Languages of the week: Scotland

This week we’re celebrating Scotland, in honour of the Braemar Gathering of the Scottish Highland Games, which took place this weekend.

Scottish kiltThe Braemar Gathering is one of many events that make up the Highland Games from May to September each year. It’s attended by 16,000 people, including members of the Royal Family. Events include tossing the caber, putting the stone, Highland dancing and piping, and competitors must dress in Highland costumes.

Scotland has three languages: Scottish Gaelic, Scots and Scottish English – all of which you can now learn with uTalk.

Scottish Gaelic

The Scottish Gaelic alphabet has 18 letters, each of which is named after a tree or shrub.

It’s spoken by 60,000 people, mainly in the Highlands and the Western Isles, but also in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.

There are also small Gaelic speaking communities in Canada, particularly in Alba Nuadh and on the Cape Breton Islands.

Scottish Gaelic was seen as a declining language, but recently there’s been a real resurgence in schools and an increased presence in the media. The BBC operates a Gaelic language radio station, Radio nan Gàidheal.


Scots is spoken in the Lowlands and Northern Isles of Scotland. It has four dialects: Insular Scots, Northern Scots, Central Scots and Southern Scots.

A Germanic language variety, Scots is influenced by Gaelic, Norse, Latin, Dutch, Norman French, Standard French and English.

The poet Robert Burns wrote in Scots; a well-known example is Auld Lang Syne, which was written in 1788 and is now traditionally sung at New Year.

So here’s your Challenge of the Week – we want to hear you singing (or reciting, if singing’s not your thing) Auld Lang Syne in the original Scots. If you’re not sure of the words, the BBC website can help. Send us your videos on Twitter to @EuroTalk with hashtag #1788Scots

Scottish English

Also known as SSE (Standard Scottish English), Scottish English dates back to the 17th century, when Scots and English combined.

Although an English speaker can understand Scottish English, the language contains a lot of different words. Some examples are: ‘poke’, which in Scottish English is a container for chips, ‘ken’, which means ‘know’, and ‘aye’, which is the Scottish way of saying ‘yes’.

A few fun facts about Scotland

The national animal of Scotland is the unicorn.

The shortest scheduled flight in the world is from Westray to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. At just one and a half miles long, it only takes 1 minute 14 seconds.

Scotland’s traditional dish, haggis, consists of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep boiled in its stomach. It’s tastier than it sounds!

The first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was in 565 AD, when a ‘water beast attacked one of St Columba’s followers in the loch’.

What’s your favourite Scotland fact?


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