Scots Language – Information for Parents & Carers

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Why should your child study Scots? Some useful information for parents

Why is Scots not studied much at the moment?

Scots and Gaelic were once the languages of most of the population – from the Kings and Queens to the common people. Scots was the language of the Scottish Parliament until 1707.  From the Union of Crowns in 1603, Scots started to lose its status as an official language.  This slow decline has continued ever since.  Its use was actively discouraged in Education for many years, something which has taken time to overcome.

Why would your child need to study Scots?

In the 2011 census, 1.5 million people reported that they use the Scots language.  Your child will find Scots used in everyday speech, in literature and in song. It is used in many workplaces and homes. Occasionally, Scots is used in public or for broadcasting. Studying Scots will give your child a better understanding of the language that is all around us. It is also part of the Curriculum for Excellence and the SQA has recently introduced a Scots Language Award.

Will Studying Scots stop your child from learning good English?

It is natural to want your child to learn to use English well – it is the language of international communication, much of the mass media and of official life in this country.  But learning Scots need not prevent children from learning good English.  Indeed, it can often help.  English grammar and literacy can be reinforced by studying the equivalent rules in Scots.  Not understanding the differences between the two languages often leads to mistakes in English.

Will your child become confused by learning different languages?

Studies have shown that learning languages has a complex set of benefits, and Scots is a language.  Language learning provides the learner with a transferable set of skills which can be applied to the study of English and other languages.  Learning Scots should therefore make children more successful learners in general. As has been said, confusion is more likely to occur when children are told that the language they are using is “bad” or “wrong”.

Will your child know which language to use when?

Children have a great ability to select from the language at their disposal and this is a skill they can use in adult life. They will be more confident individuals if they feel free to express themselves in the language of their choice. They will have a greater understanding of life in Scotland, and be able to contribute to it more effectively, if they can understand another of the country’s three native languages.

Will Using Scots words when they are speaking English cause problems?

Using Scots vocabulary enriches the language of speakers of Scottish Standard English, which is the variety of English which most educated Scots speak.  Indeed, English has always borrowed heavily from other languages and many Scots words have already found their way into English, for example: wee, loch and swither. As sister languages, much of Scots is easily understood, with some practice, by an English speaker.  A brief comparison with two modern European languages may be useful here. Norwegian and Danish are different languages, but speakers of one can understand speakers of the other.

Will speaking Scots stop your child from getting on in life?

Robert Burns spoke Scots.  Auld Lang Syne is the second most recognised song in the world, and it is in Scots.  Sir Walter Scott spoke Scots.  He is the only writer in the world to have a railway station named for one of his novels, which features Scots dialogue. Among the more recent writers to use Scots are Billy Kay, James Kelman, Liz Lochhead, Edwin Morgan and, newly appointed Edinburgh Makar, Christine De Luca. There are also many more famous and influential Scots speakers in other walks of life – Billy Connolly, Alex Ferguson, Ewan McGregor, Judy Murray, Catriona Shearer and Liz McColgan-Nuttall.

Is there any future for Scots?

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (1992) gives Scots special protection and promotion within the United Kingdom.  It has long been recognised that minority languages which are not defended will die out.  Responsible citizens have a duty to ensure that the language continues to thrive.  There is also great potential for the use of Scots in tourism as well as in the creative industries. In addition, Scots is currently recognised and used in the Scottish parliament and there is a growing call for more Scots use in Scotland’s other institutions.  Far from being a parochial step, learning Scots provides the opportunity for children to become confident players on the world stage.