Thursday 16th April 2015: When will I be able to write a job application in Scots?

When will I be able to write a job application in Scots?

Pretty sure by the end of the run (25th April 2015) the whole Scots language issue should be over, so sometime early in May you should be able to apply to Morgan Stanley in Scots no bother.


Yeah. This is a tough one. Triple threat:

  1. written
  2. job
  3. application

Let’s go through them one by one.

ONE: WRITTEN – We’re still not used to seeing Scots written. Indeed, it bothers us that there is little standardisation in the spelling when we do see it. At times like in job applications, we tend to take good spelling, punctuation and grammar, and a formal style, as a mark the suitability of that person for the job, a mark, even of good character, even if the job will involve none of those skills. When it is hard to decide whether someone has done all of that ‘right’ because ‘right’ is unclear, we get all CAN’T PUT IN BOX HATE IT that humans do about so many different things.

TWO: JOB – We still think of spoken Standard English as the language of the workplace. And maybe it is. Or maybe it is in a general sense. It’s not ‘correct’ Standard English to say ‘me and Jesse are going to the shops’, but it is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE in spoken language, since it is clear what you mean. If someone speaks like they would write in a formal situation, we would find them pretty odd.

There is an argument that it is alright to have different linguistic registers for different areas of our lives. Maybe in a lawyers’ office with people from all over Britain, Europe and the world it makes sense to use English as a lingua franca. Lingua francas are useful, they’ve been used for as long as we’ve had language and people to talk to who aren’t our family. There are arguments that English itself began as a sort of pidgin language or creole when Anglo Saxon and French were jumbled together in the Norman occupation of the 11th century. Such creoles can be used as a lingua franca, and in this case (if you accept this theory, which MILLIONS WOULDN’T) came to dominate and take over the other languages it was bridging, namely French and Anglo Saxon.

For me, the problem is when you say the language we use in the office is superior to the language we use at home. The hierarchy, rather than differentiation, is the issue. I don’t know if we can sort that, though. If there’s something that humans like it’s putting things in order of bestness. So tactical use of the Scots language use in formal settings is a noble act which I applaud. However, it takes nerves of steel, especially if it’s an application…

THREE: APPLICATION – The ‘application’ aspect of this suggestion makes everything more difficult. When we send an application for a job, or similar, the reader of that application only has that to go on. In a way, our instinct in a setting like a written application is for the form of the language to disappear, and for only the content to shine through. It’s like how the mark of a good theatre technician is that if no-one even noticed that they had done any job at all. Crushing. Standard English is so normative that it is ‘neutral’. When we are introducing ourselves as a good option for company money, we don’t want to appear stupid, but also not flashy.

To send a job application in Scots, with no personality, reasoning, and apologetic shoulders to balance it, is an act of supreme bravery. And one that I have attempted ONCE in my life, and that was the award application for this show (so doesn’t quite count in the same way). I offered an English translation ‘on request’, but then sat in my room worrying that they wouldn’t bother with the extra effort of reading an application in Scots and would take it as an easy way to slim down the pile. I thought about how if they did that I wouldn’t want their money anyway. Then I thought about how I really wanted their money. Why was I making my life difficult when I knew how to make it easy? This is my first funded show as lead artist, and the topic is important to me. I wanted to have a chance to make the show and put it in front of people.

Eventually, I chickened out and asked the woman who was organising the application process if I should provide an English translation. She thought I should send one in in case the panel needed it on the one day they would have to bash through them all. I really have no idea if they used the English or the Scots application.

So, when will you be able to write a job application in Scots? In some cases, now, but sharpen your nerves of steel first. And maybe resign yourself to the consequences. The more people do it, the more normal it will become, the more that won’t be the one defining characteristic about you. Like early women who went to university: maybe you’re going to have a tough time in your life, not being or doing what people expect, but future generations will be grateful that you took those risks, even though you often suffer as a result. Looking round my Senior Honours courses at uni I could count the number of men in my classes on one hand. Women women women. But even in the Scots poetry class, no-one could read those poems aloud in Scots. Just. Not. Physically. Capable.

Maybe the answer to the question is never? When will we hear a newsreader use the word ‘hoose’ instead of house from behind the newsroom desk? My lifetime? Or nevertime?



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