Dedicated to the Gaelic Language of the Isle of Man

Gaelg as mish: August 2018

One of my ancestors was, I believe, an Arthur Mougtin, born about 1650. He was almost certainly a monoglot Manx Gaelic speaker. He probably never left the Island in his life and may never have come across any English speakers apart from the incumbent of the local church. He could never have imagined that his native tongue would decline to the extent that it did in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But, he would also never have believed that, having gone close to the edge of extinction, it refused to die.

Manx Gaelic is now in full-on revival due to the enthusiasm and commitment of the great activists of the past and the desire of many people in the present to see it thrive.

Sadly, being Manx born some years ago there was no Manx language nor Manx cultural input into my education. I came upon the Manx language scene after I took early retirement and decided that I would bite the bullet and start to learn my native tongue. Fortunately, for me, there was a beginner’s class about to start in Port st Mary, which is not too far from my home. Having suffered from some uninspiring language teaching at school I was amazed how enjoyable it was and still is. The class itself is conversation based, for the most part, but reading becomes more important as you progress. 

As well as learning the language you find you have entered into a new word of Manx culture of. One of the best things about the Manx language scene is the social side where you get used to the language and enjoy yourself at the same time: Everyone is supportive and non-judgemental.

People say to me ‘Isn’t Manx Gaelic really difficult to learn?’ In reply I say that it is no more difficult than any other language. All you need is time and persistence. Fortunately, every now and again, you have lightbulb moments when some aspect of the language that you have struggled with, suddenly becomes clear.

One of the most encouraging aspects is that the Manx language and cultural scene includes everyone. No-one has to have Manx ancestry in order to be part of it. It is inclusive in the sense of the word. People of all nationalities and cultural backgrounds are learning Manx. Indeed, it is international as there are many people all over the world who are learning Manx via the Internet. Some have no connection with the Isle of Man at all but find the language fascinating. Additionally, there the descendants of the Manx diaspora of the 19th century wish to keep their cultural ancestry alive by learning the language and keeping alive their link with the Island.

Would I recommend learning Manx Gaelic? Certainly. You would learn not only the language but a new appreciation of Mannin itself. You learn to understand the names of the places and geographical features that are a mystery without the language. You will also learn important aspects of Manx history, in particular social history. You will come across amazing people from the past and the present.

Go for it. The language is out there waiting for you.

Pat Ward, Glen Chass

Published: Thu, 01 Jan 1970