Not enough words: Language acquisition and identity work in tertiary-level Gaelic-medium education

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Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is a fully accredited higher-education institution that teaches degrees up to the PhD level entirely through the medium of Scottish Gaelic, a threatened minority language with less than 60 thousand speakers. Gaelic-medium education in Scotland is underdeveloped and fragmented, and this mirrors the weak, fragmented condition of the Gaelic speech communities themselves. As a result, Gaelic language/identity acquisition in the school and in the community is failing, and most nominally fluent undergraduates come to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig with much stronger English language skills than Gaelic language skills, as well as inchoate identity connections to the Gaelic language, and they rarely speak Gaelic with peers outside of formal educational contexts. Here I will draw on my own research and the research of colleagues, as well as my experience at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig developing a curriculum that meets the special needs of this cohort of young bilinguals to propose a new direction for the development of Gaelic-medium education in Scotland, as well as to examine the role of identity work in successful minority-language education, and, more generally, to consider the role of tertiary-level immersion education in language revitalisation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching and Learning Resources for Endangered Languages
EditorsRiitta-Liisa Valijärvi, Lily Kahn
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-54418-5
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-53969-3
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2023

Publication series

NameThe Endangered Languages Yearbook


  • Scottish Gaelic
  • Gàidhlig
  • immersion education
  • ideology
  • identity
  • Sabhal Mòr Ostaig


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