Caitriona Balfe: Can Outlander star really speak Gaelic?

Outlander teaser: "I Am Not Alone" – Season Finale

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The dreaded Droughtlander has arrived after season six of Outlander concluded recently. Even though the cast and crew are hard at work on the upcoming episodes, it will be a wait for the seventh outing. Many fans of the show are eager to know more about the Starz programme and the cast.

Can Caitriona Balfe speak Gaelic?

In the show, Caitriona Balfe portrays an English woman from the 1940s, who is transported back to Scotland in the 1700s.

There, she encounters a group of Highlanders who frequently converse in their native tongue of Scottish Gaelic.

Claire can’t understand the language which Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan) speaks to his comrades including Murtagh Fitzgibbons (Duncan Lacroix).

She is also referred to as “Sassenach”, a derogatory term for an English person or outsider. Initially, the word is used offensively but over time it becomes Jamie’s term of endearment towards his wife.

Claire also begins to pick up words of Gaelic during the time she spends with Jamie, while she teaches him lingo from the future.

Even though her onscreen alter-ego doesn’t understand Gaelic, Balfe does indeed speak Gaelic.

Speaking to Conan O’Brien on his show Conan back in 2021, she said: “Yeah. I mean it’s one of the oldest language in Europe.

“I used to be fluent but I’ve forgotten quite a bit of it now. But I still have a few sayings.”

She went on to teach the America talkshow host a few phrases about feeling out of sorts.

Along with Gaelic and English, Balfe can also speak French at a conversational level.

Outlander executive producer Ronald D. Moore told TV Line in 2015: “Caitriona definitely does, because she spent quite a bit of time in Paris, and Sam is learning French.

“I just heard him at the table read the other day, and I was pretty surprised. He did quite well.”

Balfe was born in Dublin but grew up towards the North of the Irish border and closer to the Troubles, saying it was a “very, very unique thing”.

Gaelic is spoken widely throughout Ireland with the Irish census of 2016 stating the total number of people who could speak the language was 39.8 percent of the population.

In comparison, a 2011 census in Scotland showed only 1.7 percent of the population could speak Gaelic and the Scottish government has put in place legislation to help grow the number of speakers of the language.

Out of the cast of Outlander, she was ironically the only member who could speak Gaelic with the other actors having to learn from dialect coach Àdhamh Ó Broin.

Although Scottish actor Heughan can’t speak Gaelic, he was a diligent student with Broin lauding him for mastering the language while acting.

Àdhamh Ó Broin got involved in the show after seeing an email going out about looking for a Gaelic consultant.

Speaking to Glasgow Times in 2015, Broin said: “Sam and Duncan (Lacroix) got to the stage where if you sat them down, they could hold a conversation for 30 to 40 seconds.

“I was taking three Englishmen and three lowland Scots from absolutely nothing to them being relaxed enough to deliver the lines and 90 per cent of the time they kicked it out of the park.”

He added: “The hardest thing was intonation, getting them to put emphasis on the right parts of the speech.

Outlander season 7 is in production

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