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Scottish Gaelic course to launch on language learning service

© PADuolingo phone app with the new Scottish Gaelic course which will be released on on St Andrew's Day.
Duolingo phone app with the new Scottish Gaelic course which will be released on on St Andrew's Day.

A free online language learning service with more than 300 million users will launch its Scottish Gaelic course on St Andrew’s Day.

Duolingo was launched in 2011 and now has more than 90 languages on its online service including Spanish, French, Navajo, Jawaiian, Welsh and Irish Gaelic.

It is estimated around 60,000 people in Scotland speak Gaelic but already 20,000 have registered for the course before its release – months ahead of schedule – on Saturday.

Users learn by playing various games including typing words or phrases, matching grammar and also speaking or listening to sentences to earn “crowns” and progress their knowledge through a number of levels.

Speaking to the PA news agency, contributor Martin Baillie said: “July 2020 was the initial estimate 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.

“People will always have complaints or things we could have done differently or things they wanted to see or mistakes but that’s just the reality.”

He added: “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.

“I’m not necessarily nervous about it. The way Duolingo works is once courses are released there always are and will be mistakes, things left and improvements that people can make.

“The more users we have, they contribute to the process. There’s 20,000 pre-registered so that’s a pretty decent starting point.

“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.”

Ahead of its release, PA was given early access to the course on the Duolingo app.

Early phases involve picture-based learning with simple words such as identifying a boy, girl, cat and dog before moving on to other animals.

It then uses what you learn from the pictures to help form and translate sentences – both written on the screen and with audio clips recorded by Martin and his team.

At the end of each round there is an advert saying “this ad helps keep education free” above and the option to go for an ad-free version of the app.

Colin Watkins, Duolingo’s country manager in the UK, said: “We hope our course will open up Gaelic to millions of people across Scotland and the Scottish diaspora across the world.

“Anyone can start learning the language for free from today. All it takes is for you to download Duolingo and then spend five minutes a day learning, that’s all.

“It’s perfect for when you are on the bus or having your lunch.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “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.

“I therefore warmly welcome the launch of the new online resource from Duolingo which is another useful tool to promote the use of Gaelic.

“This sits alongside the recently updated Learn Gaelic website which contains a wealth of adult learning materials for those with an interest in the language.”


Duolingo’s Scottish Gaelic course is available free on iOS, Android and duolingo.com.