I WAS six years old when I watched BBC Alba’s first live broadcast on September 19, 2008. Being so young, the significance of the launch – coming after many years of tireless campaigning and the centuries of linguistic marginalisation before that – was not then understood or appreciated by me.

It was only three years earlier that the first piece of legislation dedicated to Gaelic – the 2005 Gaelic Language Act – passed in the Scottish Parliament, stating the aim of “securing Gaelic as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect with the English language”. Despite such triumphs, hostility towards Gaelic remains deep-rooted, having been internalised by Gaels and non-Gaels alike.

Older generations of Highlanders were lied to as children, told in school that their language was useless and bygone, a dead weight which would only hold them back in life. They grew into adults convinced that such an essential component of their selves made them “other” and inferior. This imposed shame resulted in many choosing not to teach Gaelic to their own children.

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For today’s young Gaels, that history endures, its bitter legacy reinforced by prevailing prejudice and an ever-present awareness of a precarious future. And so, for many of us, hope and pride coincide with frustration and apprehension.

For centuries, the marginalisation of Gaels left our language and culture subject to conjecture, myth-making, and misrepresentation in wider society.

Established false narratives portray Gaels as an ancient, unwaveringly “traditional”, culturally and socially stagnant people – a damaging image which denies our modern reality and implies that Gaelic’s current endangerment was inevitable, caused solely by our culture being innately incompatible with modernity.

As such, the combining of our “old” with the contemporary “new” may appear novel or forced to many non-Gaels, but tradition and innovation exist simultaneously for every majority language, so why is it inconceivable that it is also true for Gaelic?

If a tradition is a custom which is passed from one generation to the next, our perennial tradition is Gaelic – it is the common thread running through all cultural practices, from music to prose, poetry to folklore. In that sense, we can apply Gaelic to any contemporary medium or theme and still be preserving tradition.

Furthermore, language and culture are kept alive by innovation – when we cease to innovate, that is when we die. Anything currently established as “traditional” was initially new, modern, and young.

Valtos are a Scottish-electronic band comprised of Isle of Skye-based Martyn MacDonald and Daniel Docherty. By fusing traditional Gaelic and electronic elements, they have created hooks as culturally invigorating as they are catchy.

The track Beinn on their debut album, Valtos, opens by referencing an old Gaelic proverb: “We’ve heard it before, that old lie: Siud mar a tha, ’s mar a bha, ’s mar a bhios”. Translating to English as “that’s how it is, and how it was, and how it will be”, its use here alludes to the hopelessness felt by older Gaels regarding the fragile status of Gaelic.

But the verse concludes by juxtaposing shifting generational attitudes, turning that saying on its head to become “siud mar a tha, ’s mar a bha, ach seo mar a bhios”, meaning “that’s how it is, and how it was, but this is how it will be”.

Today’s young Gaels are reclaiming the narrative surrounding their language. We have many challenges to overcome, and many ahead, but the introductions of BBC Alba and social media have enabled us to advocate for it on our own terms.

The successes of activists throughout the last century have empowered us to continue their work redefining Gaelic’s place in modern Scotland and challenging the prevailing prejudices surrounding our identity, language, and culture. In the face of marginalisation, young Gaels have always been adaptable, resilient, and modern. Young Gaels are not oxymoronic. Siud mar a tha, ’s mar a bha, ’s mar a bhios.

Ròs NicMharcuis, 20, is an aspiring journalist and broadcaster from Glasgow where she continues to live and study