It is urgent that we learn how to motivate learners of threatened heritage languages. Motivational theories, however, are weakened when they consider heritage languages in isolation from the rest of the culture in which they are enmeshed. By drawing on psycholinguist Zoltán Dörnyei's L2 Motivational Self System to analyze interviews with ten traditional musicians from Nova Scotia with varying degrees of Gaelic fluency, we find that musical knowledge inspires and enriches their language learning and vice versa. It is the interviewees’ holistic understanding of Gaelic culture, as well as the culture's links to community and heritage, that motivates them.

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