Tha Gàidhlig gam chuideachadh an t-saoghal fhaicinn bho sealladh cait (Gaelic helps me see the world from a cat’s viewpoint)

Black cat on a pile of papers
Category: Writing

Read the English translation

Bho chionn greiseag, bha mi aig Moniack Mhòr còmhla ri sgrìobhadairean eile mar phàirt de Dhuaisean nan Sgrìobhadairean Ùra. Tha mi ag obair air nobhail chloinne sa Ghàidhlig. Bhon t-seòmar agam aig Moniack Mhòr, bha mi a’ coimhead tarsainn gleann agus a’ sgrìobhadh bho sealladh cait, nach eil a’ tuigsinn saoghal mac an duine buileach ceart.

Ann am Beurla, bidh mi a’ sgrìobhadh sgeulachdan dòrainneach bho sealladh inbhich. Cha bu mhiann leam sgeulachdan cloinne a sgrìobhadh sa Bheurla agus cha bhithinn math air. Fiù ’s nuair a tha mi ag eadar-theangachadh nan sgeulachdan cloinne bho Ghàidhlig gu Beurla, tha iad a’ call las.

Tha Gàidhlig a’ fosgladh àite fa leth nam cheann far a bheil mi comasach sgrìobhadh bho sealladh cuideigin òg. Chuala mi Gàidhlig nuair a bha mi nam nighean gun a bhith ga tuigsinn. Nuair a bha mi nas sine, chuir mi romham Gàidhlig ionnsachadh. Ann an clas Gàidhlig no ann an suidheachadh far an robh Gàidhlig ga bruidhinn, bha mi mar nighean òg a-rithist, a’ dèanamh mhearachdan gun a bhith buileach a’ tuigsinn dè bha a’ tachairt timcheall orm.

Ge b’ e an adhbhar, tha Gàidhlig a’ fosgladh dhomh dòigh eile smaoineachadh agus a bhith cruthachail.

Tha cuid ag ràdh nach eil feum air Gàidhlig a chionn ’s gu bheil Beurla aig gach neach ann an Alba. Eu-coltach ri cànan coimpiutaireachd, tha cànan labhairt a’ toirt dhuinn fada a bharrachd na dòigh fiosrachadh a thoirt gu daoine eile. Cha bhithear a’ sgrìobhadh phrògraman ann am Fortran san latha an-diugh a chionn ’s gu bheil cànanan coimpiutaireachd ùr ann a tha fada nas luaithe. Ma sguireas sinn còd a sgrìobhadh ann am Fortran, cha chaill sinn ach ceann goirt. Ach ma sguireas sinn Gàidhlig no Albais a chleachdadh, caillidh sinn dòigh smaoineachaidh agus sealladh eile air an t-saoghal.

Gach turas a chleachdas mi cànan eile, tha e a’ dèanamh ùrachadh dhomh. Bho chionn greiseag, dh’fhaighnich luchd-turais dhomh far an robh àite air choireigin. Rinn e togail dhomh cabadaich riutha ann am Fraingis. Nuair a bhruidhneas mi Gàidhlig, tha mi a’ faireachdainn gu bheil mi air tilleadh dhachaigh, no gu bheil mi a’ tighinn nas fhaisg air pàirt dhomh fhèin nach eil ri fhaotainn ann am Beurla.

Tha faclan no abairtean anns gach cànan nach gabh eadar-theangachadh buileach, mar am facal doch ann an Gearmailtis. Tha thu ag aontachadh le doch ach ann an dòigh fada nas làidire na ja/tha. Tha am facal Albais dreich a’ ciallachadh rudeigin faisg air am facal Gàidhlig mi-chàilear. Ann am Beurla bhiodh agad ri barrachd air aon fhacal a chleachdadh: wet, grey, miserable, ach am biodh an aon chiall ann?

Rinn mi oidhirp mhòr gus Gàidhlig ionnsachadh, agus a-nis tha mi comasach cabadaich ri m’ athair ann an cànan òige. Tha sin a’ cur rudeigin ris an dàimh eadarainn. Cha robh dùil agam gun toireadh cànan mo theaghlach dhomh dòigh air sgrìobhadh bho sealladh cait aig a bheil duilgheadas saoghal nan ‘dà-chasach’ a thuigsinn. Tha sin a’ toirt tòrr tlachd dhomh agus tha mi taingeil gun do dh’ionnsaich mi.

---

English translation

I had the opportunity to spend a week at Moniack Mhòr with other writers as part of the Gaelic New Writers Award. I’m working on a children’s novel in Gaelic. From my wee room at Moniack Mhòr, with its view over a peaceful glen, I spent time writing about a cat who struggles to understand the human world.

In English, I can only write from an adult’s point of view, and the stories don’t come out quite as interesting. I have no desire to write for children in English and even if I did, I wouldn’t be any good at it. When I translate the children’s stories from Gaelic to English, they come out a bit flat.

In Gaelic, I go into a different space in my mind where I’m able to write from the point of view of someone much younger. When I was growing up, I heard family members speak Gaelic without being able to understand what they said. This prompted me to learn Gaelic as an adult. Taking classes and speaking to people put me into situations where I was a child again, making mistakes and not fully understanding what was going on around me.

Although I may never understand the mechanism, learning Gaelic has opened new ways of thinking as well as different creative paths.

That’s why I can’t agree with the argument that because everyone in Scotland speaks English, there’s no need for Gaelic. Unlike computer languages, spoken languages convey far more than just information. No-one would write a program in Fortran nowadays, because there are new computer languages which do the job much faster. If we stop writing code in Fortran, the only thing we lose is a headache. But if we stop using Gaelic or Scots, we lose a way of thinking

I’ve also managed to acquire some European languages. Every time I step into another language, I feel a bit different. A short while ago, some tourists asked me for directions. After chatting to them for a while in French, my mood lifted. When I speak Gaelic, I feel as if I’ve come home, or that I am somehow closer to a part of me which is hidden even from myself.

Every language has words and phrases which can’t be translated. For instance, the word doch in German. You use it to agree with someone, but it’s much more powerful than Ja/Yes. The Scots word dreich is close to the Gaelic mì-chàilear. In English, you would have to use several words: wet, grey, miserable, but would it describe the same thing?

The effort put into learning Gaelic has paid off. Being able to have a conversation with my father in his native language has added something to our relationship. I didn’t expect that learning my family language would give me a way to write from the viewpoint of a cat who struggles to understand the two-legged world, but it gives me great pleasure to write in Gaelic.

 

Image credit, Nathan Riley on Upsplash

June Graham

June Graham is an online tutor at Lews Castle College in Stornoway. She has enjoyed writing fiction in English since she was a teenager and it was only after she learned Gaelic that she began to create children’s stories in that language as well.

Several of June’s short stories have been published online and in various magazines. She has also written factual articles in Gaelic for Cothrom magazine, based on life in Canada and Switzerland, where she worked as a scientist.