Am Baile: Goireas de Dhualchas na h-AlbaComhairle na Gaidhealtachd

How do I learn gaelic

R.M.S Columbia 1908

What is the correct pronunciation of Gaelic?

People often ask whether Gaelic is pronounced "Gahlic" or "Gaylic". Scots Gaelic is "Gahlic" (Gàidhlig has a long "a" sound) and Irish Gaelic is "Gaylic".

How do I learn Gaelic?
Ciamar a dh'ionnsaicheas mi Gàidhlig?

There are several routes to learning Gaelic - evening classes, on-line courses, conversation groups, distance learning, full time courses, and summer schools. Choose the method that best suits your circumstances and learning style, but try more than one route as each will have its strengths and weaknesses. For example, evening classes often stop for several months over the summer, so you could keep your Gaelic going by attending a summer school. A mixture of a formal course to learn the structure of the language and a conversation group to practise your skills in a social situation works well.

The important thing is to take every opportunity to listen to, read or speak Gaelic, whatever your level. There is a wealth of material available to help you.

Evening classes and short courses

The website of Clì Gàidhlig, the Gaelic learners' organisation, is a good place to find information on evening classes in your area - The section of the website has a wealth of information on courses and classes. Another website useful for finding Gaelic courses is Learndirect Scotland - Clì Gàidhlig run short courses throughout Scotland which vary in length from one to five days - see their website for details. Local conversation groups and learner support groups exist in some areas. Comunn Nan Sgoiltean Àraich (CNSA) runs classes for parents of children in Gaelic medium education. Information on their "Gaelic in the Home" classes can be found on their website Short courses usually lasting five days are run by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig - and other colleges during the summer and often at Easter as well.

Full time learning

Full time year-long immersion courses are run by several Scottish colleges, including Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye, Ionad Chaluin Chille Ìle on Islay, Lews Castle College in Stornoway and Kilmarnock College.

Distance learning

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig runs a distance learning course, An Cùrsa Inntrigidh (Access to Gaelic) which takes learners to entry level to the full-time courses at the College. The course includes telephone tutorials with a tutor and other students and occasional weekends at SMO. A higher level course, An Cùrsa Adhartais, is the next step for those who wish to continue by distance learning. This course can lead to entry into second year of courses at the College.

Self-guided learning

The BBC Scotland website - - offers several ways to start learning Gaelic. The "Beag air Beag" (Little by Little) course teaches basic Gaelic by the traditional route, while "Colin and Cumberland" and "Air Splaoid" offer more interactive methods. This site also gives access to the two weekly "Letters for Learners" broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland: the "Litir Bheag" for intermediate level learners and the "Litir do Luchd-Ionnsachaidh" for more advanced learners.

Here on the Am Baile bilingual website we promote the reading and writing of the Gaelic language. We offer a variety of entertaining ways to help learners develop their language skills; simple Gaelic learning games; colourful animated comics that retell some of the Highlands' strangest tales; quizzes; traditional stories to listen and read along with; nursery rhymes and lullabies to encourage learning from an early age.

An on-line course with easy to follow exercises and audio files is The LearnDirect Scotland website lists other Gaelic courses available on-line e.g. "Gaelic for Arts & Festivals", "Gaelic for Outdoor Workers" and "Gaelic for Parents".

Several options are available for those who prefer to learn from books and CDs. Speaking our Language includes videos of the TV series as well as books. Teach Yourself Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic in Three Months and Scottish Colloquial Gaelic all consist of books with audio CDs.

For learners who are keen on grammar, Michel Byrne's Gràmar na Gàidhlig and the accompanying workbook of exercises by Maoilios Caimbeul, will provide a thorough grounding in the structure of the language, while Colin Mark's Gaelic Verbs Systemised and Simplified will tell you all you wish to know on the subject.

A different approach will be found in Morag MacNeill's Everyday Gaelic which is essentially a Gaelic phrase-book. A CD is included with the book.


There are a number of Gaelic dictionaries on the market. For the beginner, the dictionary accompanying the Teach Yourself Gaelic course is probably the most useful as it includes Gaelic-English and English-Gaelic sections in one volume. A good recent Gaelic-English dictionary is Colin Marks' "Gaelic-English Dictionary", while the classic historic work is Dwelly's.

Two dictionaries very useful for new vocabulary are Faclair na Pàrlamaid, produced by the Scottish Parliament, and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig's An Stòr-data Briathrachais Gàidhlig.

Reading for learners

Clì Gàidhlig have published the first 200 "Litir do Luchd-ionnsachaidh" by Ruairidh MacIlleathain. The volume, which has an accompanying audio DVD, contains short passages on a wide variety of topics, with very useful explanations of grammar points as well as lists of vocabulary. Clì publishes a bi-lingual quarterly magazine, Cothrom, full of news, articles and information for learners; the magazine is also available in sound files - on the Clì website.

There is a growing number of Gaelic novels being published. Beginners should not despair of being able to read Gaelic literature as there are numerous children's publications which will allow them to find their feet, before they advance to the poetry of Sorley MacLean, the short stories of Ian Crichton Smith or the novels of Angus Peter Campbell. Details of Gaelic fiction and other Gaelic books can be found on the website of the Gaelic Books Council, Other useful sources of information about books can be found in the Highland Libraries Online Catalogue and through Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig.

If you live in the Highland Council area and are a member of Highland Libraries, you can access the wide range of Gaelic resources on offer. To search for Gaelic materials, go to the Highland Libraries online catalogue at


An Stòr-data Briathrachais Gàidhlig, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig 1993.
Faclair na Pàrlamaid, The Scottish Parliament 2001.
Speaking our Language, Cànan 1993-94.
M Byrne, Gràmar na Gàidhlig, Stòrlann-Acair, 2002.
M Caimbeul, Gràmar na Gàidhlig: Leabhar-teagaisg, Stòrlann, 2005.
E Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic to English Dictionary, 1911, reprint Birlinn 2001.
R MacIlleathain, Litir do Luchd-ionnsachaidh, Clì Gàidhlig 2005.
M Macneill, Everyday Gaelic, Birlinn 2006.
R Ò Maolalaigh & I MacAonghuis Scottish Gaelic in Three Months, Hugo 1996.
Colin Mark, Gaelic Verbs Systemised and Simplified, Steve Savage 2006.
Colin Mark, The Gaelic-English Dictionary, Routledge 2004.
B Robertson & I Taylor, Teach Yourself Gaelic, Hodder & Stoughton, 2005.
KM Spandero & K Graham, Scottish Colloquial Gaelic, Routledge 2001.

Useful websites

BBC Scotland -
Clì Gàidhlig -
Gaelic Books Council -
LearnDirect Scotland -
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig -
Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig -

dlighe-sgrìobhaidh © 2003 - 2014 Am Baile/The Gaelic Village