Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A new Gaelic School for Glasgow

You may have been living in a place for a looong time and yet there's still surprises out there.
And you'd never think that a Gaelic school set to be opened in Glasgow would bring them out.

So when I welcomed the fact that Glasgow's second Gaelic medium school will be opened in 2015 because it's on the southside making it an option for us, a full blown debate ensued. While I was surprised, it was also fascinating because I learned that what I welcomed with naive positivity meant a lot of other things for other people.

I love languages, I think bilingualism is a great gift if you can give it to your child, and that it's worthwhile saving engangered species including languages. I see Gaelic as one of the languages of the UK and Scotland in particular.

But of course, everything is political and shouldn't I know. I've left out the class and the ethnicity argument. And didn't mention Scots in the whole discussion which I admit I see as a dialect rather than a language in its own right (and I really should know better here, having studied under an expert in Scots at uni).

For me, class is a slippery subject. I don't understand it. I don't know which class I belong to or what makes one a certain class or not. I do know I don't speak Scots but that's surely because I'm German and not because I'm middle class (or not, because, as I say, I'm not sure what I am class wise). I understand the importance of the class term for Marxism and Communism and I am a socialist at heart, but that still doesn't help me define who is in or out. Since I last checked I didn't own any means of production other than my shovel and seeds from the seed swap, oh no, here we go again, I really and truly don't know what class I'm in.

I do know that Gaelic is spoken in the Highlands and Islands and hasn't been spoken for a long time in Glasgow. However, there's also a tendency for people from the Highlands and Islands to move here, for people from Ireland, England, Italy, Poland, Pakistan and Lithuania to move to Glasgow. In fact if there's anything linguistically suprising in Glasgow it's how few Scottish accents one hears.

I didn't realise that there's a competition between Scots and Gaelic, in the sense that Scots is the language of the Lowlands that has been surpressed, and Gaelic is the language of the Highlands and Islands that has been surpressed, and that support in the Lowlands for the Highlands language may add insult to injury. In my ideal world everyone would just learn Gaelic and Scots and hug each other.

The real world is that Scots is associated with the working class and Gaelic with the middle class. The association is real even if may not be based on reality (surely Gaelic speakers may be working class?) Probably because middle class parents send their kids to Gaelic immersion schools and Scots is mostly spoken by the "working class" and does not receive the status and support that Gaelic does. An imbalance of power that puts Scots in the weaker position.

I think I get it now. I still feel that Gaelic should be supported as a language at risk of being lost, and that if there is a demand for this in Glasgow (as there is, the other Gaelic immersion school is oversubscribed and I wonder if the fact that it is in the West End has contributed to the view that Gaelic medium education is a middle class thing) that should be harnessed. But so should Scots. And I think it's pretty cool that my non Scots speaking daughter comes home reciting Scots poems and for the fun of it speaks in her made up Scots, which is not that far off the real thing, closer than I'll ever get anyway.

Oh my, it's a complicated world.

1 comment:

Lorna Love said...

Just passing by! I came across your blog by chance while looking for something else. Just wanted to let you know that the current Gaelic Medium primary school in the West End is available to all throughout Glasgow (and other council areas outwith Glasgow depending on their Gaelic medium provision) so living in the SouthSide is not a barrier at all to access to the Glasgow Gaelic School (Southside campus irespective). Primary school children in Glasgow City are entitled to free transport to and from the school in the West End.

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