Latest News

A selection of language-related news. Does not claim to be comprehensive or represent the views of SCILT.


Scots language fans have a word with Nicola Sturgeon

22 September 2019 (The Times)

It could cause a stooshie or a hootenanny, depending on your viewpoint, but Scots, the dialect or language that has been spoken in Scotland for several centuries, may get its own agency to help it survive.

Nicola Sturgeon is under internal pressure from SNP activists in this UN year of indigenous languages to recognise Scots as an official language. It could mean it is treated like Gaelic, which was given its own statutory agency, Bord na Gaidhlig, after a catastrophic drop in native speaker numbers.

Some nationalists believe the move would help many more people to learn or promote the so-called “mither tongue”, with support for it to be more widely taught, learnt and promoted as part of public life in Scotland.

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Quiz: Can you pronounce these tricky Scottish place names?

6 September 2019 (The Scotsman)

With some less than helpful spellings, there are some places in Scotland whose names get butchered on a daily basis.

Can you correctly identify the pronunciation of these Scottish places?


'Yer Da sells Avon': 21 uniquely Scottish insults and their history

6 September 2019 (The Scotsman)

It’s aggressive without effort, with a few simple phrases able to send someone on their way. The Scots language was the country’s original tongue, dating back 1,400 years ago, and at one time Scots was the national language of Scotland, spoken by Scottish kings, and was used to write the official records of the country. Now the Scots language becomes a point of pride with some people, using words that - outside of some regions of Scotland - have never been heard. The opening of the Scottish Twitter exhibition in Edinburgh this August was a showcase of how funny an insult in Scots can be. With the ability to deliver a well timed insult viewed as almost an art form, by using some of these simple phrases, you’ll never be left tongue tied with a red face.


Scots language under threat from American English, Alexander McCall Smith warns

13 April 2018 (The Times)

The future of the Scots language is being put under threat by the unstoppable march of American English, Alexander McCall Smith has claimed.

The best-selling author fears that the enthusiastic adoption of US phrases means traditional words such as sleekit scunnered and shoogly are in danger of being lost forever.

McCall Smith’s works have been translated into more than 40 languages but he is concerned that Scots, and other tongues and dialects, are being undermined by the establishment of US English as a global lingua franca.

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Agenda: Our politicians should be doing more for Gaelic

7 April 2018 (The Herald)

Followers of social media and Scottish print media would be forgiven for thinking that there is widespread hostility toward Gaelic in Scotland. Yet, this does not appear to be the case. In 2012, for example, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey indicated that 76 per cent of respondents felt that Gaelic was either very or fairly important to Scottish heritage, and only four per cent felt it was not at all important.


Ambulance service reveals Gaelic language plan

14 July 2017 (The Oban Times)

The Scottish Ambulance Service has published a Gaelic language plan for the next five years.

The plan, which is a statutory requirement for public bodies in Scotland under the Gaelic Language Scotland Act 2005, sets out how the service will harness and enhance language skills within the organisation.

A key part of the plan is to conduct an audit to establish how many staff members have Gaelic language skills and where the demand for these skills is greatest. This will help to inform training and ensure staff members with language skills are utilised effectively.


Maurice Smith: Brexit threatens Gaelic as a living language

25 February 2017 (The Herald)

There is a hoary myth going round about a wilful Scottish Government wasting taxpayers’ money on the flagrant imposition of bilingual signs at every Scottish road and railway station, presumably as part of a dark conspiracy to make us all speak Gaelic and unwittingly vote en masse for independence.

It is one of many misunderstandings, and occasional slurs, perpetuated by some who resent any money being spent on Gaelic.


Ian Cowley: Language is a cultural treasure we must covet

25 February 2017 (The Scotsman)

The level at which the languages of Scotland – with the exception of English – have been ignored and often despised in recent years is something that has always surprised and saddened me. 

