You know you’re in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland when McDonald’s greets you in Scottish Gaelic.
Have no worries, this northern part of Scotland is not overrun with fast food outlets. Inverness, which is a hub of transport and trade and the administrative capital of the Highlands. does have a McDonald’s in its city center, though.
On the windows of the store in Inverness, ‘welcome to McDonald’s’ and other familiar slogans of the chain are in Scottish Gaelic. I have not yet stopped in to see if they have menu boards in both English and Scottish Gaelic as well, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Slightly more than one percent of people in Scotland speak Gaelic as their first or day to day language, but many more have an acquaintance with it, through school days, through community activities, through music, and through signage. That signage part has been controversial at times. People have asked: is it really a good use of the government’s money, or a business or school district’s funds, to make sure there are dual language signs on the road ways across Scotland, in government buildings, in the signs which explain exhibits in museums?
So far, the answer has been yes. I agree. When you lose a language, you lose a whole way of thought and creativity in thinking about a nation, a culture, a way of life, a whole way of understanding parts of history and ideas about the present day.
Scottish Gaelic is not a required subject in schools in Scotland, but people can choose to learn it through community groups, in school based programs, through music, by listening to radio and television broadcasts, and by talking with native speakers — and through those signs. Gentler ways of keeping the language thriving, perhaps, and ones that seem to be working.
Take a minute and hear what Scottish Gaelic sounds like — if you are fan of Outlander you will like this lesson
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*Learn about the most recent album from Julie Fowlis, who sings in Scottish Gaelic and was the first person named to the post of Ambassador of Scottish Gaelic in recognition of her work Julie Fowlis: Live at Perthsire Amber
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