More than 560,000 people around the world have signed up to learn Gaelic – nearly ten times the official number of native speakers.
Bosses at language learning app Duolingo hailed their Scottish Gaelic course a “huge success” following a surge in popularity – despite only launching last year.
Around a third of learners on the site are from Scotland, with another third from the US, and the remainder from around the world, including 8% from Canada.
It comes after Scottish campaign groups issued stark warnings over the decline of the language – claiming for first time in history there is a danger it could become extinct.
The latest available official figure showed 57,600 people in Scotland could speak Gaelic at the time of the 2011 Census.
Duolingo used native speakers from the Highlands and Islands to record audio for the app, and said the majority of people signed up to the course are under the age of 45.
Given its popularity, the course is due to triple in size from Tuesday with the number of learning skills rising from 34 to 105.
And learners have set up numerous online Scottish Gaelic events, where people can practise their skills in real time – with people in Hawaii and Sydney those taking part.
UK manager of Duolingo, Colin Watkins, said: “Getting to 560,000 is a huge success – it’s a gangbuster.
“We want all our courses to be as representative as possible and the course now has recorded audio from 17 speakers from across the Highlands, Islands and Lowlands of Scotland.”
Alex Tearse, from Stornoway on Lewis, signed up to the course to fulfil a long-held desire to speak the language of his home island, where he has lived for 20 years.
Alex said: “Languages don’t come easily to me and despite reading books and trying to do courses I hadn’t made huge amounts of progress.
“As time moved on I had children who have entered Gaelic Medium Education.
“My partner of some 11 years is a fluent Gaelic speaker and passionate advocate of the language and my step-children are all fluent speakers.
“However, being able to speak a language doesn’t mean you can teach it and surprisingly perhaps my Gaelic hadn’t moved on particularly with my partners input so English has been the predominant language used in the house to accommodate the monoglot.
“A couple of years back a good friend of mine said that no-one who lived in the Hebrides for years could excuse not learning Gaelic.
“With the existing and soon to be released Duolingo materials I look forward to being able to converse with him in Gaelic instead of shamefacedly returning to English.”
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