The reaction by some to MSP Christina McKelvie’s use of the word ‘thae’ in Holyrood during the recent Article 50 debate shows that prejudice and ignorance still surround the use of Scots in daily life.

Language is a cultural treasure and some might say the maximum expression of who we are and where we’re from.


Wee Ginger Dug maps Scotland entirely in Gaelic

1 October 2016 (The National)

Going out and about this weekend?

How about a trip to Grianaig, Ros Saidhe or Achadh an t-Seagail – all places included in a new all-Gaelic map of Scotland.

The project, by The National columnist and blogger Paul Kavanagh, better known as the Wee Ginger Dug, replaces the standard English-language place names normally seen on maps with terms drawn from a number of specialist maps, studies and documents.


Urban Scots may not be spoken in 50 years time

30 September 2016 (The National)

‘Urban’ Scots may no longer be spoken in 50 years’ time – but independence could save the language, according to a study.

According to the report, schoolchildren “aren’t familiar” with commonly used terms including bampot, glaikit and stooshie and changes to pronunciation will see the hard “r” sound after vowels disappear from “working-class” speech, with the letter “l” left off the end of words.

The claims are based on analysis of Scots used in Glasgow by an academic from York University and a dialect coach who has worked with a number of Hollywood actors.

In the findings, the pair also claim the picture could be “very different” – but only if “a second independence referendum were to go in favour of Scotland’s separation from the UK”.


Related Links

It's the end of the frog and toad for regional slang, says report (The Guardian, 29 September 2016)

Can Facebook data tell us how European Scotland is?

20 May 2016 (STV)

Will Britain stay in Europe or leave?

I couldn't say but what I can be sure of is that this will dominate discussions from political journalists and many others from different sections of society.

A large part of the debate is centred on freedom of movement within Europe.

The European Union is a melting pot, a mixture of cultures, languages and peoples from various different backgrounds. To some, this is positive and to others a threat to the job markets in each member state.

Personally, I love it. On my walk from the station to the office, I pick up a number of different languages. As culturally diverse journeys go, from the New Town to Leith is like strolling through New York City.

So, just how diverse is Scotland?


Age no barrier to learning a new language, say Edinburgh University experts

28 April 2016 (The Herald)

Learning another language boosts brain power, no matter how old you are, according to new research.

Tests carried out on students suggest that acquiring a new language improves a person’s attention after only a week of study.

Researchers also found that the benefits for mental agility could be maintained with regular practice.

Edinburgh University researchers assessed different aspects of mental alertness in a group of 33 students aged 18 to 78 who had taken part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course.

They compared the results with those of people who had completed a one week course but not involving learning a new language and with a group who had not completed any course.

After one week, improvements in attention were found in both groups participating in intensive courses, but only those learning a second language were significantly better than those not involved in any courses.


St Andrew’s Day 2015 – Seven educational ways to celebrate!

30 November 2015 (Education Scotland)

The Scots language co-ordinators at Education Scotland have put together a list of seven suggestions for meaningful learning about Scotland for St Andrews Day.

Find links to Scots language websites, songs, poems and other resources, as well Gaelic language materials.


Scottish accent changing with rolled ‘R’ at risk

20 July 2015 (The Scotsman)

The recognisable rolling ‘R’ in the Scottish accent could die out, with younger Scots altering the way the letter is pronounced, according to experts.

Language researchers have found that younger generations are softening words such as car, bar and fur, with experts at Glasgow University and Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University believing a natural change is occurring.


Airbrushing Gaelic from Scotland's story

4 July 2015 (The Herald)

Visitors are denied a real understanding of Scotland because the tourism industry obscures the true story of Gaelic Scotland and allows historical nonsense to be promoted, important new research has found.

The author challenges VistScotland to take steps to prevent "just any Tom Dick and Harry setting themselves up to take money from unsuspecting tourists" by talking rubbish to them about the Highlands and Islands, when they know little.


