Our Approach to Learning Materials

At Speaking Scottish, we do our best to present things in a way which is inclusive, representative and accurate. Language is important on a local, national and personal level, and we know that no one wants to have the way they speak misrepresented to the world (think terrible fake Scottish accents). 

With this in mind, we often find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum when developing our learning materials, as we are aware that many people (ourselves included!) will have strong feelings about their language or languages, and may object to how we depict or describe them through Speaking Scottish.

We hope that the following helps to explain some of our decision making and to answer any questions you may have about our content or approach.

Who is our target audience?

The first thing to emphasise is that these materials are designed mainly for people who speak English as an Additional Language (EAL). In particular, we generally have in mind those who may have limited understanding of colloquial English.

As our materials develop, they will become more nuanced and detailed. However, especially to begin with, they will err on the simple side as we attempt to provide a clear and accessible resource which will not overwhelm those who have only just started exploring Scottish language practices.

One limitation that we will face, particularly in the initial stages of the project, is a focus on certain areas of the country, e.g. the Central Belt and larger cities.

If you spot anything in our materials that is oversimplified, inaccurate or simply rubs you up the wrong way, please feel free to get in touch.

How do we choose what to cover?

Our main priority when building our learning materials is that they will be of practical use to those living in Scotland. This means that our approach in general is to focus not on separating out Scots and Scottish English, for example, but rather prioritising language which is most commonly used in daily life in Scotland.

One consequence of this is that some language practices will take a back seat to start with. Furthermore, in trying to introduce language commonly used in Scotland, we will at times include words, phrases or pronunciations which are not exclusively Scottish. This is because we are focusing on speech common to – rather than specific to – Scotland. Where this is the case, we will aim to include a note that such language may also be heard elsewhere.

Another important issue is, of course, that there is significant linguistic variation across Scotland. Words, turns of phrase or pronunciations which are the bread and butter of one person may be totally unfamiliar to the next, and we want to reflect this too.

With the above in mind, our thought process when creating learning materials is generally as follows.

ProcessExample
Gather language which we think is useful for EAL speakers who want to communicate better with people in Scotland.Words for child: bairn and wean.
Explore regional or other variations of the language we have gathered.Where do people say bairn? Where do people say wean? Does everyone say bairn/wean? Are we missing out other words? Are these words used just in Scotland?
Give some example sentences using the new language (sourced either from ourselves or elsewhere).The bairn’s greetin.
The weans are aff to school th’morn.
Give “Simple English” translations of example sentences.The child is crying.
The children are going to school tomorrow.
Where possible, provide links to audio examples of the language introduced.[Audio clip links sourced from Forvo.]
Add any additional notes for learners.You are very likely to hear people use the words “bairn” and “wean” in Scotland, but “child” is also commonly used.

How do we aim to improve?

Especially in our early days, we will not always do as good a job at representing Scotland’s linguistic diversity as we – or you – may hope.

In particular, it is important to acknowledge that we will inevitably be affected by our personal biases. Coming from very similar backgrounds, we are likely to include language from the areas we are most familiar with, and to have blind spots when it comes to what is or isn’t common throughout Scotland. 

A major way in which we aim to improve on this is by seeking feedback and support from those interested. Please follow this link for more information. On top of this, we have a long-term goal of making a more interactive website using a greater variety of media through which to better engage learners.

Whilst these are our aims and aspirations, please understand that this is a volunteer-led project and as such may be slow to progress at times.


Thank you for supporting this project, and please don’t forget to share it with anyone you think may find it useful!

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