I have just come back from Scotland, where I was giving the keynote talk at the City of Glasgow College’s ESOL conference. I got given a present afterwards of a quaich – a small silver cup for sharing and drinking “a wee dram” (a small amount) of whisky (or brandy). Quaitch is originally a Gaelic word, meaning cup and I was told the objects are often called the cup of friendship. Lovely.
When I was leaving the college, I asked the receptionist to call me a cab and when I said thanks, she said “Nae bother” – meaning “No problem”. During the day, when I was speaking to one of the delegates, it was mentioned that the ESOL students were generally tested on “standard English”. I’m guessing ‘standard English’ doesn’t include Nae bother. Maybe it doesn’t include wee or dram either.
Obviously, I can understand why a coursebook or an international exam might not teach and test such things, but it seems a shame that these kinds of words and phrases might then get excluded from local exams or classes. And it’s not just something affecting English classes. A recent report suggested that language is becoming increasingly standardised across the UK. Where before each region may have had words and expressions which were particular to them, now these differences are disappearing.
So what would you like to learn if you were studying in Scotland? Nae bother or something more widely used like No problem – or both?
How far do you want to share cups of friendship and learn something of local culture?