We were disappointed recently to find that – somehow – we had missed National Tartan Day. I know! We’ll do better next year.
Although you might think National Tartan Day is a Scottish endeavour, it actually stems from North America and seems to have developed into rather a massive Celtic festival. Which leads us to wonder, what exactly is tartan and why is it so important?
When we think of tartan, we generally think of a woven patterned cloth which belongs to a particular Scottish clan. Most clans will tend to have both a dress and hunting tartan, the hunting tartan being a sombre version made up of dark colours whilst the dress usually swaps a colour from the pattern out for white, making it much brighter. There is a lot of etiquette around tartan, and I for one would not try to wear a tartan that I had no connection with, sticking instead to the tartans from my family’s history.
Or, I might wear a Cornish tartan, because in recent times tartan has become increasingly used by regions, ethnicities and businesses. Cornwall’s tartan was created in the 1960s and has really caught on, being widely available on tourist knick-knacks and formal clothing. At a wedding I recently attended, the groom and best men were all wearing Cornish tartan waistcoats, and the Cornish tartan kilt is not an unusual site at a festival. What is perhaps especially nice about this regional tartan is that anyone Cornish is entitled to use it- there’s no difficulty in etiquette- and even if you’re not Cornish but want to celebrate Cornwall, you’re more than welcome to help yourself to some Cornish tartan, as long as you can stand the slightly weird and bright mustard yellow of it…
If you want to wear tartan but don’t really feel a particular affiliation with a particular clan, then a good option for British and Commonwealth citizens is the Hunting Stewart tartan which, being Queen Elizabeth II’s personal tartan, can be used by all of her subjects. The other good option is Black Watch, also known as Government Tartan, which is traditionally available to those who don’t have a tartan of their own.
Do you have a particular tartan you wear, or thoughts on tartan etiquette? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re now into the third week of our uTalk Challenge! Over 350 people are taking part and over 40 languages have been chosen to learn! The most popular languages are some of the most spoken ones in the world like Polish, Spanish and Japanese.
Interestingly, we also have some endangered languages chosen. UNESCO publishes a list of the languages that are classed as endangered; there are five different levels, from Vulnerable (most children speak the language but only in restricted places) to Extinct (no one speaks the language anymore). Some of these surprised as me as Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish are all on the UNESCO list. Hawaiian is on the list as ‘critically endangered’, which is one level away from being extinct, due to the speakers of the language being the oldest generation of the family.
When it comes to our uTalk Challenge here are the four of the endangered languages that have been chosen:
There are around 660,000 speakers left of this language and although spoken in Europe it’s not classed as the Indo-European family of languages, potentially due to it being totally unique, with no similarities to any other languages. There are many theories on where the Basque language comes from, but none of these have conclusive evidence. One of our uTalk Challengers, Patricia, is learning Basque and quickly selected ‘garagardoa’ as her favourite word for beer in any language! Find out why in her video.
It is quite clear that Scottish Gaelic is spoken in some parts of Scotland, mainly in the Western Isles. It is one of the three languages in Scotland, with English and Scots also being spoken. Scots is also classed as an Endangered language, but on a lower level than Scottish Gaelic. There are around 60,000 people who speak Scottish Gaelic still. However, across many Scottish schools the introduction of Scottish Gaelic began in the 1980s, with it now being taught across primary and middle schools.
Welsh is Britain’s oldest language, dating back to around 4,000 years ago. Today there are 750,000 speakers; this is around 20% of the Welsh population. Welsh is most popular in the west of the country; however, there is evidence that more schools in Wales are now teaching the language. Within Wales there are two main dialects, North and South Walian. It is hard to establish where these two dialects cross over, as they both have different accents, vocabulary and grammar points. Liz and Nat from the EuroTalk office are learning Welsh for the challenge (in fact Nat’s already completed the app because she’s much better at languages than the rest of us!).
This is one of the six main languages in Senegal. Originally written with an Arabic alphabet, it was then standardised using the Latin alphabet. A lot of Wolof speakers use French loan words when speaking the language, which could be one of the reasons Wolof has become an endangered language. In certain urban areas of Senegal people use a mix of Arabic, French and Wolof but in Gambia they use English words as loan words instead.
Do you speak any endangered languages? Please let us know on Twitter or our Facebook page. Or if you’d like to learn an endangered language, you can find all of the above and more in our uTalk app.
This week we’re celebrating Scotland, in honour of the Braemar Gathering of the Scottish Highland Games, which took place this weekend.
The Braemar Gathering is one of many events that make up the Highland Games from May to September each year. It’s attended by 16,000 people, including members of the Royal Family. Events include tossing the caber, putting the stone, Highland dancing and piping, and competitors must dress in Highland costumes.
Scotland has three languages: Scottish Gaelic, Scots and Scottish English – all of which you can now learn with uTalk.
The Scottish Gaelic alphabet has 18 letters, each of which is named after a tree or shrub.
It’s spoken by 60,000 people, mainly in the Highlands and the Western Isles, but also in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.
There are also small Gaelic speaking communities in Canada, particularly in Alba Nuadh and on the Cape Breton Islands.
Scottish Gaelic was seen as a declining language, but recently there’s been a real resurgence in schools and an increased presence in the media. The BBC operates a Gaelic language radio station, Radio nan Gàidheal.
Scots is spoken in the Lowlands and Northern Isles of Scotland. It has four dialects: Insular Scots, Northern Scots, Central Scots and Southern Scots.
A Germanic language variety, Scots is influenced by Gaelic, Norse, Latin, Dutch, Norman French, Standard French and English.
The poet Robert Burns wrote in Scots; a well-known example is Auld Lang Syne, which was written in 1788 and is now traditionally sung at New Year.
So here’s your Challenge of the Week – we want to hear you singing (or reciting, if singing’s not your thing) Auld Lang Syne in the original Scots. If you’re not sure of the words, the BBC website can help. Send us your videos on Twitter to @EuroTalk with hashtag #1788Scots
Also known as SSE (Standard Scottish English), Scottish English dates back to the 17th century, when Scots and English combined.
Although an English speaker can understand Scottish English, the language contains a lot of different words. Some examples are: ‘poke’, which in Scottish English is a container for chips, ‘ken’, which means ‘know’, and ‘aye’, which is the Scottish way of saying ‘yes’.
A few fun facts about Scotland
The national animal of Scotland is the unicorn.
The shortest scheduled flight in the world is from Westray to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. At just one and a half miles long, it only takes 1 minute 14 seconds.
Scotland’s traditional dish, haggis, consists of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep boiled in its stomach. It’s tastier than it sounds!
The first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was in 565 AD, when a ‘water beast attacked one of St Columba’s followers in the loch’.
What’s your favourite Scotland fact?