A new resource for you to use, completely free of charge.
Using Gàidhlig na Cagailte
We have recently created a new resource designed to improve listening skills for advanced learners of Gaelic. We called the resource Gàidhlig na Cagailte based on the expression cànan na cagailte, which is an idiom meaning something like 'authentic Gaelic' or 'the Gaelic of the home'. The resource is 100% free to use and is available online all year round for anyone who wishes to use it. Access it here.
What is it for?
Gàidhlig na Cagailte exists to push your listening skills that bit harder and take them to a more advanced level. If you can listen to the conversations in the resource and already understand more or less everything, it will still be useful for you to tune in and listen for features of different accents and dialects or pick up the occasional word or different way to express things. However, most people who will benefit from Gàidhlig na Cagailte will be those who are at the upper intermediate level or just starting to push through to what we would consider 'advanced'. In language learning, it is always notoriously difficult to progress beyond this stage, partly because you are already able to use the language quite well and so your motivation to improve tends to dip a bit, but also partly because the resources that got you to this point are no longer of much use to you.
What is it like?
We have recorded a number of conversations between different groups of three native Gaelic speakers. We chose groups of three because that allowed us to have interactions and interruptions that are more like the kinds of situations you might encounter in real life. If you want to use your Gaelic in live situations, you will very often be in conversation with more than one other person, and so you will have to be able to tune in to (potentially multiple) different speakers and the different ways they say things. You will also have to be able to cope with people changing the subject, people interrupting each other, people talking over the top of each other, and people's sentences or ideas tailing off vaguely before turning into something else entirely. Gàidhlig na Cagailte has all of this exciting stuff in it. It also has variable sound quality. Although this was largely as a result of the pandemic, it was actually always something we had in mind, because a proficient user of the language has to be able to pick up what someone says even when it is not easy to hear everything; and to be able to fill in little bits of words that get chewed up by poor audio etc.
How does it work?
Each conversation is available to listen to on the dedicated Gàidhlig na Cagailte page on the University of Aberdeen Gaelic Department site. Or, if you prefer, you can download the conversations and take them with you on your mobile devices. Alternatively, you will be able to find them via various podcast providers. Accompanying each conversation, there is a transcript that you can download to read through. If you choose to use the transcript, you will find some time stamps throughout the text. These time stamps mark places where we have decided to give a little extra explanation of either language points or vocabulary that the speakers used. A further recording and transcript accompany each conversation: these contain the explanations, read out slowly in Gaelic by a native speaker. So, even if you find the conversations themselves too difficult to follow, you will be able to use the support materials to help you access them and you should gradually get to the point where you can indeed understand most of what is being said.
How should I use it?
That depends on many things, including your own preferences: after all, we made this resource for you! However, let's think about just two possibilities, based on your current level: intermediate or advanced.
First, if you are at an intermediate level, you may find the conversations quite tricky to follow at first, and you may also notice that you find some of them more difficult than others. In this case, I recommend initially dedicating at least a full week to each conversation. First, have a listen to the full thing all the way through and see how much you already understand. Next, read the transcript. Does everything make sense to you? If not, listen to the explanation (and possibly read the transcript of the explanation, too, if you need that). Go back and listen to the conversation. Does it make a bit more sense now? Next, listen and read at the same time. Do you still need to go back and listen to some of the explanations? You can use the time stamps to find the part you need. Keep using the combination of listening and reading until all of the transcript makes sense to you. Then you can move on to mainly just listening. You might need to listen to the conversation once or twice a day, or you could listen to half in the morning, half at lunchtime, the first half again late in the afternoon and the second half again in the evening. Once you get to the point where the whole audio file mostly makes sense, start reading the transcript out loud. Does your pronunciation sound good? You might try recording it and listening to it after you listen to the original conversation. Alternatively, you could print the transcript, get somebody to blank out words here and there at random, and then you could try to fill in the blanks for yourself when you listen. Finally, you might even try reading the transcript out loud while you play the conversation at the same time, trying to match your intonation with the native speakers' intonation.
What about if you are already pretty advanced and you can actually follow a large part of the conversations, or if a second listen is enough to let you pick up the main points? Well, you should still listen multiple times, but this time try it without using the transcripts. You might also find it useful to have a quick listen to the explanation, because there could be a couple of nice idioms in there that you hadn't noticed. By the end of your week, try using the conversation for dictation. Play a sentence and see if you can transcribe it. Replay it as often as you need to. If the player you are using allows it, you might slow things down to 75% of the original speed, or you could just have a go at full speed, or even be downright gallus and speed it up to 125% or higher! Once you have a paragraph or so down, get hold of the transcript and compare what you have with what we wrote. Did we get it all right?
Work hard with it, find ways to use it as both an active and a passive resource, and have fun. Play it when you do boring exercise, when you wash dishes, when you fold and put away clothes, etc. Just add it all into your daily routine.
We plan to have around ten conversations by the time Gàidhlig na Cagailte is complete. Once you have got to the end of the ten conversations, go back and listen to the first one again. Think about whether you can understand it more easily now compared with when you first used the resource. Listen to each of the conversations, in turn, one per day. Then leave them for a while and go ahead and listen to some other content, such as television, radio or other podcasts. Come back in another month or so and listen to the Gàidhlig na Cagailte conversations again.
If you find Gàidhlig na Cagailte useful, we want to hear from you. Either leave comments below or email using the contact form. Specifically, if you want us to work on a 'season 2', let us know.
Access Gàidhlig na Cagailte.
[The lovely art work throughout Gàidhlig na Cagailte is by the amazing Véronique Heynsbroek, a Gaelic-speaker from Luxembourg who is now based on Aberdeenshire. Visit her website and take a look at some of her other work.]