Monday 13th April 2015: What is Scots? Is it ever taught anymore or just passed down from generation to generation?

What is Scots? Is it ever taught anymore or just passed down from generation to generation?

The first part of this question is pretty massive, and I feel like we address it even partly in the show. I am going to take the second part of this sneakily two-parted question (I recognise your hand writing, writer – I will hunt you down/take you for coffee for doubling up your question allowance).

The issue of learning Scots is one that hadn’t occurred to me until I started thinking about this show and I thought how I would like to improve my Scots. I could go to Sabhal Mor Ostaig to do a course on Gaelic, or Nant Gwrtheyrn to learn Welsh, I could even go to Gladstone’s Library and learn Latin in a Week (I could and have) but there was no residential course, or evening class, or even MOOC that would let me improve, or start from scratch for Scots. As of August last year, the SQA launched a Scots Language Award, the first ever, so the possibility of an evening class in Scots is much more real now. There are several schools in Scotland doing the award this year, but currently nowhere for adult learners to study, or students whose school doesn’t happen to provide it.

The issue of not being able to learn the language was one of the things which most confused the Frisian academics in the Fryske Akademy. When people move to Friesland from elsewhere in the Netherlands they often want to learn Frisian, the local minority language, it seems natural to them. I tried to explain that not only is Scots language seen as Shit English (which Frisian suffers from a bit as well), but I described the popular connection of the language with a sort of violence. I tried to explain that people see the language as inherently aggressive. I had to explain it a few times. It turns out that’s not universal, that a language can be seen as just a bit criminal. Added to that is the problem of ‘authenticity’ that we require from Scots speakers in a way we don’t from people learning French, say, or Italian. That’s maybe a chat for another question.

BUT WAIT, all is not lost, you language learning enthusiasts! Though there are no classes yet, there are ways to learn Scots language. Here’s some top books:

Luath Scots Language Learner – A great introduction, with a CD to help. I would also really recommend it for speakers because it’s fun to find that the things you find more comfortable in terms of word order etc ARE GRAMMAR!

Grammar Broonie – Your classic language learning worksheets with cartoons, a la French textbooks of my youth. But about Scots. Very exciting.

Modren Scots Grammar: Wirkin Wi Wirds – A more in depth grammatical analysis of Scots – but don’t worry, still with cartoons. How anyone ever learnt a language without cartoons, we will never know.


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