58. Scotland / Scottish Accents (with Leslie)

An interview with a native speaker from Scotland. We talk about Scottish culture and stereotypes, and features of scottish accents.

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Use this episode to develop your cultural understanding of the English language, and to practise identifying and understanding different accents.

Here is a full transcript for this entire episode. It was contributed by listeners to the podcast using the transcript collaboration project on teacherluke.co.uk. For those listeners who contributed part of this script – thank you very much indeed! Transcribing requires time and concentration. Your work will be very helpful to other listeners and learners of English.

Luke’s Introduction – Transcript
You are listening to Luke’s English podcast. For more information visit teacherluke.podomatic.com

Hello ladies and gentlemen. You are listening to Luke’s English podcast. My name is Luke. It’s my podcast. That’s why it’s called Luke’s English podcast. The English part of it is because it’s for people who are learning English as a foreign language. That’s right, there’s millions of you all over the world, you’re all desperately needing to improve your English, mainly if you live in countries where it’s very difficult to find native English speakers.
So, what you want is an authentic source of real English. You could listen to movies on DVD but you know there ….all those movies are scripted, it’s not really natural English. Let’s see, you could listen to the news, couldn’t you? on the radio, on the internet but to be honest most people don’t speak like that in real life. On the news they speak in a different way in a slightly unnatural way which is not really the same as the way most people in their everyday life use English. For example on the news for some reason on the news everything sounds like this. So that’s the way people speak on the news – obviously we don’t normally talk like that, do we?
But, so you want….. you are looking for of a great sort of really natural conversational English. Perhaps some British English because most of the English that you probably come in contact with through TV shows and movies and so on is American English and that’s great. I love American English. More people speak American English in the world than British English, but I know that a lot of my listeners really want to hear some British English because of various reasons. Some people prefer British English, some people consider it to be the original form English. I am not sure about that. Obviously the language changes all the time. The English that we speak in Britain is a bit different to the English they speak in America but that doesn’t mean one is better than the other.

Let’s see! So, those of my listeners, I am sure you are one of those people who need a good source of English to practice your listening. You also want to kind of learn more about the culture of the English language, maybe the culture of the UK, that kind of thing. You also would like to hear a variety of different accents so you can get a sense of all the different ways in which we speak English and also I am sure you want to pick up lots of really really useful bits of vocabulary – natural things.
So, you’ve come to the right place. This is where you are going to find all those things. It’s Luke’s English podcast. I do it on my own in my free time. I am an English language teacher who works in London. I’ve been teaching English for about 10 years now. I’ve got loads of experience of English teaching. I teach in a language school in Holland park in London and I teach general English, exam courses, business English, legal English and everything else in between. So you know that you can trust me as a decent source of English language teaching.
So I know if you are thinking this is amazing. Is this all free? Is this free or do I have to pay? Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is free. It is completely free but bear in mind I do have to pay for the web space. I have to pay the company that hosts this website. I have to pay them every month and so I do ask people to…..if they listen to the podcast I ask people to make a donation to me just to help me cover the cost of running the website. It would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it, if I did this and actually lost money every month. Well, the fact is that I do often kind of lose money. I spend money on this so that you can get free English lessons online.
If you are a business person you’re probably thinking that’s ridiculous. It defies every sense, every kind of business idea that you have, you know, obviously the idea is to make profit. But I’m not making any profit, that’s for sure so I can’t really call this a business instead it’s a kind of …it’s an experiment, really for me and it’s a kind of hobby and a chance for me to practice….do the things like presenting, maybe using my voice on radio. That kind of thing. It’s a bit of fun, a bit of fun for me, plus I know that there are people in parts of the world like in places like India or parts of Asia, for example, where they really have no access to facilities, no access to native English speakers who teach English and all of the materials that are out there are very expensive. So I like to think that somehow I’m helping the world. People who are in a difficult part of the world, the developing countries, who have an internet connection, they can listen to this and learn English for free, which is a very good thing as far as I am concerned.

So, I know you are thinking: enough of the chat, Luke. Get down to the point, will you please. What is this episode about? Well, this one is about Scotland and the Scottish accent. Now I’m doing a series of podcasts, I’m doing them very slowly because I’ve got various other things going on in my life but I’m doing a series of podcasts about different regional accents in the UK.
So in this episode we are going to be looking at Scotland and the Scottish accent. Now, I interviewed a teacher I know who works in the same school as me. She’s been teaching English for years and years in different countries. She comes from Scotland, originally and but she’s lived in Brazil and lived in England and lived in other countries in the world. She is kind of an international person but originally she comes from Scotland and I’d say she is a pretty good spokesperson for Scotland and, you know, things like the Scottish accent and Scottish culture. So I thought I’d interview her. Her name is Leslie. She is really nice, really lovely and she’s got a lovely voice, very pleasant Scottish accent. So asked Leslie a few questions about differences between English culture and Scottish culture and asked her questions about the Scottish accent and how does the Scottish accent sound and Leslie talked about features of the Scottish accent. Obviously I can’t really say the Scottish accent because that’s a generalisation. There are actually many different types of Scottish accents and Leslie will tell you all about that in the interview. Now, I am just going to post this on the site and I don’t have time to write a transcript for it now, but I am going to post it up and when I find the time I’ll put a transcript on there. Now, I expect some of you don’t really need the transcript and you are happy just to listen. You don’t need to read all the listening you just want to practice your listening skills. Others who are listening to this probably want to read the transcript so that they understand every single word. I understand that. But since this is a free thing, I can’t always do to the hard work and type transcripts.
But let me know if you feel like you can’t really use this episode without a transcript. That’s reasonable but let me know and then I can start writing a transcript for you. So, let’s see, here is the interview with Leslie and it’s a genuine interview with a native speaker from Scotland. Here we go:

Conversation between Luke and Leslie:

Luke: Whereabouts are you from?
Leslie: Well, I’m actually from Dundee, which is probably the third biggest city in Scotland.
Luke: Right
Leslie: And it’s on the east coast, it’s just a bit further north than Edinburgh, about an hour really in the train
Luke: Right, okay. And…but you’re living in England at the moment
Leslie: Yes, yes
Luke: How long have you been here?
Leslie: I’ve been in London… well, this is actually my third time here, living here, but more recently this is probably year three of living here.
Luke: Right, okay. So, let’s see, I thought that I’d ask you then it’s considering you’ve been living here for a few years…I think it’s okay, still working
Leslie: Okay
Luke: Yes, it’s still recording.. ‘cause you’ve been living here for a few years now, right? what’s… have you noticed any differences between life in England and life in Scotland?
Leslie: Well, in my case it’s a little complicated because I actually left Scotland when I was about … um, let me think, I finished university there and then I came to London for the first time and I was probably about twenty-one at the time. And I lived here for a couple of years, and then I went to Brazil
Luke: Really?
Leslie: And I stayed there for twenty years
Luke: I didn’t know that
Leslie: Yeah, that’s right
Luke: Really, whereabouts did you stay in Brazil?
Leslie: Eh, most of my time I spent in Brasilia, the capital, but the last couple of years we were in San Paulo before coming back to Britain
Luke: Do you speak Portuguese?
Leslie: Oh yes, I speak Portuguese at home
Luke: Do you really? At home?
Leslie: Yeah
Luke: So your husband is Portuguese?
Leslie: No, it’s even more complicated! I met my husband in Brazil but he’s from Iran
Luke: He’s from Iran? Okay, so you speak Portuguese to each other
Leslie: We speak Portuguese to each other, ‘cause when I met him, he didn’t speak English!
