Scottish Gaelic language facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Scottish Gaelic
Pronunciation [ˈkaːlikʲ]
Native to United Kingdom, Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand
Region Scotland, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Glengarry County, Canada
Native speakers

58,552 in Scotland.

92,400 people aged three and over in Scotland had some Gaelic language ability in 2001 with estimates of additional 500–2000 in Nova Scotia, 1,610 speakers in the United States in 2000, 822 in Australia in 2001 and 669 in New Zealand in 2006.  (date missing)
Language family
Writing system Gaelic alphabet (Roman alphabet)
Official status
Official language in  Scotland
Linguasphere 50-AAA

The Scottish language (Gàidhlig, pronounced "Gah-lick") is often commonly called just Gaelic in English.

It is a sister language of Irish and Manx; all three are Goidelic languages and part of the Celtic language family. It is also related to the Welsh language, Cornish language and the Breton language (these three are Brittonic or Brythonic languages).


In past times, the language was spoken across all of Scotland, except for the Northern Islands (Orkney and Shetland). In the later part of the Middle Ages, the kings of Scotland began to speak the English language, and looked down on the Scottish language. After the union of England and Scotland, the language was snubbed and looked down on even more. The English language took over.

Scottish Gaelic today

Scottish Gaelic today is basically that of the Gaelic spoken in the Outer Hebrides and on Skye. Generally speaking, the Gaelic spoken across the Western Isles is similar enough to be classed as one major dialect group, although there is some regional variation.

A census in the United Kingdom in 2001 showed that a total of 58,652 (1.2% of the Scottish population aged over three years old) in Scotland could speak some amount of Gaelic at that time. Only the Western Isles of Scotland have more people who can speak the language than not (61% of the people here speak Gaelic). The place in Scotland with the biggest percentage of Scottish Gaelic speakers is a village called Barvas on the Isle of Lewis. There, 74.7% of the people there speak the language.

Gaelic is dying out, but many people are starting to learn the language. However, it does not have official status from the Scottish Parliament, unlike the Welsh language in Wales. Children in Scotland do not have to learn the language in schools, though it is becoming a more popular subject as Gaelic is an important part of their Scottish culture.

Scottish Gaelic is also used overseas. It is estimated that 1,000–2,000 in Nova Scotia, Canada can speak some Gaelic.

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