Online plaudits for Stornoway’s 10-year-old Syrian Gaelic speaker

Abdullah, Anas and Majd Al Nakeeb with Abdullah and Majd proudly displaying their Gaelic Certificates.

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A Stornoway Primary School pupil from war torn Syria has become a social media sensation after receiving an award for the progress he has made learning Gaelic.

Abdullah Al Nakeeb, aged 10, moved to Stornoway from Homs four years ago and in that short time has excelled in his grasp of the Gaelic language. So much so, that the primary six pupil was recently awarded a certificate from his school in recognition of his achievement.

News of Abdullah’s award was posted on Twitter by a neighbour, with the permission of the Al Nakeeb family, and at the last count had earned 20.8k likes, 569 comments and 1.8k retweets.

A family spokesperson said: ‘We are really proud of Abdullah. He loves going to school here and Gaelic has become one of his favourite subjects.

‘Addullah always works really hard and it is nice to see him get praise for his efforts.

‘We never expected our son to learn the language, but since moving here he has picked up Gaelic very quickly. His younger brother Majd has also got a good grasp of the language and received a certificate for his progress in December.

‘Hopefully Abdullah’s younger brothers will continue to follow in his footsteps. It would be great to have them all speaking a new language.’

Abdullah can now speak three languages – Gaelic, English and Arabic – and has enjoyed French and Mandarin lessons with his classmates.

Stornoway Primary School head teacher Peigi Maclean said: ‘Abdullah began to learn English as a second language when he came to Stornoway and is now fluent in Arabic and English.

‘He now has a good understanding of Gaelic and is eager to develop his Gaelic conversational skills at every opportunity. As Abdullah is already bilingual, he has the skills to transfer between three languages with ease.’

Six Syrian families have moved to Stornoway and the surrounding area in recent years, with all said to have settled in well.

Homs, where the Al Nakeebs came from, is in western Syria and was a rebel stronghold during the early years of the country’s civil war. It was subject to a brutal three-year siege between 2011 and 2014.