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BBC Alba to roll out ambitious new £2.4million project to support Gaelic learning

By Louise Glen

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Speak Gaelic will be an innovative new approach to teaching, learning and engaging with the language.
Speak Gaelic will be an innovative new approach to teaching, learning and engaging with the language.

A new, wide-ranging, multi-faceted learning brand has been announced, offering the most comprehensive approach to learning Scottish Gaelic in a generation.

SpeakGaelic will launch from September 2021 with a course, a dedicated on-demand learning website and complementary programming across BBC ALBA platforms, including BBC ALBA YouTube, ensuring international availability.

SpeakGaelic is funded by the Scottish Government; the principal body for promoting Gaelic development, Bòrd na Gàidhlig; the BBC; and MG ALBA, which delivers BBC ALBA in partnership with the BBC.

It will be delivered over a three-year period at a cost of £2.4 million in total.

Organisers say this new brand will offer the most significant transformational change to learning and using Gaelic in almost thirty years and is set to be a focal point for adult learners and speakers.

Aimed at increasing the uptake and usage of Gaelic, the project will launch in four stages across 2021-2023.

SpeakGaelic will offer users the option of face-to-face classes, self-guided online learning, and media content through a variety of platforms – or all three at the same time. It will never have been easier to learn and use Gaelic.

As well as complete beginners, SpeakGaelic will be aimed at enabling lapsed or less confident speakers to use their Gaelic with confidence.

John Swinney
John Swinney

Deputy first minister John Swinney said: “This is an excellent project and I am pleased the Scottish Government is able to support SpeakGaelic. This comprehensive and ambitious scheme will have benefits for Gaelic speakers and learners in all parts of Scotland – and all over the world. I am also pleased to note the partnership working in place behind the project and look forward to seeing this work progress.”

The initiative will complement and extend the range of options already available to learners through other sources, such as LearnGaelic, existing formal courses and the wonderfully successful Scottish Gaelic offering on Duolingo.

Duolingo’s success, with around 600,000 registered users learning Gaelic, the doubling of LearnGaelic’s website users, and a surge in interest in Gaelic both in Scotland and internationally, will allow SpeakGaelic to offer an integrated structure at a crucial time.

Iseabail Mactaggart, director of multiplatform content at MG ALBA, said: “SpeakGaelic is an unprecedented partnership initiative to deliver a unique combination of ways for people to take up – and improve – their Gaelic. This is exciting, and important for the future of Gaelic. All of us at MG ALBA are proud to be a part of an initiative we hope will prove game-changing for the future of the language. I’m also personally really looking forward to using all the resources to improve my own Gaelic.”

SpeakGaelic will be delivered by media organisation MG ALBA, with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture in Skye as lead academic partner, and the BBC as media content provider.

Marsaili MacLeod, vice principal and director of studies at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, said: “SpeakGaelic will transform the landscape for Gaelic learning – the partnership is creating structured, accessible and media-rich learning materials. It will support our teaching community, from private tutors to Councils and community groups to Universities. It will support our community of learners and Gaelic speakers, welcoming anyone who has an interest, connection or love of the language to take part.”

Margaret Mary Murray, head of gaelic services at the BBC, said: “SpeakGaelic will be a fresh and modern approach to learning on the BBC’s Gaelic services, enabling digital, audio and video content to integrate seamlessly and align with formal academic courses. SpeakGaelic will offer a fantastic new service for audiences on BBC ALBA, iPlayer, Radio nan Gàidheal, Sounds and BBC ALBA YouTube.”

Shona MacLennan, chief executive of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said: “We very much welcome this collaborative and innovative project which supports the main aim in the National Gaelic Language Plan that Gaelic is used more often, by more people and in more situations.

"It will enable new learners and existing users to enhance their skills and to put their Gaelic to use in a practical way.BnG’s #cleachdi (#useit) initiative ties in with SpeakGaelic and I would encourage everyone who feels that they would like to speak Gaelic more to make use of the resources available through our website.”

To read more about Gaelic click here.

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