Related Links

Has Scotland betrayed its Gaelic heritage? (The Herald, 4 July 2015)

Experts call for BBC Alba subtitles in Gaelic

21 December 2014 (The Scotsman)

Aspiring Gaelic speakers could be helped by adding Gaelic subtitles to programmes broadcast on BBC Alba, language campaigners claim.

The move is supported by the website Gàidhlig TV, which promotes the learning of the language. Lisa Storey, the writer behind the campaign, said the absence of Gaelic subtitles on the Gaelic television channel hinders the ability of people to become fluent in all aspects of the language. Currently only English subtitles appear on screen.


Learning languages

24 November 2014 (Teachers' Resource)

With the introduction of the Scottish Government’s ‘1+2 approach’ to language learning from primary one, the spotlight is back on languages in school – but as it’s no longer compulsory for students to take a language in secondary, how are schools encouraging pupils to keep going with French, Spanish, Gaelic and beyond? We caught up with the team at Scotland’s National Centre for Languages and one teacher whose department is bucking national trends in language education...

From Teachers Resource magazine.

Related Files

Which children's books define the Scottish identity?

23 August 2014 (Guardian)

What do you read when you feel both Scottish and British? In the lead up to the independence referendum in September, site member Firebird journeys back through children's books to see what it means to be Scottish.

[...] The same could be said of the various Scottish languages and dialects – all different, but all Scottish. Given the Scottish government's emphasis on Gaelic, one might be excused for thinking that Gaelic was the sole language of Scotland, but in fact Gaelic (which originates from Irish) was only ever spoken in the Highlands and Islands, plus a little in the West of Scotland. In 1755, just 23% of Scots spoke solely Gaelic, and nowadays only 1.1% of Scots speak any Gaelic at all. As for the East of Scotland, they have always spoken Scots, which brings up another question – what on earth do we mean by Scots?


Gàidhlig Higher - Route map

25 June 2014 (Education Scotland)

The route map for Gàidhlig Higher is now available on the Education Scotland website.  This paper is for teachers and other staff who provide learning, teaching and support as learners work towards Gàidhlig Higher.

This route map provides a link to Education Scotland’s support materials together with a number of other subject-specific links staff may find useful as they develop programmes of learning.


Creative Scotland to develop a plan for the Scots language

12 June 2014 (The Herald)

The nation's main arts funding body, Creative Scotland, is to make its first concerted efforts to back the Scots language and culture.

In its annual plan, launched today, the funding body pledges to develop a Scots Language policy and to ensure "it considers all aspects of Scots in the cultural life of the country".


Your views: Making global citizens of Edinburgh’s pupils

30 May 2014 (TESS)

Edinburgh has been piloting an ambitious approach to modern foreign language learning from nursery onwards in 15 schools. After a very successful evaluation, this approach will be rolled out to all schools from August.

Edinburgh’s “1+2” approach is based on three key principles: accessibility, sustainability and learning together. It acknowledges the opportunities and challenges of implementation noted in the evaluation of the national trials, and seeks creative ways to overcome them.

Making languages part of the everyday life of the school is our starting point. New, engaging and accessible resources, in a wide range of languages, are available for teachers to use as part of their everyday classroom routines, from lining up to counting to 100. The resources also cover class topics, and include sound files recorded by native speakers to support pupils and teachers with pronunciation.


Red tape cut for Chinese teacher visits

3 February 2014 (Herald)

Teachers heading to Scotland to promote the Chinese language will be given leave to remain in the UK for a further year after five staff were at the centre of a row.


Slump in number of pupils enrolling for new exams

31 January 2014 (Herald)

The number of Scottish pupils enrolling for new national examinations has dropped sharply, prompting fears that some subjects are being squeezed out of the curriculum. Official figures show entries have slipped about 10% this year after the introduction of National exams, which replace Standard Grades. The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) says pupils will take an average of 6.8 Nationals this summer, against the 7.3 Standard Grades sat last year, fuelling concerns among educationalists that subject choices for young people are being restricted. It is understood enrolments for language exams are down more than 10%, while the decline in sciences is about 8%. Maths and English enrolments have remained stable.