Luke: I see, I see
Leslie: So we both started the relationship both speaking horrific Portuguese
Luke: Right, but now you speak fluent Portuguese
Leslie: Now we both speak fluent Portuguese and our children of course were brought up there, so they’re bilingual really
Luke: Right, wow
Leslie: but Portuguese is the language at home
Luke: Wow, that’s amazing… So, do you speak Portuguese with the Scottish accent?
Leslie: I don’t think so but a Brazilian would probably say that we are definitely foreigners
Luke: Yeah
Leslie: but I don’t speak as bad Portuguese as an English person might speak it
Luke: Yeah, okay… because…
Leslie: Sorry
Luke: That’s alright… because…
Leslie: I think basically because Scottish is a bit harder and it’s much better for Portuguese… the sounds are quite strong and so I think it makes it easier
Luke: Right, I see. Well, so, okay. So you’ve lived in Brazil for most of your time…
Leslie: A lot of my life was spent there… but coming back to Britain, I think… One thing that strikes me is that your Scottish accent never really leaves you, now I don’t know how deliberate that is. I do remember as a young person trying to hide my Scottish accent
Luke: Right. Why? Why would you do that?
Leslie: Exactly, this I can’t really work out, but I think I probably just wanted to fit in with everybody else
Luke: Yeah
Leslie: So I trying to dilute it a bit, and also I was teaching, so I had to be sure that I wasn’t teaching all my Brazilian students “a wee boy” instead of “a little boy”
Luke: Okay. That’s interesting because it kind of raises the idea of what kind of English should we teach
Leslie: Exactly – should it be the standard BBC English or are we allowed to speak the English we know
Luke: Right. I suppose, I mean, it seems that most people, most of us teachers have decided that there’s a kind of standard BBC style, RP, kind of English that we should teach
Leslie: I think you’re right, Luke, I think so
Luke: But nevertheless I think when students, for example, come to England, when they listen to people speaking English, sometimes they’re kind of shocked by the fact that they don’t understand something. And they think “I met this man in the pub and I can understand everything you’re saying Luke, but this guy – I couldn’t understand anything he was saying. I think he was from Scotland”. So they always say is that “Oh, I think he must be from Scotland”
Leslie: The people that they don’t understand, must be Scottish
Luke: Exactly, yeah
Leslie: Well, I know, I know
Luke: So I guess from the point of view of our students we’ve got at least show them all the different other variations of English that they can have come across
Leslie: Exactly, and the more they’re exposed to these differences the better it is for them
Luke: Yeah, they might choose to speak in a kind of BBC English style but they should at least know or be aware of the different styles of English
Leslie: Exactly
Luke: Okay, alright, then I guess that now we’re talking about accents, aren’t we?
Leslie: Yes, that’s what we’re doing
Luke: Is it fair when people say that there’s a Scottish accent? Like people say “Oh, I think he had a Scottish accent” Is that fair to say that?
Leslie: Well, I think it’s probably true, because even I, when I’m listening to people and I know they are obviously Scottish, I don’t necessarily know where they’re from, which part of Scotland they’re from
Luke: But you know that they’re Scottish
Leslie: All the time, and I will always recognize event a slight Scottish lilt, because it’s quite distinctive. I think the biggest difference in Scotland is the difference between East and West, and I think that’s the obvious difference, and I think most people will pick that up if they’re exposed to Scottish English in any way
Luke: Okay, so is Glasgow in the west and Edinburgh in the east end?
Leslie: That’s right
Luke: I see. ??? 13:56
Leslie: But anyone from the west, and it could be anywhere, and I never would automatically get it right, anybody in the west will always say something like ???
Luke: Okay, right.

Leslie: That’s right.
Luke: I see.
Leslie: Yeah…
Luke: Really my knowledge of …
Leslie: But anyone from the West … and it could be anywhere and I would never automatically get it right. Anybody in the West will always say something like “oh, so you’re gonna away for the weekend”.
Luke: Ok.
Leslie: That’s the kind of sound it is. All is ee and ee.
