More Nova Scotians may learn to speak Gaelic under a new long-term plan to revive the language.

The 20-year strategy, which was announced Monday in Cape Breton, includes $100,000 this year to help promote Gaelic and teach people to speak it.

There are an estimated 500 native Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia, down from 50,000 about 100 years ago.

"I think we have to make the opportunities for people and make it a little bit more accessible," says Mary Jane Lamond, co-chair of the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia, which worked on the report.

Lamond's group polled people around the province and found many want to learn Gaelic. She says a system is needed so both children and adults can learn the language easily.

"Certainly this can be done," she says, citing examples in Scotland and Northern Ireland. But she knows it will be a challenge.

A challenge ahead

Gaelic teacher Geoff MacDonald agrees, pointing to the influence of English TV and pop culture. He learned Gaelic at a Celtic studies course at university and is now trying to teach his three-year-old son Gaelic songs.

"One day I got him singing it and he leaned backwards and hit the Barney doll," MacDonald says. His son quickly switched to English. "That's just a little synopsis of what you're fighting."

Rodney MacDonald, minister of tourism, culture and history, sees parallels between the comeback of the fiddle and the effort to preserve Gaelic. He's a well-known Scottish fiddler who helped make the Cape Breton fiddle popular with a younger generation.

"The fiddlers put their minds to it 30 years ago and rose to the challenge that was put forward. I think we're going to start rising to the challenge for Gaelic," says the minister.