Dia dhaoibh. Aindréas is ainm dom, agus tá mé ag foghlaim an Ghaeilge. Sorry I don't speak Gaelic, but hopefully you'll understand my bad Irish. I'm a (slow) student of Irish, and have an over-arching interest in the Celtic languages, but unfortunately I hardly know anything about Scottish Gaelic. I've recently had several questions come into my head that I hope you can answer. I've posted this on other forums with little response. Hopefully I can get more energetic replies and discussions here.
First off, are the Gàidhealtachd areas official and state recognised, like the Gaeltacht of Ireland? I see from the map on Wikipedia that there is no region with a Gaelic speaking population over 70%, and scarcely a region of over 50% until you get onto the Western Isles. The map shows the darkest area in the northeast of Na h-Eileanan Siar where 70 - 75% speak Gaelic. How large is this area, and what is its population?
What was the general sentiment towards Gaelic 50, 60 or 100 years ago, and what is it now? Was it associated such with the poor and uneducated, that its native speakers are disinclined to use it much in public, especially if the areas are heavy with tourism? For students of Gaelic, is it difficult to have any sort of genuine immersion in the language, or can one easily go to a few locations to be surrounded by it? All in all, I'm wondering how Gaelic learners exactly use the Gàidhlealtachd in the learning process.
And as far native speakers go, what is a (very) rough estimate of the young (say, under 30) who use Gaelic as a mother tongue vs. the older? What is the age dispersion in Gàidhealtachd, and how is it affecting the survival of the language?
I'm very much interested in hearing your stories and experiences. Have you been to the Western Isles? What is the chance of addressing an unknown in Gàidhlig and receiving a reply in the same language? I'm interested in questions such as these. Please share with me any personal accounts with Gaelic in its native environment and how this is looking for the continued use of the language in a community. I apologize for the long post but big thanks to anyone who can help!