Outer Hebrides at sunset with castle

Scottish Gaelic lessons arrive online to mark St Andrew’s Day

Image credit: Dreamstime

Language-learning platform Duolingo is preparing to launch lessons teaching Scottish Gaelic to mark St Andrew’s Day on 30 November.

While most of Scotland was once a Gaelic-speaking territory, the 2011 Scottish Census found that the language is continuing its long decline, with the 1.1 per cent of the Scottish population (over three years old) able to speak Gaelic mostly based in the Outer Hebrides.

However, the endangered language could get a boost from the launch of a Scottish Gaelic course on popular language-learning platform Duolingo.

Duolingo has gained more than 300 million users since its launch in 2011. The freemium platform gamifies language learning by playing simple language games and working through levels on its website and app. Users are encouraged to spend a few minutes every day practising language skills. Duolingo supports dozens of different tongues, including several rare languages such as Navajo and Hawaiian.

According to a press statement, 20,000 people have already registered for the Scottish Gaelic course ahead of its launch on St Andrew’s Day. Its organisers hope that the more people who get involved with the course, the more it will help build further resources for learning the language.

Martin Baillie, who contributed recordings of spoken Scottish Gaelic to the platform, told PA news agency: “July 2020 was the initial estimate [for the launch], but we revised it because we’d made so much progress over the summer. In terms of development of the course it’s been - as far as Duolingo told us - a record-breaking timescale in getting things released from scratch, so I’m pretty pleased with that.”

“It’s a very, very small team that’s been working on it and I think most people will just be pleased to see that it’s been released,” he continued. “It’s about raising awareness, getting people involved in learning Gaelic and hopefully they’ll go on to use other resources that are out there.”

John Swinney, deputy first minister in the Scottish Government, commented: “The Gaelic language is a vital part of Scotland’s cultural identity and we want to ensure those who wish to learn and use the language are given every opportunity to do so.”

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