15 students who have been studying Gaelic at Stow travelled to the Isle of Skye
On the 18th of June this year a group of 15 students who have been studying Gaelic at Stow travelled to the Isle of Skye to take part in a week long residential course financed by The Scottish Funding Council. The residential Gaelic Immersion Course was held this year at the Gaelic college, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, which is situated in the district of Sleat in the south western corner of Skye - aptly known as ‘the garden of Skye’. There was much discussion about routes and perusing of the Cal Mac timetable in the weeks leading up to the day of departure but finally, whether by train, bus, boat or bicycle everyone arrived safely on a weekend of blazing sunshine. As well as the fifteen students and their tutor there were four children aged between seven and two years.
Accommodation was provided by the Gaelic college which runs courses throughout the year in a wide variety of subjects including; Gaelic Language and Culture; Gaelic and Media Studies and Gaelic and Traditional Music. The college has excellent facilities and extensive accommodation on campus and the Stow students were delighted with the standard of the en-suite study rooms, not to mention the stunning panoramic views over the Sound of Sleat. Having arrived on a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon students had an opportunity to spend a bit of time exploring the immediate area between the pier at Armadale and the college which is located just a short distance from the ferry terminal.
The programme for the week consisted of lessons delivered each morning by the college’s Gaelic tutors, Cailean and Suzanne, employing the innovative and intensive Ulpan language teaching method. There was an opportunity to compare notes over an excellent lunch and try out new phrases with the Gaelic speaking staff of the College Refectory. As the policy of the college is to ensure that all staff from janitor and receptionist to the librarian and domestic staff use Gaelic, there are infinite opportunities to use the language actively on a daily basis. The children were delighted to be able to spend the day at the excellent Gaelic croileagan (playgroup) on the campus. A full programme of cultural tours had been arranged, for the afternoons by the college’s co-ordinator, Alasdair MacKay beginning on Monday afternoon with a tour of the museum and the extensive Castle grounds of the nearby Clan Donald Centre. Visits to Eilean Donan Castle, Portree and the Talisker Distillery which were arranged for the following three days gave the group a fascinating insight into the history and culture of the Skye and Lochalsh area. A full programme of activities was arranged for each evening including conversation groups involving the local community, a workshop in step dancing and a talk on Gaelic song led by the world famous Gaelic singer, Christine Primrose. For those free of child minding duties and with enough energy left there was an informal ceilidh session held each evening in the Talla Mor (Big Hall) where the students could meet with other groups attending courses at the college and practice their Gaelic language skills.
The trip to Sabhal Mor Ostaig convinced several students that they were ready to take the next step in gaining fluency in Gaelic and working towards gaining qualifications at an advanced level in a Gaelic speaking environment. Conversations with former students of Stow College who have gone on to study at the college in Skye and have adapted very successfully to island living were very encouraging and at least one student from Stow College will be taking up residence at Sabhal Mor Ostaig this September to begin his studies in Gaelic on the Cursa Comais. We look forward to finding out about his progress and hopefully seeing him on our next visit to the Isle of Skye!
Ishbel Murray - June 2011
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