Preserving Minority Languages:

Scottish Gaelic

In this unit, we will look into preserving minority languages on the basis of the case of Scottish Gaelic.


Half of the world’s estimated 6,000-plus languages will likely die out by the end of the century without urgent efforts to protect minority communities and their languages. Minority languages have often been a source of tension for governments whose obligation it is to protect them.

According to the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák, “language is a central element and expression of identity and of key importance in the preservation of group identity”.

“Language is particularly important to linguistic minority communities seeking to maintain their distinct group and cultural identity, sometimes under conditions of marginalization, exclusion and discrimination.”

Language can be a source of tension since proponents of linguistic rights have sometimes been associated with secessionist movements or have been seen as a threat to the integrity or unity of a State, which has “aggressively promoted a single national language as a means of reinforcing sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity.”

Ms. Izsák, noted, however, that protection of linguistic minority rights is a human rights obligation and an essential component of good governance, efforts to prevent tensions and conflict, and the construction of equal and politically and socially stable societies.

UN News


Follow the links below and study carefully all the input information. Group the facts you learn into two categories:

• a case for preserving Scottish Gaelic

• a case against preserving Scottish Gaelic

Launch of the new National Gaelic Language Plan

What do the Scots think of Scottish Gaelic?

In Scotland, a revival of Gaelic — Europe — International Herald Tribune

Saving a language is one thing, but I’m saddened by Scotland going Gaelic


Discuss the following:

1. Preserving minority languages is important for cultural reasons in the first place. Could you work out more practical, down-to-earth motives for keeping minority languages on a par with widely-spoken ones?

2. Is it down to the speakers to cherish their language and culture or should governments take active part?

3. Can upholding a cause as noble as preserving minority languages trigger controversies?