English is the main language spoken in Scotland today and has been the since the 18th Century. However, there are a wide range of different accents and dialects spoken across the country. From the largest cities right through to the smallest of our islands, differing accents can be found. These range from soft and sing-song to stronger and more pronounced.
Shaped by our rich history and vibrant culture, the ancient Celtic language of Gaelic is still spoken throughout Scotland. Gaelic has been part of the Scottish consciousness for centuries and is considered to be the founding language of the country. The origins of Gaelic can be traced back as far as the 10th Century and is believed to have been brought to Scotland from Ireland.
In recent times the Gaelic language has experienced a renaissance and is enjoying new levels of popularity. Although the Highlands and Islands are the stronghold of the Gaelic language, the number of speakers is steadily increasing and Gaelic speakers can be found in all parts of the country. The introduction of bilingual road signs and a dedicated Gaelic TV channel mean you are never far from an encounter with the Gaelic language.
Whereas Gaelic was the dominant language in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the Lowlands of Scotland adopted the language of Scots. The Scots language is much closer in style to that of traditional English, and debate has raged for many years as to whether it is a separate language or just a dialect. By the beginning of the 15th century, the English language used in Scotland had become so different as to appear as a completely different language, albeit a language without a name.
From this point on, the term 'Scottis' was used to refer to the Lowland vernacular, officially separating it from its English roots. The UK government now accepts Scots as a regional language, and recognised it under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
British Sign Language (BSL)
Since 2003 British Sgin Language (BSL) has been officially recognised as a minority language throughout the UK and as an official language here in Scotland. BSL is the preferred language of nearly 150,000 people across the UK and incredibly, much like verbal languages, small variations can exist from city to city, meaning it almost has its own set of regional dialects.
If you are interested in finding out more about BSL, check out their website, which has tonnes of useful information and fun games where you can even learn a few signs for yourself!
A land of many tongues
Scotland is proud to maintain its indigenous tongues, but the country is also home to many other languages. Scotland has an excellent reputation for welcoming people from around the world to our shores to live, work and study, and this diversity brings with it many different languages, spoken by a diverse and growing population. While some languages are spoken by only a few, others are the primary language of entire communities.
There are over 170 languages spoken in Scotland, and those include Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Kurdish, Makaton, Mandarin, Punjabi, Polish, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu and many more.
English for speakers of other languages (ESOL)
Speaking the language of a country is very important for improving education or work opportunities. Our innovative English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programme offers people living in the Scotland an affordable way to learn and improve their English, and to get the most out of living in Scotland.