Sunday, 31 January 2010

Can Seo! Teach yourself basic Gaelic

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....

OK, it was actually Bristol, which is about six and half hours away down the motorway in that strange land of the Angles that is England! As a student in the city I had started learning Irish during my spare time through the Bristol Irish Society, the odd one out, to say the least, with me being a Northern Irish protestant. All went well for several months, until one night when one of the organisers was attacked by loyalist nutters from Belfast who were apparently over for just a few days. The gent in question was seriously hurt, which meant that afterwards I was sadly not as welcome as I had been before. I did not take it personally, and did remain in touch with many members for several years after.

With no society to now go to, I looked for ways to help myself learn from home, and along those lines I bought myself a copy of an album called 'Ard' (meaning 'high') by a group called Runrig. But crikey, what had gone wrong with the Irish language? The spelling was atrocious in the printed lyrics, the pronunciation was off, but the music itself was wonderful. At that point, as someone who had been raised in Northern Ireland, I had absolutely no idea that anybody else in the world spoke in Gaelic, let alone just over the water. What I had in fact bought was my very first album in Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig). Needless to say, I absolutely fell in love with it - much easier to learn (no present tense - imagine!), more directly relevant to my ancestry (though I wasn't aware of it at the time), and a complete surpise to me in that although most of those who spoke it were actually protestants in Scotland, it was a form of Gaelic with no sectarian hang ups, as in Ireland.

So having discovered this amazing language, I decided to park learning Irish for a bit and to have a go at Scottish Gaelic. I needed a course - and along came a very old VHS copy of a 1970s series called Can Seo, which I discovered soon after through the Bristol branch of the Cardiff Gaelic Circle! Can Seo was produced by the BBC as an absolute beginner's guide, and is remembered affectionately by many learners in that it absolutely did what it said on the tin - it taught you how to speak the very basics of the language, not in parrot fashion, as with later series such as Speaking Our Language, but by actually explaining how the words worked as you went along. It got me hooked, and from there I moved onto Boyd Robertson's Teach Yourself Gaelic series, but Can Seo definitely paved the way.

Now the series is online at YouTube, so if you fancy a go, get stuck in! Forget the 70s fashion, the wooden smiley presenters, and the almost Open University like look to it - it is a course that actually works. If in doubt, here's the first part of the first episode - enjoy!

I should add - the music is from Runrig!

Scotland's Greatest Story


DianaR said...

This is wonderful!!! I've vowed to stop buying everything that catches my interest - and as I was reading your post I was thinking "Oh, I'd really like to buy that" and when I got to the end and found out it was free - yeah!

So, I'm off to listen - and maybe even learn.

Chris Paton said...

Have fun!


Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right in what you say about the old Can Seo series. I intend to emigrate to Scotland in some years - from GErmany - and tried to learn Gaelic from books. I also found the "Speaking our language" videos on Youtube. But although it is more modern and shows beautiful pictures, the Can Seo really teaches me much better, as I need to understand the grammar behind the sentences to learn a language. I even got the old book which went with the series via for some Euros. I hope when going to Scotland one day, I will at least be able to understand what people say - those who still speak Gaelic - and not feel like a complete idiot.