Luke: “So you are gonna away for the weekend”
Leslie: That’s it!
Luke: Ok.
Leslie: Whereas on the East coast I think… I think… I don’t know if I’m being fair here, because I’m an Eastern person, but I think it’s a bit more musical. It’s not so much e ee, but it’s more like… more like singing. So we go up and down a little more. So we kind of bounce along and try to pronounce things in the right way.
Luke: Ok.
Leslie: So it sounds a little more pleasant to the ear.
Luke: You’re saying basically that the East of Scotland is better than the West.
Leslie: Well, obviously, Luke! This is my opportunity to get it out there!
Luke: Ok. Hm… All right. So, you could say then … East, well, East is a bit more singsong or something like that.
Leslie: Yes, it’s a little more musical, I think it’s a little more pleasing to the ear. But, of course, there are … there are people from my home city that I cannot understand …
Luke: Right.
Leslie: Because they just refuse to speak any English that anybody can recognize. And it can be horrible.
Luke: Right. So you get I suppose… There are … I mean just like there are all over the country in Scotland you get dialects which are kind of region-specific…
Leslie: Yes.
Luke: To an … to a certain extent, and when you get those extreme dialects, they can be… they are so far removed from received pronunciation that they can be difficult to understand.
Leslie: That’s right, that’s right.
Luke: And just like in any other part of the country, you get that in Scotland.
Leslie: You do, indeed. I think you would also have to say that there are specific vocabulary words which are different.
Luke: Hm, yeah.
Leslie: Mm… Just as I said before the “wee”…
Luke: Yeah, wee…That I hear… That … That’s something that I recognize in Scottish sort of dialect of whatever.
Leslie: Yes, and it seems to be becoming fashionable. I hear a lot of Americans saying it now.
Luke: Oh, yeah, yeah…
Leslie: “A wee boy”
Luke: Oh, yeah…
Leslie: It does sound a little strange when an American says that…
Luke: I guess, an … a lot of Americans kind of think “Oh, you know, I’m gonna get back to my roots. You know, you know, my great… My great grandfather’s uncle was Scottish, so, you know, I like to use “wee” cause it… It, you know, brings me back to my heritage. I can’t speak a very good at…
Leslie: Yes, but it’s true. People strangely enough love to thing that they have Scottish origins, and I’m not sure why.
Luke: I’d a friend from New Zealand and she used to say “wee” things.
Leslie: Oh, really?
Luke: And she used to use bits of sort of Scottish English.
Leslie: Yes…
Luke: But I think that may be because in New Zealand there’s a lot of… Lot of Scottish people populated New Zealand, so…
Leslie: The Scotts have gone very far all over the world. And I think anybody who has any kind of connection to Scotland will… will really appreciate it much more than I possibly would do. So…
Luke: Right.
Leslie: So it’s quite funny there…
Luke: Ok. So… All right. So… Can you give me any more examples of … accent
Leslie: Yes. I think the Scottish accent is basically… You’ve… The “r” sound when we are talking about my new dress which is bright red.
Luke: Right.
Leslie: I think a Scottish person would quite… quite normally say “bright red”. So we do roll “r”s a little. We don’t do it an awful lot. You know, you hear comedians talking about brrrright. I don’t think anybody actually ever says that, but we do do it once. Bright. We give a bit of a snick if you like.
Luke: A bit of a roll. More…
Leslie: Yeah, that’s right.
Luke: More than me. Cause I would…I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say “bright”, I’d never say “bright”, “bright red”.
Leslie: No, because it’s… it’s lot of tongue work in fact, when you have to roll the “r” to “bright, bright”.
Luke: So, that’s the one feature of Scottish tongue.
Leslie: Yes. I think so. I think another difference might be… there are four words that an English person might say in two different groups. If you look at “bath”: “every day I have a bath”…
Luke: Yeah.
