According to the most recent census, the number of people in Scotland who speak Scottish Gaelic is 58,650. However some of people I talked to last week who are involved in teaching or researching Gaelic believe that the actual number is higher. They suggested that some fluent Gaelic speakers who don’t read and write the language very well, if at all, don’t admit that they speak it on the census to avoid receiving forms and other official literature in Gaelic. They estimate that that real number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland is at least twice the census figure, and that there are several thousand more in other parts of the world, especially in England, Canada, Australia and the USA.
I’ve heard similar stories about Welsh speakers who don’t tick the box on the census saying that they speak Welsh for fear of receiving incomprehensible documents in Welsh.
Some Gaelic speakers apparently don’t believe that their Gaelic is good enough for jobs that require it, even though they speak it fluently. However such insecurity doesn’t seem to effect younger people so much, or Gaelic learners from other countries. There were certainly quite a few people from other countries with fluent Gaelic working at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.
Does this sort of thing happen with other minority languages?