How Do Children Learn Gaelic?

The key stages in the language learning process are:

  • Silent Period
  • Understanding
  • Responding to Question
  • Independent Language Use

Silent Period

You must understand a language before speaking it. It is important to remember that the children will be quiet during this phase, but there are several things we can do to help them develop their skills – songs, rhymes and repetition games and instructions are great to help children become familiar with the sounds of the language.


As they become familiar with routines, they will begin to understand instructions, questions, songs and rhymes. They will respond to the commands appropriately, and begin to join in with singing the songs and rhymes. They may not speak Gaelic but if they are able to follow instructions and join in with play they are understanding what the adult is saying.

Once they are comfortable, they will begin to respond. It is important to remember that if the child responds appropriately they understand what is being said. To help them learn more Gaelic words and phrases it’s very important to keep speaking to them in Gaelic or letting them hear Gaelic.

Responding to Questions

Often, this process begins with one word before the children start stringing words together. It is important that we remember that children need time in order to answer questions. We need to give them the time to answer, without jumping in to give them the answer or cutting across to finish their sentences. It’s important to praise your child when they start using Gaelic words and phrases.

Independent Language Use

Once they are completely comfortable, they will begin to speak Gaelic. This is an important milestone in their language development.

It is a natural process for children to mix languages, especially if they are learning more than one language at the same time.  It is important to praise children when they are learning and speaking a new language.

Useful Websites

Bilingualism Matters

TWF Cymru