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Is interaction in Gaelic used in public places in Scotland?

Is it common to interact with the public institutions in Scotish Gaelic in parts of Scotland?

For e.g. is it common to use Gaelic to buy tickets or at a surgeon's / physician clinic in parts of Scotland?

December 8, 2019



Maybe, if you happened to know the person you were dealing with was a Gaelic speaker, which is possible in some places, but otherwise many of these interactions are liable to default to English today.

Exceptions would be in dealing with Gaelic organisations, who will have language policies to use Gaelic first and wherever possible.

The local council in the island (CnES) have similar policies. I couldn't say how well it is practised not living there, but I've heard complaints about it.

Generally though, it's not like Wales where all service providers (public and private) are obligated to provide services in Welsh. There's no such requirement here, or even any specific legal rights for Gaelic speakers.


I like to learn gàdhlig for my own pleasure and on my vacation in Scotland there were just a few people on Skye who spoke gàdligh. So I think it is not so common.


I live in Inverness (Inbhir Nis). My father and all his family and friends were fluent Gaelic speakers. He came from Skye originally and everybody in his village spoke Gaelic as their first language.

So I heard a lot of Gaelic in my childhood, but - to my great regret now - I only learned a few words. Now in my retirement I'm learning Gaelic and am enjoying it a lot. Duolingo has been a great help.

Inbhir Nis still has Gaelic speakers and I meet some of them most days as they are people who live on my estate, but I don't often hear them speak it in public. Its just my view, but I think in a way Gaelic is still kept hidden by some because it was banned in the past.

And there are many like me from Gaelic speaking families who never learned it but want to go back and learn it. So I'm hoping Duolingo - which is the best method I've come across so far - will bring about a bit of a revival.

I was at a Gaelic food festival (Blàs) not so long ago and heard young completely fluent Gaelic speakers. It was nice to hear them and to know the language is being kept alive.

The place you will most likely hear Gaelic spoken publicly in the street is the Western Isles. And some still speak it daily in the offices of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council). (Although I did hear two people speaking it in Inverness recently too.)


I often contact Welsh public bodies in welsh, but i know i am a small minority, 5% or less of the 600,000 speakers. With Gaelic only recently given a language act and adoption as the national language then Scottish gaelic is still novel for public bodies. The gaelic act specifies which ones. However it is your right to use it and expect at least written responses. The most likely rule is that you already know the person speaks Gaelic (and is happy to use it) when you contact them. Its a “stranger” rule. Eg i spoke to a shop assistant who i’d heard using welsh with her colleague and she was surprised a “stranger” spoke to her, but did respond. I have spoken Gaelic in Harris and in Skye whenever i think the person speaks Gaelic ( by the way they speak english) and had conversations.


600,000 ??

But different sources say Gaelic has around 60000 ( sixty thousand ) native and around 20000 ( twenty thousand) second language speakers


However it is your right to use it and expect at least written responses.

Although some bodies have policies where they will do this, the GLA doesn't actually create any specific legal rights for Gaelic speakers (unlike the much stronger Welsh Language Act).


It isn't sadly. Generally I only get to use it in situations like "I overheard someone else speaking gàidhlig to you so I will too!". This is on Skye, which has a literal gàidhlig college AND has schools that offer the gàidhlig medium (teaching classes in gàidhlig) for all ages.


On the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway I heard people speaking Gaelic casually with each other, and I believe some of the safety signs were in both Gaelic and English. In Stornoway itself, I didn't personally hear people speaking Gaelic unless I spoke to them in Gaelic first. I have an American accent so people naturally assumed I had no Gaelic until I spoke to them. When I tried speaking to my taxi driver in Gaelic, all he said over and over again was, "Bruidhinn Gàidhlig! Glè mhath!" in a bewildered tone of voice! xD But in a shop when I spoke Gaelic the shopkeeper appreciated it very much. In communities in Lewis outside Stornoway I'm told Gaelic is still the lingua franca for most people.


yeah, its not so common for people to speak scottish in big cities in scotland, such as edinburgh or glasgow. however, the course itself mentions that in the highlands and scottish islands it is spoken quite a lot. I have noticed, when going to see family in scotland, that certain signs will have the gaelic translations of the place underneath the english translation, i see this at train stations quite a bit.


You do still hear it on occasion in the cities though.


But is it used with public officers / employees like in the railway station, bus station, banks etc ?

Or is limited to the Highland regions ?

How much interaction take place purely in Scottish Gaelic even in the Highland & Hebrides region - is Scottish Gaelic mostly used among family & friends ?

Or a lot of actual conversation happens with public service employees and other service providers in Gaelic ?


It is used a lot in church in Gaelic speaking areas, and there are occasional church services in Gaelic in big cities for Gaelic speakers who have moved there, including in London.

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