Bilingual life after school? Language use, ideologies and attitudes among Gaelic-medium educated adults
Gaelic-medium education (GME) as it exists today started in 1985, when two classes offering instruction through the medium of Gaelic opened within primary schools in Glasgow and Inverness. GME grew rapidly throughout the first decade of its availability, and 1258 students were enrolled in the system by 1995. This thesis examines outcomes of this system in terms of the degree to which former pupils who started in GME during this period continue to use Gaelic in their daily lives, and provides an assessment of their language ideologies and attitudes. The 2011 census showed a diminution in the decline of Gaelic speakers in Scotland, but marginal growth of 0.1% was recorded in the number of speakers under the age of 20. Whilst this growth has been understood by politicians and policy-makers as evidence of the role of GME in revitalising the language, the census figures give a limited picture of the actual language practices of reported speakers, the extent to which they use Gaelic, or of their beliefs, feelings and attitudes regarding the language. Internationally, little research appears to have been done on the life trajectories of adults who received a bilingual education through a minority language; that is to say, on the effect that the bilingual classroom has on such individuals’ relationship to the language after formal schooling is completed. The first students to receive GME at primary school are now in their late 20s and early 30s, and prospects for the maintenance and intergenerational transmission of Gaelic by this group are currently unknown. The principal research questions of this investigation comprise the following: - What role does Gaelic play in the day-to-day lives of former Gaelic-medium students who started in GME during the first decade of its availability; how and when do they use the language? - What sets of beliefs and language ideologies do these Gaelic-medium educated adults express in relation to Gaelic? - How do these beliefs and ideologies relate to their actual language practices, to their attitudes concerning the language, and to future prospects for the maintenance of Gaelic? Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods, I provide an assessment of Gaelic use, language ideologies and attitudes among a sample of 130 Gaelic-medium educated adults. A thematic, ethnography of speaking methodology is employed to analyse qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with 46 informants. Additionally, responses to an electronic questionnaire are evaluated by statistical analysis using Spearman’s rank order correlation co-efficient to investigate the relationships between non-parametric variables of reported language use, ability, socialisation and attitudes. The results are discussed with reference to extensive research literatures on language, culture and identity, language revitalisation in the international context, and the perceived limitations of GME which have previously been identified with regard to the revitalisation of Gaelic.