Bilingual life after school: Opportunity, choice and ideology among former Gaelic-medium students

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This article examines the language use and ideologies of participants in a 2015 study of Gaelic-medium educated adults, a key demographic for language maintenance. The author investigated outcomes of Gaelic-medium education (GME) among a sample of 130 adults who started in GME during the first years of its availability in Scotland, in the late 1980s and 1990s. This project drew on both quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the degree to which past GME students use Gaelic, along with the attitudinal and ideological correlates which may underlie this usage. An online questionnaire focusing on language use elicited 112 responses between 2011 and 2013. These were analysed statistically to examine the relationships between social and linguistic variables. Additionally, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 46 informants to examine these issues in greater detail. Crucially, the majority of participants’ day-to-day Gaelic language use was limited, although notable exceptions to this were found among speakers who were substantially socialised in the language during childhood, and those who work in Gaelic-oriented professions. Specifically, this paper addresses the extent to which participants use Gaelic in the work, home and community environments, and examines one set of language ideologies that appears to underlie these language practices. The discussion draws on both statistical and qualitative data to shed further light on the overall sociolinguistic picture which emerged from the study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-316
JournalTransactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2018


  • Gaelic
  • bilingualism
  • language ideologies
  • immersion education


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