Latha taingealeachd sona dhuibh (Happy Thanksgiving to you) for my fellow Ameireaganach (American) readers. And to those of you who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, Happy Thursday!
Today is a day when we in the States all come together to make and eat a lot of food. So in the spirit of feasting, I thought I’d post something about food and language learning (with some recipes at the bottom of the article).
The Fastest Way to a Polyglot’s Heart is Through His Stomach
Food is an important part of a culture. Every place has its own signature dishes. This even applies regionally, and not just on the country level. When people travel, food is one of the first things they think about experiencing in a new place. It’s also one of the first things people miss when they live in another country.
Whenever I start on a new language, I like to find cookbooks and recipes to start exploring the food. It’s a fun and delicious motivator, especially if I won’t be traveling to the region any time soon. As It’s best to try and immerse yourself when you are studying a language. Sometimes that means you have to bring the culture (and dishes) to yourself!
Food is a Great Way to Learn
There are two keys to learning a language:
- enjoying what you are doing
- finding it immediately relevant
When you are just starting out with a language, going out to order food or learning to make culturally relevant dishes can be both relevant and fun! You have to learn some key phrases to ask the server for what you want. Or when you are cooking at home, you can always write your grocery lists in the target language (along with numbers and measurements to practice). It’s a bit like flash cards, but with real life context added in.
When you get better at a language, it’s time to start going to the source and using recipes in your target language! Recipes are usually rather short and use a lot of the same vocabulary, so they tend to be quite easy to learn, relatively speaking. But once you are reading recipes, you’re immersing yourself in the language every time you go into the grocery store or the kitchen!
For those of you who love food, this can lead in to other avenues of language learning. For example, my wife is a chef, and every once in a while I’ll buy her French cooking magazines because she loves French cuisine. Not only does she end up being inspired by and cooking the recipes, but she will pour over the articles, learning more about her passion and craft in French! — Ok, I admit it’s not an entirely altruistic gift, since I usually get to eat things from these magazines…
Since I’ve started studying Scottish Gaelic, my approach has been the same. I want to eat traditional Hebridean, Highlands and Cape Breton foods. And I’m at the point where I can start trying to understand recipes in Gaelic if I find them. There’s only one problem — did you notice the word “if”?
There are few recipes in Gaelic on the internet!
This is unfortunate. Not just for me, but for the community. There was a great article recently in Bella Caledonia about how important it is to provide “the activities [young people] want in the medium of Gaelic.” Food is something people of all cultures and generations can appreciate. And there need to be Gaelic Food blogs, even ones that publish about non-traditional foods.
More Gaels need to start creating Gaelic “content” about what they love. — Something I’ll be posting more about.
After extensive Google and Twitter searches, I have been able to find 4 recipes. There was nothing on Instagram, and a search for “reasabaidh” (recipe) on Pinterest only yielded English results. Here are the four recipes I did find, for those who are interested:
- Rùsgadair Buntàta Criospan (Potato Chips/Crisps) on Fòram na Gàidhlig
- Croppan Heid (Cod Haggis) on Am Baile — It’s printed in English but there is apparently a sound file. I couldn’t get the sound file to work for me, so I hope someone else does.
- Bonnach (Cake) — on the BBC
- Sgadan Ròsta ann am Min-choirce (Herring in Oatmeal) — [pdf] on ACGAmerica
Even with such a short list, I’m going to try my hand at the Cod Haggis and the Herring in Oatmeal (assuming I can get some Cod Liver).
Do You Learn With Your Stomach?
Do any of you use food to motivate yourself or learn languages? Are there any other food related ideas you think I missed out on here? Are there any other Gaelic language recipes out there anyone’s found? Or maybe a food blogger I haven’t found? Let me know in the comments!