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Where to go to hear Scots Gaelic spoken by native speakers

If you are wanting to immerse yourself in the Scots Gaelic language then even if you are lucky enough to be able to go to Scotland you may be disappointed. Less than 2% of the population speak it. However the percentage varies a great deal across Scotland with the figure for the Outer Hebrides (Eilean Siar), according to the 2011 census, having 61% of people with some Gaelic language skills - mostly speaking or understanding. https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle-2-15039/gaelic-speakers-map-where-in-scotland-is-gaelic-thriving-1-3903467

Glad to see that according to Wikipedia my beloved Barra still had 62% Gaelic speakers in 2011 ;-)

December 5, 2019



It's actually really common to hear it in Glasgow as well.


I mainly wrote this post for people considering making a special trip to Scotland hoping to hear Gaelic native speakers. I know there’s people on this board who weren’t sure it was worth the expense when Gaelic is not a very commonly spoken language. I hoped to let them know it’s still pretty common in parts. As well as being occasionally encountered throughout the country. Still, if you have a limited time and budget and your main intention is to hear native speakers I assumed someone making a special trip might want to go somewhere like the Outer Hebrides where you can be sure of hearing it on the postbus (assuming they still have that) and in the shops. By the way figures are taken from a 2015 Scotsman article. Naturally it can give the percentage of Gaelic speakers in a part of Scotland - eg less than 2% of the population in Glasgow - but not your likelihood of encountering them. Who you happen to meet is what makes travel such an individual experience. And likewise who we encounter in our own home towns. I now live in Leeds with a largish Polish community of 3%. I know people with many Polish friends but I’ve never met any. Pure chance. Of course the chances increase as the percentages increase.


Yes, Outer Hebrides is the region with most number of native Scotish Gaelic speakers.

Sabhal Mor Ostaig in Skye is a major Gaelic teaching & research institute


Yes the Institute is a great thing, although being in the Inner Hebrides Skye’s native Gaelic speakers are at 46% compared to the 61% of the Outer Hebrides. If a visitor wants to maximise their chances of hearing Gaelic in the wild they might want to head a bit further West. Of course it all depends on their main goals for visiting!


In Stornoway I spoke Gaelic with a shopkeeper, a taxi driver, and an employee of the Tourist Information Office - if you go to Lewis you will definitely find some people who speak Gaelic. :)


"the Outer Hebrides (Eilean Siar)"

"Na h-Eileanan Siar"


Thanks for the correction. I actually took it from the Scotsman article... perhaps it’s the anglicised governmental term for the Islands since it was the only term used to describe them in the article and I wanted to clarify that it was that I was referring to by saying “Outer Hebrides” if people read the article. Good to have the proper Gaelic tho. Maybe someone knows why the Scotsman uses that term?


It's a really common mistake, misappropriate from the plural genitive as it appears in "Comhairle an Eilean Siar" (translates as "The Western Isles Council", though it's officially known only by the Gaelic name) by folk who don't understand how the language works.


Took me a little thinking but now I (think I) see where The Scotsman went wrong. It split Council off from the Gaelic version of the phrase “The Western Isles Council” like you could in English. But if you try that in Gaelic the whole phrase collapses and you need a different grammatical construct. Which you were kind enough to supply. And that’ll definitely be a useful warning for me when working with Gaelic possessives. It’s the real life examples that tend to really stick in the mind. Thanks so much for taking the time to explain.


In short, some (not all) plural genitives take the singular nominative form. The plural genitive article (nan/nam) is what gives it away there.

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