TIME travel doesn’t exist. Apart from on the internet. Until recently, any curious linguaphile could be unexpectedly yanked backwards through time simply by Googling “learn Scots Gaelic”. Intrepid keyboard adventurers would instantly find themselves staring into the majesty of tiled backgrounds, scrolling marquee text and aggressively blue Times New Roman. Gaelic proliferation had stalled at the birth of the shiny, new internet, stubbornly refusing to go digital. You could posit it had an image problem. Something many believe has spilled over into the real world.

Last week saw the language Marty McFly into the 21st century with the relaunch of learngaelic.scot – a website aimed at adult learners, fat with resources previously absent from the efforts to preserve the language in digital amber. Gussied up in inoffensive pastels and twee illustrations that hadn’t been saved from a slow death in a Clip Art library, it’s a clear attempt to bring Gaelic to the internet generation.

Launched by Gary Lewis, most recently gracing our screens in Outlander, it’s clear that Gaelic needs an injection of modernity to keep it alive.

Spending five minutes clicking through each section, one glaring omission needled at me. Why learn Gaelic? Perhaps the designers knew better than to crack open that particular can of boorish worms. Still, if it’s worth doing, you have to consider it.

Mention Gaelic at a family gathering, or any sort of do where people are tamped together outside of their cosy social circles, and guaranteed, someone will sprint off with the baton. As is the curse of all conversational matters in Scotland, it’s gotten political.

From aggressive dismissal of its value, to a sudden expertise in the Scottish television budget or minutiae of governmental cultural policy, it finagles out the worst kind of simplistic cultural soliloquy. Compounded by respectable journalists pontificating about the cultural deceit of masquerading as a bilingual nation, Gaelic is the star of the most cringeworthy intellectual snobbery I’ve seen yet.

Then you have the couldnae-cares. You’ve got your nice shoes, your Americano and your 2:1 in English lit. Gaelic preservation doesn’t even enter your consciousness. And why should it? Your life in modern Scotland is doing away just fine, and you’ve got English to thank for that. But does that mean Anglophonia should be embraced at all cost?

You’re never going to convince the stalwart againsts to back off from the life-support switch – but how do you persuade the apathetic that it’s even worth thinking about, when there’s no real connection?

My personal link to Gaelic is fairly tenuous. I’m one of those mongrel lowland Scots who’d never even set foot in Inverness until well into my 20s. I come from a long line of geographically and matrimonially unambitious central-belters. The most romantically Scottish part of my heritage is a Gaelic name (Siobhán), which I delight in informing gooey-eyed inquisitors was inspired by the cultural tour-de-force we know as Bananarama.

Like most 1980s kids, my experience of Gaelic was being plonked in front of the telly as my mum hung out washing, watching a beardy guitarist in a dodgy jumper shouting unfathomable instructions with remarkable gusto.

Fast forward to 2014, to a night with award-winning Scottish comedy trio The Colour Ham. Gavin Oates has found himself a majestic beard and possibly the worst jumper I’ve seen since the decade of a questionable taste itself. He’s leaping about the stage hollering like a burst bagpipe, absolutely nailing the audience with the occasional “helicopter” and “taxi”. It typifies our relationship with the language. It’s something other. Something different. Something old-timey to fuel a giggle.

Gaelic is an endangered language. No one’s going to film sad-looking Gaels in soft focus with a serious voiceover, and beg you for £3 a month (the price of a cup of coffee!) to keep it going.

We can’t hug it, or pet it, or slap it on a bumper sticker for a bit of social kudos. It’s a dying language, not a Panda, so we’re content to condemn it to the cold Darwinian fate of being left to die at the hands of the dominant species. We speak English, after all.

Languages, by nature, wriggle around. Bits wither and die back, while new parts sprout triumphantly. And sometimes they die. But when a language dies, a loss of words is only a fraction of the bereavement.

However reticent we are to actually do it, one of humanity’s perks is our capacity for empathy. It’s not a word that often finds itself in linguistic debate, but is tremendously helpful when considering if it’s time to lead that limping old dog off to the farm.

Imagine something terrible has happened, and you’re one of the handful of English speakers left on the planet. Think about the titanic burden of trying to keep your culture afloat, while others tell you it’s pointless.

Try telling a non-native speaker about discovering Roald Dahl books, or cryptic crossword puzzles. Or why we sing Flower of Scotland at the Rugby or about the glee in hearing Jim Naughtie spoonerise Jeremy Hunt, Culture secretary, live.

Imagine trying to explain how “literally” has colloquially come to mean its antithesis. Or that ‘feckfull’ is not the opposite of feckless and that there’s no such thing as being “shevelled”.

Think about what’s carried behind the words – the oral histories, the ways of thinking, the diversity and identity of a nation tied up in language. When you lose a language, you watch all that melt into nothingness, like ice in warm water.

Some 50 per cent of the world’s languages are predicted to expire by the end of the century. Some say as many as 90 per cent.

This death-sentence fills me with extraordinary sadness. We, generation internet, are the fingers that snuff. We’re the ones whose borders have become a geographically moot as we consume culture, assimilate it, and regurgitate it into the far reaches of the world.

As the final candle of a language burns, we should remember that we are the hovering hand – the arbiter of a cultural fate.

The least we can do is spare it the sneering.

If we recognise that Scottishness is a plural identity made of dovetails, not schisms, we’ll be doing everyone a favour.