Gaelic with My Language Notebook

Teicneolas cainnt is cànan, bathar-bog ionnsachaidh / Laguage and speech technology, learning software
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Gaelic with My Language Notebook

Unread post by ~Sìle~ » Tue May 12, 2009 10:46 pm

My Language Notebook (MLN) is a program to keep your notes when you are learning a language. You can note down useful sentences just like with a normal notebook but you can also do a whole lot more. You can record the audio, put your sentences into categories, search and practice what you have noted down. More useful to my way of thinking is that you can also learn from projects that other people have made and uploaded to the MLN website! I am excited to be able to tell you that they have some material for Gaelic.

This project is the brain-child of Jim Morrison who is fighting to help the smaller languages survive. We asked him to tell us something about himself and the project. So over to Jim:

Celtic culture never seems to fail to inspire and fascinate people from all over the world and for me the biggest part of this culture is its languages, Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Breton, Cornish and of course Manx. These languages reflect, in a way that nothing else can, the richness, diversity and uniqueness of the Celtic culture. I have always been fascinated by them. Like when I first read about Jack Kerouac going to research his family name in Brittany, or when I heard about the last native speakers of old Cornish and Manx. Like when I heard people speaking Welsh for the first time, or when I listened to a woman singing in Irish in a Galway pub. The great thing about all of these languages is that they are alive. They are not just some romantic curiosity in a history book, but living languages used by more than a million people every day. They are alive, and what follows is my idea for one small way of helping to keep them alive and make them grow.

I was learning Catalan a few years ago, noting down useful sentences in my notebook as I went, when I started to think about the limitations of the classic pen and paper approach to taking notes. The biggest limitation I could see was that you can’t actually note down the sounds of the language. I would often encounter a useful sentence and note it down like this:

Com va això? = How’s it going?

This was great until I came back to it a week later and realised that I had forgotten how it was pronounced. It’s important to be able to read and write a sentence but even more important to be able to understand it when you hear it and also to be able to say it yourself. This was when I decided to try to make a computer program to solve this problem and I ended up with My Language Notebook (MLN). So now, when I heard an interesting sentence, I could use MLN to note it down along with its tr*nsl*t**n and its audio. Then I could just double-click on the sentence to hear it and practice it whenever I wanted. After I had been using my program for a while, I realised that my notes might be useful to other people learning Catalan, so I made the MLN website ( to allow people to get the MLN program for themselves and to share the notes they make with it. I put my notes on the site and started to encourage others to use MLN and upload their own notes so that we could hopefully all learn from each other.

Quite a few projects (notes) for various languages started to get uploaded to the MLN site and after a while, I started to realise the potential of MLN for spreading knowledge of some of the smaller and maybe endangered languages. I immediately thought of the Celtic languages. My idea was that MLN could be used by the speakers of these languages to easily make lessons for others who wanted to learn them.

It’s important for the people with the knowledge to be able to easily and effectively pass that knowledge to other people who want to have it and I think that Phil’s Manx lessons show that MLN can help to do this. I really hope that other people who know these languages will consider giving MLN a try to make their own lessons and spread their knowledge to others. There are also some wonderful Gaelic lessons available. This was made by an old friend of my family in Coventry, John Macintyre. John was born in South Uist and is now in his seventies. He couldn’t speak a word of english until he was 17 when he had to go the army on the mainland.

Source: Celtic Myth Podshow.

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