Language recovery is neither a political nor utilitarian activity. Those of us who have retained our languages and dialects despite an essentially hostile education system have cause to rejoice in a commitment to support a growing, yet still vulnerable, provision for Gaelic-medium education.
Inverness Councillor Jim Crawford (your report, 25 September) advises teaching Mandarin (or, he could have added, Cantonese, Bengali and Urdu), to which I would happily agree: not instead of Gaelic, though, but as well as.
All available evidence shows that the already bilingual child has the “cognitive plasticity” to be able to access one or more additional languages with comparative ease.
That, surely, would be the most profitable way ahead
I see Councillor Jim Crawford is up to his usual anti-Gaelic tricks. He suggests that investing in teaching school pupils Gaelic is “a waste of resources” and that children would progress further in the world by learning Mandarin or German.
What he does not take the trouble to understand is that there is little or no difference in the cost per child of Gaelic-medium education as compared with English medium.
The difference is that children passing through Gaelic-medium education are totally bilingual from an early age.
This is an intellect-enhancing attribute as demonstrated by rigorous tests.
These tests prove these children consistently perform better in all subjects, including English, compared with their peers in the often linguistically inept products of English medium. Gaelic pupils also tend to be more self-confident, culturally anchored and open minded.
It doesn’t stop there. Bilinguals have a much greater capacity for learning a third, fourth or even fifth language than monoglots.
Thus if we wish our children to become fluent in Mandarin or any other foreign language, as Councillor Crawford suggests, then the best course of action would be to give them the advantage of Gaelic medium education.
The confident and talented youngsters who have come through the Gaelic education system are truly a credit to Scotland and among our best international ambassadors.
In terms of educational value for money, Gaelic medium education is about as good as it gets.