Some frequently asked questions.... And answers!
(with thanks to Comman nam Parant’s “Fios is freagairt” publication)
Is Gaelic Medium Education possible if we can't speak Gaelic ourselves?
Yes. Most children in Gaelic Medium Education come from non-Gaelic speaking homes. There is help available and plenty of opportunities for parents to learn Gaelic.
Does my child have to go to a preschool Gaelic group before going into Gaelic medium education?
This is not absolutely necessary but it is advisable whenever possible and most Gaelic Medium provision does now have attached nursery provision.
What are the advantages of being bilingual?
Research shows that children who understand more than one language are able to think more flexibly and creatively.
There are definite economic advantages later on when your child is looking for a job, as more employers today ask for bilingual skills than ever before.
A bilingual person can communicate with a wider variety of people than a person who can speak only one language.
Some research has even indicated that being bilingual may help to keep the brain sharper for longer.
Does Gaelic Medium Education hinder children’s development?
No. Studies have shown that children in bilingual education do as well as their peers in all subjects, including English.
I’d like my child to have a bilingual education but I’m worried that I won’t be able to help with homework?
Parents usually find that once their child is in school that they need not have worried about homework but when necessary there is support available for parents from teachers and in some schools from Gaelic speaking parents. Homework clubs and other parental support structures are also now more widely available. Schools can provide tapes and CDs so that children can listen to reading books being read aloud, particularly at the early years stage. All schools can supply maths homework sheets with English on one side for parents who can’t read Gaelic.
How can I support my child’s education when I do not speak Gaelic myself?
Support your child by taking an interest in their education and in as many aspects of Gaelic activity as possible – television, radio, out-of-school activities and social occasions. There are also many opportunities for parents to learn some Gaelic, very often in special classes for parents.
I like to read to my child at home. How can parents do this if they are not fluent in Gaelic?
You can ask the school for a loan of Gaelic books on tape which you could use together with your child and there are some books with audio available to download from the internet, for example on the website for parentswww.gaelic4parents.com. There is no reason whatsoever why you should not also read in English to your children.
How will Gaelic Medium Education affect my child’s English?
Children in Gaelic Medium Education are initially taught almost entirely in Gaelic and English reading and writing are generally introduced from P3. Children transfer skills acquired in one language to the other so tend to progress quickly once they start reading in English. In fact, a study conducted at Stirling University in 1999* showed ‘that P7 Gaelic-medium pupils performed better in English than English-medium pupils.’
*Prof. Richard Johnstone
‘The Attainments of Pupils Receiving Gaelic medium Primary Education in Scotland’
Scottish CILT, Stirling University, 1999
Why should we bother with Gaelic at home if they are being taught the language in school?
The home environment has a crucial role to play in every child’s education, reinforcing work done in the school. Using Gaelic at home enables children to acquire many valuable aspects of language skills which may not be part of formal education.
Wouldn’t it be better for children to learn a more “useful” language like French or German?
In Scotland, Gaelic is in fact as useful a passport to employment as French and German and can offer a direct line to many attractive job opportunities. These opportunities should increase as organisations and public bodies are required to meet their obligations under the Gaelic Language Act. Parents should note that pupils may also study a European language as well as Gaelic at secondary level.
Can children with additional support or special needs receive Gaelic Medium Education?
They can and do. Many local authorities have excellent inclusion policies that apply equally to Gaelic and English provision. You should be able to access advice from your education department regarding the learning needs of your child and what Gaelic Medium Education can offer.
If my child needs to travel to access the nearest Gaelic medium facility, will transport be provided?
Education authorities often provide Gaelic Medium Education on an area basis so do have transport arrangements in place for children who require to travel past their local school. Contact your own authority for detailed information on travel arrangements.
We speak (for example) Thai to our children at home and not English. Will they still learn to use English well if we send them to a Gaelic Medium school?
They will. It would be almost impossible to grow up in Scotland today without learning to speak English. Your children will be immersed in English in many social situations, including some within school, unless they attend a dedicated Gaelic school as opposed to a Gaelic unit. From primary three onwards they will be taught to apply the language skills they have learned through Gaelic to English as well, and will quickly become multilingual. It is worth remembering that multilingualism is accepted as normal throughout the world; the UK is in fact very unusual in viewing monolingualism as the ‘norm’.
Will my child learn two languages only half as well as one?
There is almost no limit to a child’s ability to learn languages and in some countries very young children can speak three or four languages. Skills such as reading can easily be transferred between languages.