Gaelic Instructors Share Techniques for Community Immersion
NOTE: The following is a feature story about the development of the Gaelic language in Nova Scotia.
There is no better sign that Gaelic language is advancing in Nova Scotia than 23 instructors gathered for a professional development session conducted entirely in Gaelic.
The instructors, most who learned Gaelic as adults, attended the two-day session at St. Ann's Gaelic College in May to share and discuss techniques and best practices for Gaelic immersion. Over the past three years, instructors have been teaching immersion classes in communities from Halifax to Sydney, based on Total Immersion Plus, which focuses on learning Gaelic through activities.
"For many years, Gaelic teachers have been working in their communities, creating their own lessons and working hard to promote Gaelic," said Hector MacNeil, one of the organizers of the professional development session. "We now have the Total Immersion Plus approach and it is working for us. It's so important that teachers come together to learn from each other."
The Total Immersion Plus method was introduced by Scotland's Finlay MacLeod. Since then, instructors have adapted MacLeod's techniques to suit their communities and students. In co-operation with the Office of Gaelic Affairs, students, teachers and community organizers have been working to refine the approach. They call it Gàidhlig aig Baile, which means Gaelic at home.
Gàidhlig aig Baile relies heavily on props, action and humour to support comprehension and ease the stress that adult often experience when learning the language. Participants also discussed best practices associated with Gaelic immersion based on their experience and research. Instructors demonstrated techniques, activities and games for immersion instruction and received feedback on how the technique could be improved.
The Gàidhlig aig Baile approach helped Shay MacMullin learn to speak the language two years ago. She now leads a class for beginners in Halifax. She also worked with MacNeil to organize the professional development session.
"As a Gaelic speaker who learned through Gàidhlig aig Baile, it was great to work on further developing the method and to do it through Gaelic," said MacMullin. "We wanted to keep with the Gàidhlig aig Baile immersion philosophy. As learners we have to use whatever language we have."
The Gaelic weekend was supported by the Office of Gaelic Affairs. A report on the professional development session is available by calling 902-945-2114 or by sending and email to firstname.lastname@example.org .