What is Ùlpan? | Why learn Gaelic? 

How does Ùlpan work? | How to find a class

What is Ùlpan?

full logoÙlpan is a new way to learn Scottish Gaelic. 

It focusses on speaking and listening rather than writing or grammar, and offers a refreshing alternative to enthusiastic students who really want to be able to speak the language.  It also gives a lot of attention to learning and developing correct Gaelic pronunciation, something lots of learners appreciate.

The Ùlpan course is fully researched and consists of 144 units, taught by trained Ùlpan tutors.  Many students will be taught by a team of tutors, and so will have the opportunity to hear different accents - great training for real-life Gaelic speaking situations.

Since its inception in 2007, over 2,000 students have started learning Gaelic through Ùlpan.  The same method of teaching has been used successfully in Israel, Wales and beyond where it has brought thousands of learners to fluency in their respective languages.

Ùlpan can work for learners at different stages in their journey towards fluency in Gaelic.  It's suitable for absolute beginners, but quick-paced enough for those who have already tried other methods of learning.  It has also proved successful with students who spoke the language as children and have used Ùlpan to help "unlock" their Gaelic.

Classes are taught in Gaelic, with the tutor keeping English to a minimum.  Each unit contains useful phrases, games and a conversation, as well as written homework which the tutor will correct.  

Students usually attend two classes a week as a minimum.  This higher frequency gives students a regular opportunity to interact in Gaelic, a chance to top-up their short-to-medium-term memory (essential for language learning), and a real feeling of progress.

Why learn Gaelic?

Gaelic is now officially an endangered language, owing to centuries of oppression and under-investment.  To ensure the future of Gaelic, we need new speakers of the langauge. 

There are now around 60,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland, with many more who understand or who are learning the language. 

Students decide to learn Gaelic for many different reasons, for example:


But there are many benefits to be had from learning Gaelic.


The recent boom in Gaelic Medium Education in schools means there are lots of job opportunities in Gaelic, both for teachers and school support staff. 

Gaelic is also a valuable skill for employment in local authorities and other public bodies, as well as in the media, and in the arts and cultural sector.


Through the Ùlpan course, students can acquire the language skills that would allow them to pursue Gaelic at a higher educational level. 

Students may want to enroll in full-time courses at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, working towards a degree there or at another Scottish university.  Gaelic can be combined with teaching, music, development, history and more.

Students who learn Gaelic will also find it easier to go on and learn more langauges.  It can even help keep the brain fit and less susceptible to conditions such as Alzheimers.


Scottish culture is rich in Gaelic folklore, literature and song.  Many students are already interested or participating in Gaelic culture, and wish to improve their language skills to help them appreciate this.

Learning Gaelic can also give a new perspective to artists, writers, theatre-makers and musicians working in Scotland.


Gaelic plays a part in the family history of many people in Scotland.  It also plays a big part in the history of Scotland as a whole, and a knowledge of the language can bring this to life for students.

The history and culture of Gaelic-speaking Scotland is encoded in the language, and many students are keen to experience this before it is lost to them.

How does Ùlpan work?

Overview | How does it work? | Time commitment

How much does it cost? | Resources for students



The 144 units of Ùlpan are divided into 6 Levels of 24 units each.

Each unit takes an hour and a half, and follows the same structure, and every sixth unit revises the content of the previous five units.

Ùlpan students do a minimum of two units per week on different days.  At this rate, students should complete the course in around two years.

Ùlpan classes are run by a variety of different providers around the country, from colleges to councils.  Price, location, dates and times will vary, but the course content will be the same no matter where you attend a class.

How does it work?

Ùlpan uses communication as a means of learning.  You'll be speaking Gaelic from the first class onwards, and the tutor will use as little English as possible. 

You'll learn 12 or more phrases in each class along with activities and dialogues based on them, and much more besides. 

There isn't a lot of emphasis placed on teaching grammar as a subject in its own right, because you will learn that from inside the language, instead of talking about it in another language. 

A little theory is useful when you're further on and it's crucial when you start writing, but that's a skill which is easier to pick up when you are already full of the sounds and rhythms and the musicality of the language.

Time commitment

Ùlpan is different to traditional evening classes in lots of ways, but one of the main differences is that students attend two classes per week.

If that sounds like a lot, don’t panic!  It’s only 3-4 hours out of your 168-hour week – so it still leaves you 164 to do everything else!  The reality is that one class per week won’t be very effective.

Learning a language, particularly a minority language, takes time and effort.  The Ùlpan course is designed to take learners towards fluency – but you can't learn fluency from a course alone.  Fluency comes through listening and talking every day.  Ùlpan is a map - it's you yourself that has to do the walking to your destination.

How much does it cost?

The price of a particular course is up to the individual provider, college or council.  It will vary depending on venue costs and local subsidies available, but students can expect to pay around £160 on average for a block of 24 units.  There are 24 units in an Ìre (level) and there are six ìrean altogether. 

You can use an SDS Individual Learning Account with Ùlpan courses.  If you're eligible for an ILA you could get a discount of £200 a year off the price.  More details on this here.

Resources for students

Ùlpan students don’t need to buy course books – you’ll get all the course materials from your tutor in class at no extra cost.

We’ve also started to produce sound files for each of the Ùlpan units, and Level 1 (units 1-24) will be available from November.  Sound files for the other levels will be released as they are completed over the next 18 months.

Each student will also get access to the student portal on the Ùlpan website.  Through this, they’ll get:

How to find a class

To see the current list of classes, have a look at our courses page.

If you can’t see any courses in your area, drop us an e-mail on oileanaich@ulpan.co.uk, and we’ll see what we can do to help.