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I was brought up bilingually.  My father learnt scottish gaelic but is a native english speaker, my mother speaks mostly english although she has some gaelic and understands it very well.  I went through gaelic medium education and feel that gaelic is most definitely my native language.  at home i speak only english to my mother, only gaelic to my younger sister and a mix to my dad.  i now learn french and spanish in school, although i have in the past done some russian and swedish.  all my friends speak german around me, so my understanding has greatly increased.  i have a lot of irish gaelic speaking friends and whilst i undersatdn irish gaelic perfectly and can read it very well, we find it best to speak a mix of irish and scottish gaelic with some english thrown in.

in terms of the fact that my father learnt his gaelic… well i was a young child as he was learning, so we basically learnt together.  when we speak about serious things we always use gaelic, when we are outside the home we always use gaelic, when we are with my brothers (who understand but no longer speak gaelic) we speak english but in normal conversation we use an odd kind of mix.

basically the fact that he was not a native speaker had no effect on my ability and i think probably helped me as his gaelic is more gramatically correct than his english!!! my one major problem in life is that nobody i know speaks all the same languages as me and so i constantly have to translate in order to use sentences in one language only.. this can be rather tiring.  so dont worry if your young children mix their languages – this is normal and please dont discourage them because they will eventually just feel they cannot express themselves properly.

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This is encouraging. I’m learning German alongside my children. They are still young and I’d like them to be bilingual but learning with them has caused a few barriers. Your story inspires me however. Your brothers that no longer speak Gaelic, how old were they when your dad started speaking Gaelic? I ask because my oldest is 5 and I still have yet to master German.

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