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Pigeonholes

No, not a deviation from the topic. It’s just that while I was aware that kids initially firmly associate certain people with certain languages, one thing I hadn’t counted on was that the compartmentalisation of language would extend to books. And the way kids seem to memorise entire stories. Which meant that half a dozen or so Gaelic books were competing with a lot more English books and that we couldn’t possibly (in his head) talk about an “Inglis book” in Gàidhlig. Especially since he can rattle many of them off from memory. Which is impressive, incidentally…

So more Gaelic books are being introduced, one at a time to achieve a better balance. And because we were having the same problem with the fridge magnet letters (not to mention that spelling Gàidhlig words with an English letter set is like trying to build a house with tomatoes), I dug up my old pyrography stuff and made him a Gaelic letter set for his birthday. I was in two minds about whether or not to use the Gaelic type. I think under different circumstance, I would have just used a “normal” font but with the digraphs and right letter distribution. But since the other letter set was so clearly “Inglis” in his head and went ay bee cee, I wanted to make a visual difference. He seems happy enough to accept them as the Gaelic letters, though right now, his favourite are the numbers – above all neoini (zero), oddly enough. He does know it stands for a concept like “nothing” because when we counted down street lamps today, after lamp a h-aon (one) went, he went neoini. A budding mathematician maybe?

Either way, he’s steaming ahead. At the start of the month, he started to come out with coherent phrases with a bit of prompting: mòran taing (thanks) and fear gorm (blue man), closely followed by oidhche mhath (goodnight) and mar sin leat (goodbye). There may have been the odd false start with tha (present tense of to be) but I’m not sure. On one occasion his mom asked him to ask daddy a bheil an t-acras air [brother’s name] (is [name] hungry?) and he ran up to daddy (who has no Gaelic) in the other room and went bheil an t-acras air [name]? but while he know acras (hunger), I’m not entirely sure if he’s treating it as a set phrase at this stage or distinct bits.

Today though was quite exhilarating (for the grown-ups anyway). He now has tha gu math (I’m well) as the correct response to ciamar a tha thu? (how are you?) and spontaneously referred to two wooden figures as balach buidhe (yellow lad) and balach uaine (green lad). He did somehow manage to mash (pardon the pun) the word curran (carrot) and cularan (cucumber) together but in fairness, there are tricky consonants in there and they are relatively similar.

But the highlight was the first verb. We were playing around with a play tunnel and being obsessed with opening and closing stuff, I started putting blankets over the ends. After what felt like endless repetitions of short phrases involving the verb dùin (close), fosgail (open) and the adjective dùinte (closed) and fosgailte (open), when I pretended to go a bit deaf on my “English ear”, he tried repeating the last phrase, dùin e (close it) and when that got the outcome he was hoping for, he went on using it. As he was inside the tunnel at the time, I did an air punch and mouthed “Yesss, a verb” to his mom. Definitely made my day!

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