VisitScotland says visitor interest in Gaelic has increased over the past four years
VISITSCOTLAND has revealed how visitor interest in Scottish Gaelic has grown over the past four years.
The revelation from the tourism organization comes as the first-ever World Gaelic Week – Seachdain na Gàidhlig – kicks off, aiming to celebrate and promote the importance of Gaelic.
From 2018 to 2021 there was a 72% increase in the number of VisitScotland.com users visiting Gaelic-related content – with pageviews peaking during the 2020 lockdown.
The language’s popularity has also increased on the Duolingo app. The learning tool launched the free course on St. Andrew’s Day in 2019, and there are now 430,000 active learners studying Scottish Gaelic. The course has been a hit in Scotland, the UK and around the world, with the highest number of learners – 35% – in the US. The app also has Gaelic learners from places as far afield as Chad, Equatorial Guinea, San Marino, the Falkland Islands and Tajikistan.
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VisitScotland last year launched its first Gaelic toolkit to help the tourism industry capitalize on the appeal of the language to visitors. It highlights ways to use Gaelic and its culture to create a more immersive visitor experience, such as teaching staff some basic phrases and translating place names to reveal their Gaelic origins and meanings.
Amid the significant increase in interest, one of the main aims of this year’s Year of Scotland’s Stories theme is to share how Gaelic is woven into the fabric of the country, influencing the way we talk and tell stories. To celebrate the theme, a national program of over 100 events is to be organized for community groups, 20 of which celebrate Gaelic.
They include Tir Iseal nan Oran (Tiree: Song Lowland), an island-wide creative project that aims to celebrate and promote Tiree’s Gaelic stories, heritage, culture and language. At the heart of the project are seven stories from the island’s history, lore and mythology – which will be explored in their physical and historical contexts to inspire new creations.
Bail’ Ach’ an Droighinn/Auchindrain Historic Township – the last surviving township in the Highlands, based near Inveraray in Argyll – plans to celebrate by featuring a new series of Argyll folk tales on its YouTube channel. The stories will be told in the local Gaelic dialect, with subtitles, and will offer insight into the myths and legends told by people of the past.
In Skye, SEALL (Skye Events for All Ltd) and Gaelic singer Anne Martin will lead An Tinne (The Link), which is a special program of events linking a collection of songs, stories and artefacts across the centuries exploring the link between Scotland and Australia.
Stornoway’s An Lanntair will present Seanchas, a series of events, films and special commissions celebrating Hebridean tales.
A new film, Cliabh An T-Shenachais – The Story Creel, will celebrate fishing and its importance to the remote south-west communities of Mull and Iona.
Knowledge of the sea and weather signs, great stories of misadventures and the experiences of family members ashore will be explored through interviews with fishing families. These stories will be intertwined with sea shanties and poems in Gaelic interpreted by schoolchildren.
Elsewhere, Sgeulaichean Siarach is a celebration of the stories and myths associated with the west side of Lewis. In two live performances, primary school children will share their own creative Gaelic-language responses to traditional stories, passed down by island elders on environmental walks to significant local sites.
Songs from the Last Page is a live performance and songwriting project led by composer Gareth Williams and Chamber Music Scotland. They will team up with Skye’s Gaelic singer Deirdre Graham – and with support from Bord na Gaidhlig, Williams and Graham will produce a series of bilingual songwriting workshops and live performances in Skye and Edinburgh this summer.
Malcolm Roughead, Managing Director of VisitScotland, said: “The importance of Gaelic to the Scottish tourism and events industry cannot be underestimated. As the sector begins to recover from the devastation of Covid-19, finding ways to position Scotland as a unique and remarkable holiday choice is essential.
“Gaelic and its rich culture is an important part of Scotland’s tourism offering and provides an extra layer of authenticity for visitors with a unique culture that you can only truly experience in Scotland. This only enhances the experience that we know is so important to visitors.