Gaelic Recipes

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:

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…

Gaelic Cuisine

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.

But first


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:

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!

5-Week Romanian Mission

Fall is in the air, and it’s time for a new language mission!

Since I already have a bigger mission planned starting right after Thanksgiving (any guesses?), I only have 5 weeks for this one. I decided to learn Romanian!

Watch my youtube video to find out why:

As I mention in the video, part of why I chose Romanian over other languages is because I already speak several romance languages, and I wanted to do something a little easier due to the heavy workload I have at the moment. I also wanted to round out the languages spoken in my Polyglot Meetup, where we have a Romance Language chat every other week and no Romanian speakers! You’ll note that I don’t have a specific goal in mind (such as A2 level, or understanding a film without subtitles). The truth is, I’m more curious just how much Romanian I can learn. And while I will have mini-goals for each week, I’m so busy right now that I’m not going to be sure I can set those goals for a couple of days. But that doesn’t mean I should wait before I act! You don’t get anywhere unless you start moving!

How will I do it?

First and foremost, I need to dive right in and learn some basic phrases. I hope to find some speakers on iTalki and Speaky as well, but I recognize that it may take a few days to try and set something up. I learned with Turkish that the time zone difference for that part of the world isn’t very helpful for me right now. I intend to search the local area for Romanians and Romanian speakers to see what I can find.

I’ve also learned that due to my past experiences with romance languages my comprehension will accelerate even when my ability to speak stalls. I intend to use that to my advantage and start trying to read and listen to more advanced materials a little earlier. I’m pretty interested in grammar by itself, so I will have fun trying to understand the grammar of these semi-familiar texts and broadcasts even before I learn the vocabulary to truly understand them.

What about materials?

You might notice from the photo and the video that I have a copy of Teach Yourself: Romanian. I also have the sound files for it, and I will be using it extensively. I will, however, take a different approach than a lot of people I know might do. I like to read the materials in larger chunks, maybe 5 chapters at a time. I find that I can usually remember enough in one session to understand what I’m reading for about that many chapters. This gives me the opportunity to try and make sense of the material itself and figure out what vocabulary and grammar is most helpful for me.

After I’ve distilled the chapters down this way, I will commit vocabulary to memory — though probably in the form of phrases. I will also go back through and make sure I understand the dialogues and can say them at full speed.

Special Sauce

This being another romance language, there are other special things I can do to speed up my learning. I will look at the sound changes that happened for Romanian making it different from the other romance languages, as well as explore lists of cognates and false cognates. The sooner my brain understands what is similar and what is different, the more vocabulary I can remember.

But while this is helpful, it also creates a problem. It means that I often spend time translating to the target language from one of the other languages in the same family. Since Romanian is closest to Italian, I suspect I will try and say very Italianate things, and I will need to start really observing and listening to the specifics of how Romanians really communicate. But I think I might not be able to skip this obstacle, and I will just have to plow through it when I get there.

Join the Fun!

As I’ve said before, language is about community, and it’s always fun to share a goal with someone else. Do the 5-week Romanian mission with me! We don’t need the same materials, the same process, or any of the the same things except grit and enthusiasm! We can share cool resources we find, as well as cool cultural things that inspire us.

I’ll be updating the blog often to keep things transparent and to share with you all the cool things that I discover / experience. Want to do the 5-week Romanian Mission with me? Or maybe you have another language mission you are doing? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to send me a message on twitter: @echonotation


You learn it when you love it

In a letter to his son, Albert Einstein once wrote that you learn the most “when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes.”

Learning is really that simple. When you are enjoying what you are learning, you are most likely to learn it.

If you aren’t interested in art, it’s going to be difficult to learn the french words for “canvas” (la toile), “paintbrush” (pinceau), and “oil paintings” (peintures à l’huile). And even if you do commit them to memory, it won’t be long before they slip away. But if you love painting, not only will you be excited you learn these words, you will remember them a lot better after you have learned them.

The same goes for grammar. If you are excited to read an article in French, you will be more motivated to learn and understand the grammar. Whereas if you lose interest, why force yourself to “crack the code” and learn the new expressions?

Sometimes the language itself is enough to motivate you to learn, especially at the beginning stages. However, sometimes we learn the language best when we are using the language to engage in something we love.

Immerse yourself in what excites you:

  • Teach yourself a skill in your target language
  • Read about something that interests you in your target language
  • Watch a movie or television show that you like in your target language

Don’t learn the language, do what you love IN the language. Enjoy yourself so much that you don’t notice the time passing, and your language skills will be better for it.