Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh: University event shows health of Gaelic revival
ACADEMICS from around the world are in Scotland this week for one of the world’s largest dedicated Gaelic conferences, being held at the University of Glasgow.
It has attracted more than 100 delegates and 75 individual research papers, and the scale of the seventh biennial international conference on Gaelic Studies (Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig), reflects the success of the Scottish Government’s drive to promote Gaelic in Scotland.
There are unprecedented levels of Gaelic learning taking place in schools and further education centres. The conference is taking place in the year that all Scotland’s universities with Gaelic provision were required, for the first time under the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, to create individual Gaelic Language Plans. The act seeks to secure the status of Gaelic as an official language of Scotland, commanding equal respect to English.
One language dies every 14 days and it is estimated that by next century nearly half of the 7,000 or so languages spoken today will disappear. There are complex socio-historical reasons for the decline in Gaelic. Revitalisation efforts, especially institutional support, can halt the decline.
As well as providing access to a rich cultural heritage, explaining names, places and traditions, Gaelic has much to offer in terms of education and enhanced bilingual and associated cognitive skills. It provides employment opportunities and contributes significantly to the cultural economy and tourism.
As institutions, universities have a central role to play in normalising the language and ensuring its future. They also have an important role in questioning the myths propagated about Gaelic language and culture by engaging in high quality research, teaching and in informing cultural policies. They can educate future generations in subjects which are not widely available on school curricula. They can provide bias-free enlightened environments in which Gaelic speakers can have confidence in their language and culture. Universities’ Gaelic Language Plans will help normalise Gaelic and provide a lead for other agencies, both public and private.
• Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh is professor of Gaelic at the University of Glasgow.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
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Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West