Leslie: “And I like to have a good laugh with my friends.” Now in Scotland we would probably not make the difference between “bath” and “man”, because we say “bath”. “I’m going to have a bath”, “I’d like to have a laugh”,
Luke: Yeah…
Leslie: And “I’ve met a man”, and “it was a trap”. So in fact that “a” sound is all the same in Scotland.
Luke: So, so in… in England we say “bath”, “laugh”, but then we say “man” and “trap”, so…
Leslie: That’s right. So you have two different sounds with “a”.
Luke: Words like… Yeah… So, it’s like in… in many parts of the North of England, as well, they did the same thing.
Leslie: That’s right. You don’t have this…
Luke: So, let’s say “bath”… “I’m gonna have a bath”…
Leslie: That’s it. And then I’m going out to the pub and have a laugh.
Luke: Yeah, I’m gonna have a right laugh with me mates and then I’m gonna go home and have a bath… But they… they wouldn’t say “man” …
Leslie: And then I’m going home and feed a man….
Luke: Yeah.
Leslie: Exactly!
Luke: So… That’s actually something that divides the whole of Britain. It’s not just S… Well, it’s… I mean, it’s somewhere in… somewhere around Birmingham …
Leslie: Noth-South divide I think…
Luke: Divides the South and North of Britain as a whole.
Leslie: That’s right, that’s right, I think that’s true.
Luke: People in the South say “bath” and “laugh”, and in the North they’d say “bath” and “laugh”.
Leslie: That’s right, that’s right.
Luke: All right. Anything else?
Leslie: Ehh… Another thing I was reading about recently. Funnily enough the Scottish accent seems to be becoming a bit more fashionable than it used to be.
Luke: Yeah.
Leslie: And in a recent survey I saw that a Scottish accent is desirable in business…
Luke: Really?
Leslie: Conveying above average honesty in the personality of the owner.
Luke: Right.
Leslie: Now, that’s an interesting one.
Luke: That is interesting… Hm, I…
Leslie: Considering the banking …
Luke: Disaster…
Leslie: Exactly! More recently with big Scottish banks collapsing…
Luke: Royal Bank of Scotland.
Leslie: That’s right.
Luke: But that’s interesting, because… yeah… I heard that too, that the Scottish accent conveys a kind of sense of trustworthiness particularly around money.
Leslie: Exactly! That’s what they say. Yes, for any financial reports or serious money matters they do prefer a Scottish accent, because it seems to promote sobriety, that’s…
Luke: But…
Leslie: And that’s a laugh in itself
Luke: Yeah.
Leslie: Most people think that Scottish people are drunk all the time.
Luke: That’s … that’s a cliché or a stereotype of the Scottish is that they drink a lot
Leslie: That’s right.
Luke: But another cliché is that they er… hold onto their money.
Leslie: Oh, yes! Stinginess.
Luke: Right.
Leslie: Oh, yes. We are renowned for this, and funnily enough, I only ever heard that Scottish people were tightfisted or stingy when I went to Brazil.
Luke: Right.
Leslie: I had never heard this before.
Luke: Well, you only kind of realize it when you step outside, you know, the world you live in.
Leslie: That’s right, that’s right. And in fact, if you… if you think about it historically, I suppose, that is certain amount of truth in it, because Scottish people have always been the impoverished cousin of the English. So I suppose they never had a lot of money.
Luke: Yeah, yeah.
Leslie: So…
Luke: They kept hold of what they have in case the English came and stole it from them.
Leslie: Exactly.
Luke: It’s true, cause my … my bank, Lloyd TSB, right…
Leslie: Yeah?
Luke: They got phone -back service, and whenever I phone them up, it’s always a Scottish person.
Leslie: Is it really?
Luke: And I’m sure they’ve employed Scottish people for that reason, or may be that they might’ve done… But every time I call them they say “Welcome to TSB phone bank. And…”
Leslie: “This is Maggie speaking. How can I help?”