Related Links

Assessment - Why National students remain spoiled for choice (TESS, 31 January 2014)

Make your nominations for the 2014 Scottish Education Awards

11 December 2013 (Engage for Education)

Nominations for the 2014 awards are now open, visit the Scottish Education Awards website for more information and to submit your nomination.

The Awards celebrate the hard work and success in Scottish education. They recognise the achievements of people who dedicate their lives to children and young people and showcase the value work and innovation in learning environments across Scotland. Award categories include ‘Global Citizenship’ and ‘Gaelic Awareness’. If you know of a school or teacher that deserves to be recognised for their hard work in these categories submit a nomination by Friday 21 February 2014.


French Film Festival 2013 - Schools Programme

8 October 2013 (Filmhouse)

As part of the French Film Festival 2013 (Fri 12 Nov to Thu 25 Nov) Filmhouse are screening these fantastic new films for Edinburgh schools:

  • Little Lion - Tuesday 12 November, 10am (101 min)
    Suitable for P7 - S4
  • Day of the Crows - Tuesday 19 November, 10am (96 min)
    Suitable for 8+, P5 - S2

Tickets for both films are £2.60 per pupil, teachers free. To book please call our Duty Manager on 0131 228 2688 or email


Move to protect teaching of languages in Scots universities

20 September 2013 (The Herald)

Greater protection is to be given to threatened language teaching at Scottish universities.
Any institution that wants to cut languages in future will have to alert funding bosses before any decision is made.


St Elizabeth’s Spanish Day celebrates Government’s 1+2 Approach to Languages Pilot

6 June 2013 (Engage for Education)

St Elizabeth’s held a Spanish Day to celebrate their involvement in the Scottish Government’s 1+2 Approach to Languages Pilot. Every class was timetabled to participate in a variety of activities which were either led by their teacher or by visitors supporting the day.


Language Learning in Action: First ever National Modern Languages Spelling Bee in Scotland #scottishbee

31 May 2013 (Engage for Education)

On Friday, 31st May, S1 pupils from the Highlands to the Borders will take part in the grand finale of the first ever National Modern Languages Spelling Bee to take place in Scotland. In the spirit of “1+2”, finalists will battle it out in French, German or Spanish to an audience of proud teachers, parents, fellow pupils and invited guests. The event will take place in the Scottish Parliament, thanks to the kind sponsorship of Maureen Watt, SNP MSP for Aberdeen South and North Kincardine.


Strathdevon Primary to Fly Clacks Flag at Scottish Parliament

7 May 2013 (Clackmannanshire Council)

Pupils from Strathdevon Primary School in Dollar will fly the flag for Clackmannanshire in the national finals of the Scottish European Trust's Euroquiz at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh next week.

The school children will come up against 29 other primary schools from around Scotland, from as far afield as Stornoway, in a bid to lift the coveted prize.

The final will held on Monday13th May, on the floor of the Scottish Parliament debating chamber at Holyrood.


Related Links

School children from across Scotland to take part in annual Euroquiz event (Scottish Parliament, 8 May 2013)

Number of Chinese language assistants in schools on the rise

1 May 2013 (The Herald)

The number of Chinese language assistants in Scottish schools is on the increase after several years of decline.  The British Council Scotland (BCS) said there had been a doubling of requests from schools for dedicated staff as part of an expansion of Mandarin and Cantonese language learning. This year, there were just five Chinese language assistants working in Scotland with cutbacks blamed for the decline. It was feared numbers might drop further, but councils have so far requested 10 for next year. Although the numbers are small, the impact such assistants can have is significant because they work across a number of schools in a council area.


Articulate Language Camps! Summer language and activity camps in Scotland for young people

30 April 2013 (Articulate Language Camps)

The Articulate Language Camp team are pleased to announce they have extended their offering for this summer and have a selection of options available for children to attend summer immersion camps full of language workshops, sport and adventure.

