Posted on August 19th, 2018
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
We’ve had occasion to post articles about language snobbery on this site before, but it remains a constant problem. Whether it is people being told to alter their accent if they want to have a job, or people complaining about Gaelic road signs, you can hear such comments all too frequently.
In the past week or so, there has been another variant on this, with Unionist politicians complaining that the Gaelic language continues to receive support from the Scottish Government while the study of modern foreign languages is in decline in Scottish schools. The numbers of pupils sitting exams in modern foreign languages as dropped dramatically and, as you would expect, the Scottish Government is being blamed, with one of the reasons cited being that it puts too much emphasis on Gaelic.
Of course, this is a typical #SNPBad claim since a look south of the border reveals that the number of pupils sitting A levels in modern foreign languages has plummeted despite the UK Government having no truck with Gaelic. The problem is, therefore, nothing to do with support for Gaelic in Scotland.
So what is the problem? It would be easy to blame Brexit, but this would be a mistake since pupils sitting Higher exams in Scotland and A levels in England must have been studying their chosen modern language for four or five years at least. This suggests the decline began long before Brexit was an issue, although there is no doubt that the xenophobia behind it certainly won’t help improve the situation.
Whatever the cause, let’s hope that Scottish pupils soon have more reasons to want to learn a foreign language and that we can alter the typically British attitude that there is no need to learn any other languages since foreigners all speak English anyway. That’s the sort of thinking that helps bolster the Brexit narrative.
As for the current wave of criticism, it would be nice if educationalists were consulted on the issue rather than people simply pointing fingers and shouting, “Gaelic Bad!". If there is a problem, let’s address it by seeking out the genuine causes.