Dedicated to the Gaelic Language of the Isle of Man

Gaelg as mish: April 2018

I have just spent my first ever fortnight on the Isle of Man.  My main reason for coming here was to practice my Manx.  Reasonably enough, a lot of people have asked me why I’m learning the language.  It’s a fair question because not many people learn languages when they don’t have to, and those that do so  seem to learn languages which may be useful, like Chinese, or which have some cultural importance, such as Latin. Some languages seem to belong in both categories, like French or German, which people could learn because they might need them and/or because they want to read great writers from those languages in the original.

     So what’s with the Manx, Floyd?  Well, my first reason was that I have a family connection.  My surname comes from the island.  That’s why I’ve always been interested in the language, ever since I heard that it was still a going concern.  Of course, that’s not a sufficient reason.  I’m from Melbourne, Australia, a town which is full of people with Scottish names who don’t learn Scots Gaelic, people called ‘Thomas’ who don’t know any Welsh.  Like a lot of Melbourne families, mine is a mixture;  not just Manx, but also part Cornish, Irish and English. 

    I partly started studying Manx because, as a language teacher (I teach English to adults), I want to practice what I preach.  Some of the best English language teachers I know learned the language as adults.  They know what works for them and they can identify with their students.  I grew up with English, so I never had to go through what my students.  Learning Manx is a chance to take my own medicine.  If I tell my students to try a learning activity, but it doesn’t work for me, maybe it’s time to change my classes.

  The other thing I gain from my students is an awareness that learning a language is not really such a big deal. A lot of my students speak three languages before they start English, not because they’re especially clever or hard-working, but because they have to. I’ve come to realise that a language is just another thing to learn.  The people who look amazed that I’m learning Manx would think nothing of having a crack at Pilates or art classes if they’ve got the time.

         I could practice any language, but chose Manx because it was in my mind as a family thing and because I stumbled across after somebody online taught me to say ‘morragh mie’.  I discovered that not only was Manx not dead, it was thriving.  Not only was it thriving, I could learn it for free and with a wealth of online resources at my fingertips.  That was about six years ago, and I haven’t looked back.  When I drive around Melbourne, I listen to Manx Radio shows I’ve downloaded which are part or all in Manx, or to my cds of ‘Yn Gruffalo’, the classic children’s tale, beautifully and humorously told in Manx by Annie Kissack.  I’ve read (and re-read) Manx children’s stories, and I tweet in Manx with a friendly twitter group based around the island. 

 My goal is to be able to say almost anything I want to in Manx and be understood by another speaker.  I have a way to go, but after a glorious fortnight on the island, I feel that I’m well on the way. 

Floyd Kermode, Melbourne, Australia

Published: Thu, 01 Jan 1970