Learning Gaelic: An Cùrsa Inntrigidh review

When I was trying to decide whether to take An Cùrsa Inntrigidh there really weren’t many reviews of the course by learners. Now I’m halfway through I wanted to provide a review!

For a brief summary of what the course is, see Confessions of a Gaidhlig Learner explaining how the course is structured

My experience

Tutorial times:

This is an example only of what was offered to us at the end of 2016. There are (British time) tutorials available on a couple of evenings a week but the majority are morning tutorials. Calling in from Australia is not the easiest thing in the world – one needs to not only find a time that suits but also account for the difference of schedule depending on daylight savings (which gives a 2 hour varience). I would have preferred to take a phone tutorial during the evening for me, however that would only work for half the year since I wouldn’t get home from work before the start otherwise. Thus I call during the early morning before work, usually 7.15am but for part of the year I am getting up at 5.15am! I do feel a little slow so early in the morning but it’s also good to practise when you’re not at your optimal!. The timing is a big consideration for those of us overseas. I looked into AGA as well and chose SMO due to the timing working out better for me.

They recommend anything between 10-20 hours a week. There is a coursebook with both written and oral exercises and a “class phone” book with exercises specifically for the tutorials. So before a tutorial one should complete the relevant sections in both books as well as reviewing vocabulary, grammar, etc. To be honest I have only been spending about 5 hours on preparation per week, sometimes less. I do have a background of learning languages and had dabbled enough in Gàidhlig to already know some of the basics which has allowed me to keep up. Counting the phone tutorial one should really dedicate at least 5 hours per week and more if you haven’t learnt other languages before and don’t have a system in place. The ideal would be at least 10 hours! I hope to dedicate more time, I’m definitely not the best in the class at this point but 5 hours has been enough for me to keep up for the most part. However now we are going above the knowledge I already had so I will need to put in a few more hours! I also want to make the most of this course!

The tutorials
Expect to speak Gaelic!!! Even in the first tutorial the scripts and phrases from the class phone book are designed to get everyone speaking. This is very quickly 100% Gaelic except for short asides or questions that are too complicated for one’s current level. There’s nothing quite like the feedback you get from this class, hearing your pronunciation compared to the teacher’s and getting instant corrections. Before you start it’s hard to imagine how 8 students on one phone call will work, but luckily the system they have works really well. It’s rigid enough that everyone gets time speak and relaxed enough that you don’t just recite things like robots. Some tutors follow the scripts more rigidly than others. The other students are also incredibly friendly and enthusiastic! It’s not uncommon to laugh quite often 🙂 so don’t be shy, it is daunting to call in the first time, especially because the phone operator will speak Gaelic to you, but never fear, everyone is feeling the same thing and you will get used to it! The classes start with easy conversations that you learn and repeat over and over – asking each other how you are, what’s the weather like, what you have been doing (once you know enough to express it), to get you into the zone of speaking Gaelic. Each phone tutorial lasts for about an hour. It is recommended to use a landline rather than a mobile – however in my case I use Skype to call over the internet, there is a slight delay but otherwise the sound quality seems fine. I haven’t had any problems doing that.

Assessments happen at the end of each Earrann (part of the course, of which there are 3). For Earrann 1 there was an oral exam with your teacher – you phone in and have a 15 minute conversation practising the things you’ve learnt, questions for the first one were things like where are you from, do you have siblings, what are their names. There was a written assessment that was a number of pages long – this was actually a little harder than the exercises in the workbook so be prepared to suddenly need all the grammar you’ve learnt at once! Finally there was an additional oral part which consisted of recording yourself reading a short passage. It was all marked a little harder than I might have expected, I suppose the percentage you get for an A or a B varies depending on the country. Those students I spoke to received a similar mark to me – around 60% (which counts as a B). I’m not going to lie, I usually prefer a higher mark than that! But a pass is a pass and one can only endeavour to improve 🙂

Advice: Connect with other students if possible!! By far one of the most valuable things has been gaining a few study buddies. I was disappointed as others in my same tutorial weren’t really interested in connecting but luckily a couple of people from different tutorials replied in the forums and I am able to Skype with some of them! That’s great reinforcement and I love sharing the experience with them! It’s a little isolating to be learning from Australia so the online connections are much treasured and I’m grateful for their support and friendship.

The distance learning is like anything you’re not doing fulltime – other commitments tend to encroach. It can be hard to find the time for Gaelic. Try to build it into your routine, reading and watching news from BBC Alba, listening to music, radio, getting exposure wherever you can. There are some great books for learners available and learngaelic.net is a treasure. Find what motivates you! I am interested in literature in particular and the thought of graduating from childrens’ and learners’ books to novels is extremely motivating. I followed as many Gaidhlig accounts on social media as I could find for a daily dose of short sentences in Gaidhlig and I highly recomend the podcasts Beag air Bheag and the program Feasgar on Radio nan Gàidheal . I don’t understand so much yet – An Cùrsa Inntrigidh appears to help you reach A2 level and so far we have received about 400 words in the vocabulary lists. I estimate in total I will have learnt at least 1500 words by the end of the course, including words which aren’t in the lists.

I really couldn’t recommend the course highly enough! I have been wanting to learn for years, gone through some of Colloquial Scottish Gaelic and attended a short weekend course. However none of that really compares to the guided and tartgeted learning on the course. It’s very well set up and gets you used to speaking Gaelic wherever in the world you may live. Halfway through I can have hour long conversation / study sessions in Gaelic with my study buddies. If your goal is to really speak and use the language, with decent pronunciation, this style of course is a wonderful resource to help you do that. The real nitty gritty of studying and practising is completed on your own, and then the tutorial helps consolidate everything. It will definitely take your Gàidhlig to the next level 🙂

If anyone has any further questions I’d be happy to answer! I hope this has provided a bit more of an insigt into what to expect from the course.

Scottish Gaelic Resources (Gàidhlig)

Learn Gaelic.net – the first place you should visit!
BBC Learn Gaelic main site
Beag air Bheag  – great lessons for beginners
Air Splaoid – BBC fun site for learning, with cool animations
Colin and Cumberland – learning games for beginners
An Litir Bheag (Little Letter for Gaelic Learners) – very useful podcast with transcript for learners
Bruidhinn ar Cànan – Colourful lessons for beginners, based on the first few lessons of “Speaking Our Language”, with sound samples and interactive tests
Gaelic4Parents – designe to assist kids and parents in Gaelic education, this site has tons of stories with audio, games, songs etc
Gaelic for Punks
Taic Lessons
Abair Thusa – Social network completely in Gàidhlig! Awesome place to find people to practise with
Fòram na Gàidhlig – An online forum where you can use your Gàidhlig, learn the language and connect with others doing the same
Choice of Dictionaries on SMO
Am Faclair Beag – great dictionary
Vocabulary List
Online Gaelic Texts – Through the Internet Text Archives which has books about culture and language, history, poetry, etc
Bhidothan Pools – Videos of clear and natural conversations with Gaelic speakers
Gaelcast – podcasting in Gàidhlig
Gaelic Podcasts – Fiona J Mackenzie teaches useful phrases
Scotsman – Gaelic column from the Scotsman newspaper
Additional Resources at SMO