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How To Translate English To Scottish Gaelic

Oct 2018

Language|Translation ,

Scottish Gaelic is a member of the family of Celtic languages, which includes Irish Gaelic and Manx Gaelic. They all share similar language structures, deriving from similar sources, so many think they are one and the same, but they are actually very different.

Scottish Gaelic was native to the Gaels of Scotland, developing from the Middle Irish spoken by early Scots who emigrated from Ulster, Ireland around the 6th century.

The language then spread quickly across the country, becoming the primary language of residents of medieval ‘Alba’.

By the late 18th century, however, the language was quashed heavily during the Highland Clearances and consequent Jacobite Uprisings.

What was once the most common language in Scotland is now spoken by an absolute minority. The 2011 Scottish census found that just 1.1% of the population could speak the language. This was a drop of over 1000 people from the census a decade before.

The language is now largely restricted to residents of the Highlands and Islands, with most speakers residing in the Western Isles.

If you’re interested in helping to resurrect the language, here are a few basic but handy Scottish Gaelic phrases you can learn!


‘Hello’ in Scottish Gaelic

Starting off with a very easy but essential Scottish Gaelic phrase is the word hello!

In Scottish Gaelic, you greet others with ‘halò’!

Pronounced hallo, this phrase has you covered for greeting passers-by if you visit a Gaelic-speaking community

Alternatively, you could say good morning which is ‘madainn mhath’, pronounced ma-ten-va.

In Scottish Gaelic, the combination of the letters mh makes a v sound.



‘How Are You’ in Scottish Gaelic

If you get struck into a conversation with a predominantly Gaelic-speaker, you can show off your languages skills by taking it a step further than merely hello.

How are you? in Scottish Gaelic is ‘ciamar a tha thu?’, pronounced kim-ar-ah-oo.


‘Where Are You From’ in Scottish Gaelic

As a beginner, you may be leading yourself into uncertain territory by advancing the conversation further in Gaelic, but the Gaelic-speaker will appreciate the effort!

To ask the new found chum you’ve met on a hill walk or down the pub where they’re from, simply say ‘co às a tha thu’? This is pronounced co-as-a-ha-u.

They will likely respond with ‘tha mi à [place name]’, which will sound like ha-ma-skee.

Th in Scottish Gaelic often sounds like h.



‘Thank You’ in Scottish Gaelic

Show your manners when buying something in a local Gaelic shop by saying ‘tapadh leibh’! This is quite straightforward to pronounce: tap-a-leev.

Like mh sounds like v, so does bh.

Alternatively, when someone says this to you, you can respond with ‘s e ur beatha’ (she-oor-be-ha), you’re welcome!


Happy Birthday’ in Scottish Gaelic

‘Co-là-breith sona dhut, co-là-breith sona dhut!’

Join in birthday celebrations in Gaelic with happy birthday to you, cola-bray sauna ghoocht.



Happy New Year’ in Scottish Gaelic

Celebrate your Scottish roots at Hogmanay by cheering ‘bliadhna mhath Ùr’ (blee-en-a-va-oor) at the bells!

Ù has an ‘oo’ sound in Scottish Gaelic.

Learning these various pronunciation rules will really help when you are trying to decipher Gaelic texts.


I Love You’ in Scottish Gaelic

And to end our list of Scottish Gaelic phrases on a sweet note, we have ‘tha gaol agam ort’ (ha-gool-akam-orst)!

Next time you feel brimming with love to share, use this phrase to surprise your nearest and dearest!



Gaelic Still A Bit Rusty?

If you’re in need of Gaelic translation services, Global Language Services have a team of experts able to help you out.

Our translators can translate all sorts of documents into Scottish Gaelic, including web pages, letters and magazines, and educational resources.

We have experience carrying out Gaelic translations for high-profile organisations including the SQA, Census Scotland, Scottish Parliament, NHS 24, and Police Scotland.

If you have a Gaelic translation project in mind, request a quote for our services or contact us for any other queries you have.

Mar sin leat!

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