If you already know a bit about language in Scotland, you have probably heard of “Scots”, as well as maybe “Scottish English”. As for the word “Scottish”, you probably won’t have heard of it being used to describe something you can speak. This is because there is not currently an official language called “Scottish”.
In order to find out more about why we have chosen the name “Speaking Scottish”, let’s first of all take a look at the background of language in Scotland.
What language is spoken in Scotland?
Depending on where you are, you might hear many different language practices (ways of speaking) around you. According to the Scottish Government, Scotland’s main language is English. English is believed to be spoken by about 99% of people in Scotland, and English as spoken in Scotland is generally called Scottish English.
However, that is not the whole story. People in Scotland also speak:
- British Sign Language
- 150+ other languages (e.g. Polish, Urdu, Punjabi)
Although it can be hard to find accurate figures, in the 2011 Scottish Census, 30% of people in Scotland reported that they speak Scots, while 1.1% reported speaking Gaelic. Although Scots has a linguistic history separate to English, Scots and Scottish English are often used alongside each other nowadays in Scotland. Find out more about this here.
Are there many dialects and different accents in Scotland?
The short answer to this is: yes! Even if we look at just Scottish English or Scots, there is a huge variety of different dialects and accents around Scotland. For example, Scots includes:
- Lowland Scots
- Insular Scots
- Central Scots
- Southern Scots
Depending where you are in Scotland, you are likely to hear a wide variety of different words, pronunciations, slang and even grammar. This will change not only depending on where you are, but on who you are talking to.
All of this can be confusing if you are not used to it, and especially if English is not a first language for you. In fact, even English speakers from elsewhere in the UK or countries like the USA can find it hard to understand what people in or from Scotland are saying at times!
If you’re starting to worry – we are here to help! Speaking Scottish aims to help people to both understand and be able to use the types of speech which are common in Scotland.
With that out of the way, let’s move onto another question…
Why do we call ourselves Speaking Scottish?
As we have just discussed, Scotland is a place full of linguistic diversity. In other words, there is no one single way that all Scottish people speak, and there is no quick guide which will tell you how to speak to or understand absolutely anyone you meet.
Our hope as Speaking Scottish is to reflect the diversity of language usage in Scotland as much as possible. While there is no language called “Scottish”, we chose the name “Speaking Scottish” to include Scots, Scottish English, Gaelic…and any other variety of language typically found in Scotland!
“Scottish”, for us, is not a single type of language any more than it is a single type of person. Different people from different regions, age groups, backgrounds or with different political views all have their own feelings and beliefs about what “Scottish” means. As for us? We believe that it is not our job to define or teach a certain type of “Scottish” or “Scottishness”, but to try and reflect what we and others experience through life in Scotland.
What does this mean for you?
We hope that you will think of Speaking Scottish as a resource to help you understand – and learn to use! – the variety of ways that “Scottish” can be spoken. Most importantly, we hope that you can find the language which is most useful or appropriate to you personally, and that Speaking Scottish can be part of what helps you achieve that.
Finally, we want to encourage you not to be too nervous or worried if this is your first time thinking about learning how language is used in Scotland. It’s always helpful to bear in mind that many people find this difficult, and that you’re already on the right path by coming here!
Even if you’re already in Scotland and are struggling with the language barrier, with a little time, curiosity and effort, we hope that you’ll soon be speaking and understanding “Scottish”! It is our sincere hope that by learning with the materials provided here you will be able to better connect with those you know, and come to discover things about life in Scotland that you might not have ever noticed otherwise.
Good luck, and happy learning!
Still wondering why you should learn more about Scottish dialects and languages? Click here to find out.