In addition to the International Camp (S3-S6) which will bring together learners from French, German and Spanish speaking countries to work on digital media projects and take part in sport and adventure activities together, there is also the opportunity to attend shorter camps:

  • Launch Camp (P4-P7, a one night stay at camp)
  • Edge Camp (P7-S2, a two night stay at camp)
  • Summit Camp (S2-S6, a two night stay at camp)
For full details and how to book, please visit the Articulate Language Camps website.


Put Arabic on curriculum, says charity

21 April 2013 (The Herald)

Moves are under way to get Arabic taught to schoolchildren in Scotland.

Muslim charity Dar Al-Falaah Community Education Association has begun lobbying MSPs for the inclusion of the language in the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence.

The charity says there is a high demand for the subject, which the group already teaches to more than 100 four to 16-year-olds at weekend classes in Glasgow.


Related Links

Arabic should be taught to Scots children, campaigners say (Deadline news, 21 April 2013)

Coming soon! GLOW Meets for language practitioners

11 April 2013 (SCILT)

Get ready for all the action, join #mlscilt on the National PL Community.  A series of wide ranging workshops by GLOW Meet open to all primary and secondary languages practitioners coming very soon!  Details to follow shortly, so keep checking back.


Boost for Gaelic

20 February 2013 (Scottish Government)

Children learning Gaelic are set to benefit from new projects to help their studies.
Speaking at a summit on Gaelic Medium Education in Edinburgh today, Minister for Scotland’s Languages Alasdair Allan said six Gaelic education projects will share £90,000.
These projects include:

  • summer schools in Gaelic communities for trainee teachers 
  • new research on how best to support pupils with additional needs 
  • the development of prelim exam papers in Gaelic


Languages drive is crucial for Scotland's future, MSPs told

10 January 2013 (STV News)

Children as young as nine will be taught three languages amid rising immigration, tourism and increasing demand for workers that speak more than just English, MSPs have heard.

The Scottish Government has set aside £4m for a pilot project to ensure Scotland's economy does not suffer as a result of its citizens' relatively poor language skills.


Report on SCEN China Youth Summit

23 November 2012 (Confucius Institute Edinburgh)

The SCEN China Youth Summit at Gleneagles on 12 November, known as the G50 after the 50 schools, universities and other organisations represented and in memory of the famous G8 Summit held at Gleneagles in 2005 was an inspiring day for all those who attended the event.


Articulate Language Camps in Scotland 2013

18 November 2012 (Articulate Language Camps)

Camp 2013 is open to all 14-17 year olds who are learning foreign languages and want a fantastic, fun camp experience to boost their confidence and language skills. Articulate language camps are open to all learners of English as a foreign language and English native speakers learning French, German and Spanish. By bringing together speakers of different languages from all over the world, we hope to encourage the real-life use of a foreign language whilst forging friendships that will last a lifetime. Visit the website for more information and how to book.


Scots fare worst in bilingualism study

14 November 2012 (The Scotsman)

Scots have fared worst in a Europe-wide initiative designed to foster bilingualism.
The study, which was led by the University of Edinburgh and backed by the European Commission’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), recruited 25 monolingual families from five European countries.


Interview: Sarah Breslin

2 November 2012 (TESS)

The director of SCILT, Scotland's National Centre for Languages based at the University of Strathclyde, talks about the 1+2 policy, the benefits of CfE and how to persuade pupils to stick with languages.


Related Links

A reader's response to the TESS Interview: Sarah Breslin (2 November)

"This has been a most interesting article to read. Many thanks to Sarah for all her hard work and support of the MFL teachers in Scotland. We are lucky to have such a fantastic professional with great personality. The 1+2 is an ambitious but not impossible goal to achieve - if all stakeholders are willing to work together for the benefit of generations to come."  (rosered27, TES Letters, 9 November 2012)

University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages