Duolingo Scottish Gaelic course passes one million learners

The Scottish Gaelic course on language-learning app Duolingo has reached 1.12 million learners.

The milestone figure has been released to mark Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, taking over further developments of the course.

The announcement also comes just in time for World Gaelic Week (Seachdain na Gaidhlig) which runs until March 27.

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The free course, which launched on St Andrew’s Day in 2019, was developed by a group of volunteers in Scotland, including teacher Ciaran MacAonghais and architect Martainn Mac a’ Bhaillidh.

Architect Màrtainn Bàillidh (left) and primary headteacher Ciaran Iòsaph MacAonghais (right), two of the writers of the Duolingo Scottish Gaelic course. PIC: Contributed.

Learning Gaelic on the app quickly gained popularity and in just a few days had more than 50,000 learners, more than the number of native Scots Gaelic speakers.

From this month, the same group of volunteers will develop the course as part of Sabhal Mor Ostaig’s team.

The move is part of a wider initiative by Duolingo to move from a volunteer-based model to having courses managed in partnership with external bodies such as the Gaelic language school, which is based on the Isle of Skye.

According to Duolingo figures, there are currently 431,000 active learners on the course.

Of these 37% are in the USA, 25% in the UK and 6% in Canada, with the remainder spread across the globe with members of Scottish societies, including expats and descendants of Scots who emigrated.

The primary motivation to learn is “Culture”, with 40% of learners choosing this, followed by “Brain Training” at 18%, and “Family” and “School”, both at 12%.

Scottish Gaelic learners also rank highly as some of the hardest working and most committed learners in the world by the longest daily streaks, and the most number of lessons completed.

Sabhal Mor Ostaig principal, Dr Gillian Munro, said: “This exciting new partnership is a great opportunity to align Duolingo’s Scottish Gaelic language content with our own Gaelic language courses at Sabhal Mor Ostaig.

“The success of Scottish Gaelic on Duolingo demonstrates the growing demand to learn Gaelic both in Scotland and internationally, and we would like to pay tribute to the dedicated volunteers for developing such a great course – ceud mile taing dhuibh.”

Colin Watkins, Duolingo UK manager, said the fit with Sabhal Mor Ostaig is “perfect”, adding: “We’re confident the course will go from strength to strength.

“We encourage everyone to start learning today.”

Learner Dr Mark Maudsley started using Duolingo to help his language skills in 2019 when he was studying on Sabhal Mor Ostaig’s distance learning Gaelic beginners course from his home in Shetland.

Describing the course, he said: “When I was living in Shetland and learning Gaelic via distance learning with Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Duolingo was a great help.

“I would learn new words and grammar every day on Duolingo, and my Gaelic came on much faster as a result.

“I’m now on Sabhal Mor Ostaig’s full-time immersion course (An Cursa Comais) on campus, and using my Gaelic every day.

“Duolingo really helped prepare me for this course.”

The app’s Scottish Gaelic course is available for free on iOS and Android, and at duolingo.com.

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