Braw and barrie;Curriculum;Television

16th April 1999 at 01:00
Haud Yer Tongue. Channel 4, April 20-May 25. Teacher's handbook by Liz Niven, pound;4.95, video pound;19.99 Channel 4 Schools, PO Box 100, Warwick CV34 6TZ

Haud yer tongue!" Will such a guid Scots warning across the floor of Holyrood serve to silence the opposition, or will the language of the house be ironed into MorningsideKelvinside tones? In his introduction to this five-part series on the history, development and present use of Scots, presenter Billy Kay - with broad Ayrshire accent - describes his native tongue as "the only language in which to express pleesure, pain and passion".

The first programme, Aw the Airts, takes a look at the origins of the language, highlighting both the well-known (the French roots of "ashet" and "tassie") and the less familiar (the Norwegian "stoursooker" is a well-known cleaning appliance in Scotland).

The programmes are pacy and stress the many regional variations. Asked for their favourite Scots word, children take delight in pronouncing and, where necessary, explaining their meaning.

"When your Mum's cooked somethin' for yer tea that you dinnae like - that's mingin. Mince 'n' tatties is mingin."

"Baffies," said one boy. "I dinnae hae them, but ma Mum has!" Well-kent Scots offer favourite words: Kirsty Wark's "cowp" describes mess at home; Alex Salmond confesses to often being "scunnert"; and MP Anne Begg has learned the art of "haverin".

Programme 2, Coorse and Fine, looks at the difficulties encountered by Scots speakers forced to repress their tongue. Pupils are encouraged to think about when they feel they have to alter their voices. This enforced "proper speech" apparently comes from radio, television, English teachers and snobbery.

Throughout the series there are fine examples of poetry and song. Singer Sheena Wellington leads a women's choir in a traditional working song. In a fairy tale, Cinderella gets Scots citizenship: "She's gey puir an' wants tae gan tae prince's ceilidh wi sisters..."

The teacher's handbook offers a structured approach to follow-up work that could be the basis for a project. There are 13 photocopiable activity sheets with a wide range of reading, writing and class discussion exercises.

Haud Yer Tongue constantly addresses the need to re-establish, maintain and take renewed pride in all aspects of the Scots language. It's a braw, couthy wee series. When a' the loons and quines sit oan their bahookies an hae a deek at it, ah'm sure they'll think it's barrie.

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