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Is Gaelic really that important and should we bother to learn the language?

Duolingo, the free language learning service has officially launched Scottish Gaelic which is now available to over 300 million users globally.

The app, which has over 91 courses in 30 languages, has seen a significant interest in the Scottish language with over 20,000 people signing up just eight months ahead of its initial launch.

Now estimated to be spoken by 60,000 Scots according to The Scotsman, it still remains one of Scotland’s oldest surviving languages despite its limited numbers.

Glasgow, home to the largest Gaelic-medium school in Europe, has a large number of media companies which include Bòrd na Gàidhlig and BBC Alba and according to the Scottish Government, Gaelic pupils perform better at reading, writing, speaking and listening than those taught through English.

Chief Executive Officer at Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Shona MacLennan was delighted with the results, stating that “many studies have proven that pupils in bilingual education are on par with, or outperform, children educated in just one language as well as gaining other benefits.”

It the late Spring of 2018, a third Gaelic school was announced due to the current two Gaelic schools in Glasgow reaching its capacity—proving the language is very much in demand.

Broadcast Journalist for BBC Scotland, Iain MacInnes said:

“Gaelic is at the very core of my identity. It just happens to be the language I converse in, work in, and speak to my mates in. It’s who I am in the same way that other identity markers are just as important for others. That’s why it’s wrong when people question its very existence as often these people are not aware that Gaelic was spoken in the area they lived in, and I think work is ongoing to educate people and normalise the language in Scottish culture.

“I come from a home where Gaelic is important to us, but my Mum only spoke a little, although my Dad had more. I wouldn’t call myself a ‘native speaker’ but I am now fluent. I’m in the fortunate position that my children are both learning Gaelic at home as my wife and I both speak.

“Gaelic is about more than language; it’s a culture, a way-of-life, a different outlook on things.”
person playing bag pipe on sidewalk

The National Gaelic Language Plan, which will run until 2022 seeks to secure Gaelic as one of our official languages with the aim to promote a positive image and gain equal respect to English.

Gaelic gives Scotland a unique identity—something no other country has. Without Gaelic, Scotland would lose its culture and with it, part of its identity. This may not be the main focus in terms of funding, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be starved of investment.

If you want to learn the language you should because what’s the worst that can happen? You try and you don’t quite get the hang of it or you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would. Maybe you actually enjoyed it and a year from now you will be able to read, write and speak the language.

Gaelic is not a ‘dying language’ but it does need help to flourish and this can be done by simply learning a few words. There are many courses you can do in person or online to work around your schedule—making more opportunities for everyone.

So whether you want to learn Gaelic out of interest, or are thinking of putting your child through Gaelic education, the benefits are endless.
Download Duolingo today and let us know how you get on in the comments below!
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