LINGUIST List 12.1926

Sun Jul 29 2001

Review: Spadaro & Graham Scottish Gaelic

Editor for this issue: Terence Langendoen <>

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  1., Review of Colloquial Scottish Gaelic, by Spadaro & Graham

Message 1: Review of Colloquial Scottish Gaelic, by Spadaro & Graham

Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2001 13:52:49 -0400
From: <>
Subject: Review of Colloquial Scottish Gaelic, by Spadaro & Graham

Spadaro, Katherine M. and Katie Graham (2001) Colloquial
Scottish Gaelic: The Complete Course, Routledge, trade
paperback, 290 pp., 2 audiotape cassettes optional

Paperback: $20.95, 12.99 U.K. pounds ISBN 0-415-20675-8
Cassette: $22.95, 13.61 U.K. pounds
Pack: $45.95, 26.61 U.K. pounds ISBN 0-415-20677-4

Elizabeth J. Pyatt, unaffiliated scholar

The textbook 'Colloquial Scottish Gaelic' (announced in
<>;) is part
of the Routledge's Colloquial Language textbook series. It
is intended for complete beginners and is written for a
target audience of young adults. Two audiocassette tapes can
also be purchased, but these were not available for review.

Spadaro and Graham's new textbook is a welcome addition
which stresses using Scottish Gaelic (hereafter called just
'Gaelic') in everyday contexts. The textbook covers the
basics of conversational grammar, but does not delve into
issues of exact usage or dialectal differences. Estimated
course time would range between half a year to a full year.
The textbook could also be used by independent learners.

Each 'Lesson' or chapter is divided into three Dialogues,
really 'mini-lessons' which each has a vocabulary listing;
grammar and cultural explanations that are grouped into
'Language Points'; and one or two exercises. Most of the
dialogues are interconnected and feature the story of Mairi,
a young Australian woman who visits her Gaelic speaking
relatives in Scotland. Dialogue topics include everyday
activities such as asking for ticket prices, asking about
another's health, building a snowman and other day to day
activities. Each chapter ends with a Reading, which are
usually fist-person paragraphs about a Gaelic speaker, but
also include a poem, a letter and an article about Edinburgh

One nice feature of the textbook is the 'Topic Index' at the
end of the book which refers to chapters which talk about
topics such as prices, months, numbers, farm animals and so
forth. This is very useful if a student or teacher is
looking for vocabulary or grammar about expressing something
on a particular topic. The end of the book also contains an
answer key to exercises, a grammar supplement, a grammar
index, an English-Gaelic glossary, and a Gaelic-English

The textbook focuses on using Gaelic in context rather than
formal grammatical explanation and exercises. In fact, the
term 'grammar' is not used outside the appendix; instead
grammatical explanations are called 'Language Points'.
Explanations on language usage are often focused on the
specific dialogue, although paradigms and formal terms are
given as appropriate. Students desiring more formal
grammatical explanations can refer to the grammar supplement
or the grammar index. Students interested in a formal
reference of Gaelic grammar or those interested in
linguistic aspects of Gaelic would be advised to look for
other sources.

Exercises similarly focus more on speaking and writing
original Gaelic sentences, rather than fill-in-the-blank or
'transformational' type exercises. Some exercises ask
students to describe a picture in Gaelic, complete a Gaelic
crossword, answer questions about the dialogue or answer
questions about their personal lives. In general, the
exercises would give instructors good jumping points for
continuing further conversation in Gaelic. There are only
four to five exercises total per lesson, so supplemental
exercises would probably be advisable in a formal classroom

As might be expected, the style of the textbook prose itself
is very down to earth, extending to the use of the first and
second pronouns in the Language Points. Sample text includes
'More about genitives later!' (p. 119) or 'Do you recognize
'dhut'?' (p. 46). I confess to being of two minds about the
prose style. In general, I feel it is refreshing and would
appeal to students who may be intimidated by grammar. On the
other hand, I could imagine some students, especially the
older they were, finding some passages such as the ones
quoted above a little condescending. It is definitely a
matter of personal taste.

One thing I would have liked have seen in the textbook is a
fuller introduction with teaching notes. Some unanswered
questions I had were -- the exact target age of the audience,
whether it was meant for classroom use, independent use or
both, the dialect used in the book and a short statement of
pedagogical philosophy. Statements made in the review about
these issues were based on my best guesses.

Another addition I would suggest is adding a chapter or
lesson number in the subheadings or page footer or header.
With three sets of dialogues, vocabulary, Language points,
and exercises per lesson, I found myself a little
disoriented -- especially when I was trying to use the
indices (referenced by lesson) to look up vocabulary or
grammar points.

Still these are very minor complaints about a textbook that
I feel is successful in adding a modern touch to the
teaching of Gaelic.

Elizabeth Pyatt earned a Ph.D. in linguistics, specializing
in Celtic phonology and syntax.
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