Mr MacIver recalled his childhood in Lewis where he went to school speaking only Gaelic and was educated only in English.
"I left the education system without ever having been taught for one minute in my own language," he said. "I went through the whole system and ended up still illiterate in my own language. I have taught myself to read and write my own language."
Mr MacIver said mother tongues were an essential part of an individual's identity and a challenge to the "English juggernaut". The future of minority and community languages was one of the great challenges facing education.
Educationists needed to understand that children and adults had a basic right to be literate in their own language. "Monolingualism is curable," Mr MacIver said.