Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan is calling for Scottish Gaelic to be added to Duolingo, the world’s most popular online language learning service.

Duolingo’s 200 million worldwide users can choose to learn minority languages Welsh and Irish as well as fictional languages from Star Trek and Game of Thrones for free on the app - however, there are no Scottish languages currently on offer. 

In the first two years after the Irish language launched on Duolingo in 2014, 2.3 million people started learning Irish, averaging 3,000 new learners a day. Irish is reportedly one of the top ten languages on Duolingo.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “Following the unbelievable success of the Irish language on Duolingo, particularly in America, it is easy to see the huge potential for Scottish Gaelic on this leading language learning app.

“Online tools like Duolingo make it both easy and fun to learn a new language and I would have warmly welcomed a resource like this when I was learning Gaelic.

“Adding Scottish Gaelic to Duolingo would boost the profile of the language and bring it to a vast new community of language learners, including the Scottish diaspora across the globe.

“I hope Duolingo agrees to add Scottish Gaelic to its services, opening the eyes its millions of users to this beautiful language that gives us a better understanding of Scotland’s history and culture.”

In his letter to Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn, Mr Allan pointed out that “Duolingo recognises that “learning a language is expensive and inaccessible to most” and that free language education can help people across the world “gain access to better opportunities.” Whether it is down to expense, accessibility, or simply being time-poor - too often there is no route for new Scottish Gaelic learners. I believe that there is massive potential for Scottish Gaelic to grow with the help of your leading online language learning service.

Language specialist Michael Krauss has said that a language is “safe” when it has political and social support as well as over 100,000 speakers. Scottish Gaelic has fewer than 100,000 speakers in Scotland, but an abundance of support, and much like the Irish the Scottish diaspora is spread across the globe. It is a minority language that has a lot to gain from Duolingo as well as a lot to offer Duolingo’s 200 million plus users - not least open their eyes to a beautiful language that gives us a better understanding of Scotland’s history and culture.

“The late Scottish poet, Sorley Maclean, campaigned in the 1960s for the Gaelic Learners’ certificate, comparing Scotland with other European countries where children could learn up to three languages. He recognised that learners as well as native speakers would be key to the language’s prosperity. Sixty years on – we must recognise that not only does the language need new learners, it also needs to embrace the new online world. Generation Z, 12-15 year olds in the UK, now spend 21 hours online each week, and seven out of ten adults own a smartphone. If we want to reach these people and give them an opportunity to learn Gaelic - we need to be both visible and present in their online lives, and Duolingo is a fantastic way to do this.”