Wednesday, 4 February 2015
The Path to Learning - Part 2
So where were we... ah yes, I'd tried 'Gaelic in 12 Weeks' and took about 12 weeks just to get through the first chapter. I could recite tables of pronouns but I still couldn't say anything remotely useful.
January 2013 I was once again in my beloved Hebrides, on an off-grid caravanning trip. That's right: Hebrides, January, Caravan, Off-grid. As bonkers as it sounds, it was amazing.
I was determined to get this Gaelic thing licked, and sought out a course.
After much research, only one course stood out, and that was with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye, doing a Distance Learning Beginner's Course called An Cùrsa Inntrigidh. I duly enrolled. Exceptionally, I did this in person as I was passing the college on my way home from the islands. When I got to the college and saw its amazing setting, my jaw dropped. I loved it from the second I entered the gates.
How An Cùrsa Inntrigidh Works
For starters, you can choose from 'Standard Track' or 'Accelerated Track'.
There are two considerations here, ability and timing:
If you have *some* Gaelic and are confident you can handle a heavy workload, try the Accelerated Track. It's blooming hard work. I wanted to do Accelerated, but timing (see below) dictated Standard Track, and with hindsight I'm really glad I didn't do Accelerated. It would have been too hard.
Looking ahead, the next course on from An Cùrsa Inntrigidh is An Cùrsa Adhartais (distance learning) or An Cùrsa Comais (full-time on campus). Both start at the beginning of the Scottish Academic Year, i.e. late August/September. Therefore, if (like me) you have missed the beginning of the academic year, you may as well start 'Standard Track' in January/February. This will take you through to the summer of the following year, leaving you in a good position at a good time to take your progression course.
You need to be aware that if you start Standard Track An Cùrsa Inntrigidh in September, you will finish the course then have a six-month wait to take your learning to the next level. Of course, you can do refreshers etc, but if your learning is standard (like me), you may as well start your learning in January and keep your head above water.
The course itself is structured by workbooks you download from a virtual 'Blackboard' and a weekly tutorial that you phone in to attend. It works like a conference call. Up to eight students and the tutor all call in and the spoken learning is done by phone. The tutor takes you through the work that you'll have done which he or she set the week previous.
Further information about the course may be found at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig's Website here.
At first it was all a bit intimidating. You have an induction week to make sure you know how everything works, and it's during this week I realised that this wasn't just some Adult Education Evening Class, this *really was* a proper University Foundation Course. The course itself was far more challenging than I had anticipated. I needed to spend about 8-12 hours a week on my Gaelic as I'm no natural learner. Some folks may get away with doing less, but if you scrimp on the course work, you'll soon be found out in tuturial. Besides, if you've paid good money and committed yourself to learning Gaelic, why would you then not do what you signed up to do?
One of the best parts of An Cùrsa Inntrigidh is the free weekend school that happens once a term. You pay only for accommodation and food, and of course your travel to/from Skye. I enjoyed three fantastic weekends during my 18 month course, despite never really ever having enough Gaelic to get by in any situation without reverting to English. It was really worthwhile making the two day journey each way, as the course comes with one natural limitation: You never see your tutor, and some intonation is lost over the phone. To spend a 'real' weekend with Gaelic is a very, very useful thing to do.
There are other Gaelic courses out there, all of which you'll find on the learngaelic.net website. However, if you are serious about learning and cannot easily get to a college offering a good Gaelic course on a regular basis, then An Cùrsa Inntrigidh is, in my most humble opinion, the one to go for.