trying to create Gaelic households or ‘language nests’ and pass the language on to their children outside of the UK. Having such a fantastic resource available but inaccessible is not only frustrating to learners and fluent speakers alike, but it also brings to question the BBC’s desire to revitalise and support the use and study of this indigenous language and culture itself.
We are asking for geographic restrictions to be lifted on BBC ALBA’s online iplayer and for programming to made available outside of the UK (as Ireland’s TG4 is), to help support and foster growth and awareness of this amazing living language and culture in a more modern light.