More and Better Languages

My last few posts have been about the Scots language, so I’ll finish the series with thoughts about being a Scots speaker in the US.

I’ll start by saying I’m a fairly regular ‘code switcher’. I can easily move between speaking Scots, Scots English, British English and American English.

Here in Appalachia there’s a surprising amount of Scots words, phrases and pronunciation. It came with the early settlers who spoke ‘Ulster Scots’ and whose parents had moved to the North of Ireland from south Scotland.

I can always tell when I’m speaking to someone who doesn’t understand me by the expression on their face and that’s when I have to shift my code shifting gear up a notch.

As a child I was encouraged by teachers to drop my natural language and speak ‘properly’. The same happens here in Appalachia. Yet I eventually became multi-lingual and learned that languages can be used as appropriate to the situation. This happens all over the world and I’m disappointed that I had to hang on to my language against the odds. What helped me was an early interest in Scots songs and ballads which has continued throughout my life and actually broadened and extended my vocabulary and fluency.

I’m pleased to say that there’s now a very successful program of after school clubs here in Appalachia (Junior Appalachian Musicians – JAM)  that teaches the music and songs of the region to kids, and I’m sure that will have a similarly good outcome.

It don’t make no never mind to me/ ye dinnae hiv tae tak tent/ You don’t have to pay any attention.

See? It’s easy.

2 thoughts on “More and Better Languages

  1. I too as a child in school was very discouraged and discriminated from using my native language..French. The 50s-60s. was hard if you spoke another language and was Catholic. So my family became Baptist and did not use French. hence i lost my native language. Plus my brother was left handed and that was very against the rules in the 50s. Te

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