Most people are exposed to Gaelic through watching and listening to television, radio and music, according to a Scottish government report.
A survey of 1,009 adults from across Scotland found 61% were made aware of the language through its use in the media and 39% through education.
The study suggested the Highlands and Islands has the highest concentration of people using Gaelic.
It found no fluent speakers in Central, North East and South of Scotland.
The report, Public Attitudes Towards the Gaelic Language, followed a survey of the general public and a separate survey of 56 fluent Gaelic speakers.
The research found 65% of those surveyed thought more should be done to promote Gaelic in Scotland and 81% felt it was important Gaelic language traditions were not lost.
However, the study suggested understanding of Gaelic words and phrases was limited with just over one in 10 of the general public respondents claiming to have at least some knowledge of the language.
Fluent speakers said they mostly used Gaelic at home.
Among that group, women were significantly more likely than men to say they used it most at home.
Men said they were more likely to use Gaelic most when socialising with friends.
Minister for Gaelic Alasdair Allan said the Scottish government had long believed in the importance of Gaelic.
He said: "Such a strong swell of support for Gaelic from across the country, not just in the Gaelic-speaking heartlands, is very encouraging and just reward for the efforts of those who are working hard to ensure it remains a part of modern Scotland."