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Scots is not a slang version of English

The growing popularity of Scots in the classroom is improving pupils' English, delegates heard at the Scottish Book Trust's Creative Sparks conference, sponsored by The TESS.

"Our project is not about pushing English out of the way - it's about enhancing English," said Matthew Fitt, who works with schools for Scots language publishers Itchy Coo.

The biggest problem, he said, was that many people did not know what Scots was. A persistent misconception held that Scots was slang English, when it had in fact been brought over by the Angles and developed in parallel to, not from, English.

Pupils taught that Scots and English were two equally valid modes of expression were better able to express themselves in both. Scots words such as "greetin" and "mingin" were correctly pronounced without a "G"at the end, for example. In contrast, dropping the 'T' in a word such as "beautiful" was bad English.

Highlighting the benefits for English was the best way of persuading parents of the value of Scots in the classroom, Mr Fitt said. One parent had been chastising a child for using "slang". Upon learning that Scots was not slang, the parent said: "Right, I'm going to tell him not to speak Scots." Mr Fitt said this was a small victory: the parent may still not have approved of Scots, but could at least understand what it was.

Scots also boosted inclusion, he said, because literacy depended upon confidence, and for schools to legitimise the language used at home "helps immensely with dealing with children's sense of self".

Mr Fitt, whose presentation was on using the language in school, added that teachers from England were often better equipped than Scottish colleagues to bring Scots into the classroom. They had not been brought up to believe that Scots was wrong and "don't come with the same baggage that we come with".

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