We ken the nummers back tae front bi nou. Oot o five million fowk bidin in Scotland, 1.6 million self-identify as speakers o Scots. That’s hauners eneuch for ony fecht, eh no? But still it leas us wi a wheen o chiels wha dinnae speak Scots, or think they dinnae, or wish they didnae. (Like onybody, ah ken a Pythonesque bauchle or twa spends hauf their life tellin ony puir sowel wha’ll listen that they dinnae speak yon awfy Scots – in the guid, braid Scots their mither taught them.)
Masel, ah’m ayeweys inclined taewarts a wee bit o evangelism wi sic people – hiv ye heard aboot the guid news in the Scots Leid Dictionar? – but still ah’m awaur there’s a pickle o fowk wha, in aw guid faith, jist dinnae speak the leid. There’s nae creenge involved, nae denial o the self or onythin like that. It’s jist no something that wis pairt of their upbringin.
Ye’re mebbe yin o thae people yersel. Certes, if ye’re readin this, ah howp ye are. Nou, ah’m cawin ye English speakers here, but that’s no the full story. Ye’re speakers o aw kinds. Ye’re Urdu speakers, ye’re Polish speakers, ye’re German speakers, ye’re Welsh. An whitever yer story, there’s a fair wheen o ye oot there that are weel-wishers tae the Scots leid but dinnae ken whit tae dae aboot it. Ye’d like tae help, but ye’re no shuir hou.
Weel, gin ye think that yon descrives ye, this here’s oor recruitment call. Pictur, if ye will, this wee screed postit up ower the pyntin finger o Rabbie Burns, the glower o Shug MacDiarmid. English speakers o the warld! We want YOU tae jyne oor revolution! Tak the shilling the day, an help oor bonnie broukit bairn o a leid get back tae the tap table. We’ll even tell ye hou, in three easy steps.
Sae are ye dancin? Acause we’re askin.
1) Spreid the Guid Wird
In maist airts o life, ye ken, guid will disnae coont for ower muckle. ‘Meanin weel’ is the widden spoon o accomplishments, the consolation cuddly toy o the hapless an the hopeless. But politics is a warld o its ain, an a wee bit o guidwill fae ootside the camp can gan a lang wey taewarts grantin a cause a fair hearin oot.
It’s never been a want o money or kennin or even unnerstaunin that’s kept yin government efter anither fae heezin up the language. Whit’s aye pit Scots tae the back o the line has been the notion that non-speakers dinnae value it an are no scunnert whit befaws it. Let Scots speakers channer an yammer aw they like; sae lang as the high heid yins are afeart there’s votes tae be lost bi teachin schuilweans slang, they willnae lift a finger tae keep the leid alive.
Scots shoud get the same level o fundin as… Gaelic? Faslane? Finlay Carson’s website? No that it matters whit ye’re speirin efter, gin ye’re speirin in a guid Scots tongue. Well, you’re a Scots speaker, the faces read. You would say that. Sae it’s doon tae you lot. Ah’m no saying gan awa an scrieve tae yer MP or yer MSP or whaiver, awbeit ah widnae stop ye. But gin fowk are daein their pan in ettlin efter a wee bit tent for the tongue, please, like us, share us, retweet us. Let oor heid yins see that Scots is for mair than jist the speakers – for mair than jist the Scottish, even.
As Brian Clough yinst said, dinnae wait until we’re deid tae send us flooers. Gin ye think oor language matters, let us ken – an, mair important, let aabody else ken an aw.
2) Dinnae Apologise, Dinnae Explain
Whenever ye speak in Scots, there will aye be some guid sowels wha dinnae unnerstaun ye an act as if it’s their ain stupit fault. I’m really sorry, they’ll say. I’m so embarrassed. But leuk – yon’s nae cause for apology. If onythin, apologisin for no unnerstaunin Scots anely helps recast the issue intae somethin it’s shuirly no, a kittlie question o poleetical correctness an group identities.
It isnae your fault gin ye dinnae unnerstaun Scots, ony mair than gin ye dinnae ken Swahili or Aragonese. The anely reason that fowk say sorry, or think they’re bein ill-mannert bi no unnerstaunin, is that we’ve aw been fordert intae thinkin o Scots as a kind o socio-economic custom raither than a language, an that failin in its uptak is someweys disrespectful tae ither fowk’s cultur in the same wey as, likesay, weirin yer gutties intae a mosque.
There’s identity issues thirlt up wi the uise o Scots, nae dout aboot it. Tae growe up speakin Scots at hame an English at schuil can gar a life-lang psychodrama for ony bairn. But aw yon’s fir anither discussion. It disnae an cannae mak Scots intae some kind o wirkin-cless sacrament. It’s a tool like ony ither, for the uise of onybody that has the need o it – an no aabody daes.
3) Learn the Leid
Like ony guid charity mugger, ah’m gonnae tap aff ma spiel bi shootin for the muin. Speakers o ither tongues can dae a lot tae help, nae question o that. But the single biggest thing that onybody can dae tae help the leid is learn the leid.
Ah ken ah’m pittin ye on the spot here. Naebody’s speirin ye tae sign yer life awa, commit tae a coorse in twal easy instalments, or stairt daein aw yer Facebook updates in Doric. But gin ye’ve picked up a poem, a proverb, or even jist a wird or twa o Scots, nou’s the time tae pit them oot there, get them intae general circulation. An if ye hinnae ony Scots sayins o yer ain, here’s a haundy ane tae stairt ye aff – tak tent or it’s tint. Uise it or lose it.
Whit pits maist fowk aff learnin Scots isnae the time or darg that it involves. There’s loads o resources oot there – 1.6 million o them, at last coont – an it’s mebbe never been easier for learners tae pick up the leid fae scratch. Nah, whit staps fowk in their tracks is the convoyin bogle o cultural appropriation. It’s no ma place, fowk will say. Ah dinnae want tae offend onybody, fowk will say.
But forget aw that. Bi uisin the tongue, ye’re no appropriatin it, ye’re normalisin it. Ye’re makkin it intae a leid like ony ither, yin that’s learnt an spoken in aw the sindry accents o the kintra. An gin ye’re wirrit that ye micht be daein it wrang, weel, we’re aw daein it wrang. The anely thing mair ordinar tae a language than its everyday uise is its everyday misuise. It’s mair o that we’re needin, no less.
An as for it bein awfy haird tae learn anither language, weel, wha’s kiddin wha? Gin ye’ve read this faur, ye’re haufwey there awready.
There’s nothing mair by-the-by in sport these days than supportin a second team. Yer Man Uniteds, yer Barcelonas; they’ve millions o life-lang supporters wha’ve never been tae the fitba grund an never seen them play. Be cynical if ye like. But we’ve ower much luve in oor herts, these days, tae save it for jist the yin cause.
Sae, English speakers, Polish speakers, gabbers o Punjabi an Cantonese. Aw we’re askin is, think o Scots as bein yer second team. Jyne the club, add us tae yer wee portfolio o things ye care aboot. Ye micht never learn the history, or mak it tae a gemme, but dinnae let that stap ye fae weirin the kit an follaein the Twitter an celebratin oor victories like they wir yer ain. Acause they are. Yer first team – weel, yon’s an accident o birth. But it’s yer second team that’s wha ye’ve chose tae be.
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