Luke: “How can I help you with your money, Mr. Thompson?” And it does make me think “Oh, I’m in safe hands here”.
Leslie: All right, yes. It is possibly true. And in fact I think it is true. I do… I do… Possibly, because I’m Scottish, but when I do hear a Scottish voice on the phone, I think “Oh, well, mate, just let’s stop talking about whatever we were talking about. Where’re you from? And how do you doing down here?” It is quite interesting.
Luke: Yes.
Leslie: Another … another er… wonder… I always forget until I go home, and I soon as go home I start saying it is the word “Aye”.
Luke: Um-hm. Right.
Leslie: So we use the word “Aye” all the time when we’re agreeing with somebody.
Luke: All right.
Leslie: So obviously it just means yes. So, “aye”. “Are you going to the pub tonight?” “Aye, I think I will”.
Luke: Right.
Leslie: That’s… it’s, it’s a homely word for me. And as soon as I go home I start saying it.
Luke: It’s a sort of thing you’d see in a kind of … Advertises use it, don’t they, to kind of drop an image like in advertisement for some whiskey or something.
Leslie: Oh, yes.
Luke: “Would you like a wee drop of whiskey?” “Aye, I would”
Leslie: “Och aye”. And that’s another interesting part. The … the sound of “och”
Luke: Och.
Leslie: Now English people find that very hard.
Luke: What does “Oh aye” mean?
Leslie: It just means “Oh, yes!”
Luke: Right.
Leslie: So “Och” just means “yes”.
Luke: There is a cliché, isn’t there, that Scottish people say “Oh aye, the noo”? “Och aye, the noo!” But what does that…? Do people say that in Scotland?
Leslie: No! I’ve never said it in my life and I never will! But it’s just one of these little clichés that has appeared.
Luke: So, and “Och aye” just means “Oh yes”?
Leslie: That’s right, that’s right.
Luke: Ok, ok.
Leslie: So I still keep on saying “och” quite frequently, but I’ve dropped the “aye”, but…
Luke: Yeah, so if I said to you, for example “Oh, it’s a lovely day, isn’t it, today?”
Leslie: Yes, it is, Luke, you’re right! I’ve been here too long, obviously, Luke, it’s time to go home, I think.
Luke: Ok, it’s the English way of saying it.
Leslie: Yeah.
Luke: Ok. Right. I think we’re pretty much done here. It’s very interesting to hear from genuine Scottish person, even someone who spent most of their time in Brazil.
Leslie: Exactly. I fled my home as soon as I could. But no, no… It’s funnily enough though, I do often think about going back to Scotland.
Luke: Yeah.
Leslie: Having been away, and it’s only when you go back, that you see how, how beautiful it is!
Luke: Yeah.
Leslie: I mean if you think how many people actually live in Scotland.
Luke: Hm.
Leslie: The population of the UK is about sixty-five million now or more. And how many people live in Scotland?
Luke: Not many. It’s about ten or fifteen per cent.
Leslie: Five, five million.
Luke: Really?
Leslie: And if you think of the geographical size of the country, it’s not that much smaller than England, but most of it just mountains and sheep.
Luke: I mean, it’s… if you want wilderness in the UK, than Scotland is the place to go.
Leslie: Oh, that’s where you should go, that’s where to go, exactly.
Luke: And you have … you have mountains and you’ve got weather, you’ve got like… the sky is incredible in Scotland.
Leslie: Well, the sky is something to see, but the weather is not our most famous advertisement slogan.
Luke: It’s even more extreme or even more changeable than the English weather.
Leslie: Oh yes!
Luke: People come to London and complain about the weather, but that’s nothing compared to…
Leslie: Put them on a train to Scotland, Luke, and they’ll know what weather is.
Luke: Ok. All right.
Leslie: Good.
Luke: Thank you very much, Leslie. It was …
Leslie: You are very welcome, Luke. It was nice to speak to you.