We live in an ever increasingly globalised world in which we can know, or at least think we know, what people are getting up to just over the other side of the globe. Distances have been rendered small, barriers rendered defunct and borders rendered obsolete…or so you would think.
I am a Gaelic student at the University of Edinburgh and have no background in the language. Although Gaelic can be taken as a national language of Scotland and it deserves its fair share of representation as a result of this it cannot be seen to be the national language of Scotland. Scotland is a culturally diverse nation before we even consider the decades of cultural enhancement in the last century. We all have different methods of communication and we should seek to learn as many ways of communication beyond our first. Not only does this help you appreciate your first language with new vigour but also increase your ability to connect with others.
Gaelic has suffered in Scotland due to decades of concerted Anglicisation by the established elites but I think in the last fifty years a new and more insidious enemy has become more and more apparent – cultural homogeneity. It would be presumed that Anglicisation would be to the benefit of English and lead to further cultural enrichment for the language, however it has not.
In layman’s terms cultures, globally, have become blander. The myriad ways to express oneself in a rich manner has been lost to an increase in cultural assimilation which has not been to benefit of any singular one language.
To finish off what I said above, as I did not fit into the mould of ‘Celt’ or ‘Gàidheal’, because the pure reductionist model looks at Celtic and Gaelic as purely linguistic terms, I had to find a way of rationalising why I was learning Gaelic. Then I watched the Irish series ‘No Béarla’ which showed Manchán Magan travelling around Ireland trying to use Gaeilge only. His finding – it was very difficult.
Throughout the show I saw crowds of people sleep walking into cultural homogeneity and eventual oblivion because, in a paradoxical sense, how can we have the concept of culture if there is only one homogenised form. Culture is surely a relative term which requires that many cultures coexist for the concept to have any grounding in reality. So I began to see the learning of languages as a very individual experience – which is false only in the sense that a community is required for oral exchange to take place.
However, what I am meaning is that the learning of languages is an experience which enriches the individual, after all individuals create the community. The problem here is not the creation of a bland culture: it is the creation of bland individuals. If one is willing to accept stark homogeneity culturally then one is willing to accept it across the board – but all it shows that one sleep walks into unquestioning acceptance of homogeneity.
Therefore, we do not sustain the culture only by our learning of and use of languages but also we sustain the individual. People these days see little or no need for the learning of languages but we must enrich our ability to connect with other humans. Learning languages can do this.
We have forgotten to communicate, having thought it done. It’s only just begun from what I can see.