1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. Ted Talk on default language …


Ted Talk on default language and language education- "Wi'r needin tae talk aboot wir language"


The man presenting is talking in his a Scottish English dialect (with some traces of his native Scots) about how the mind works in the language we grew up with and the language education in a society. If you have trouble understanding him for some reason, there are subtitles in the Closed Captions option, but most fluent or native English speakers should understand him fine. (Video is 15 minutes in length).

How do you think the message of this talk is affected by the fact he talks in his native language (or dialect, depending on how you identify Scots)? How would it be less or differently affected if he were to talk in standard English? What do you think about language education affecting dialects and ways of speaking? Is it harmful or beneficial, and why? Should we document all or many dialects of any given language to create a more flexible standard?

June 20, 2017



I love this talk, and I love Scots.

On the subject of Scots being a dialect or a language, I'm firmly on the side of 'language'. Modern English derives from (among other things) the Wessex dialect of Old English, Norman French and Old Norse. Scots derives from the Northumbrian dialect, Old Norse and Gaelic.

English and Scots are as similar and as mutually intelligible as Swedish and Norwegian, and each deserves the title of 'language' as much as each of those members of the North Germanic dialect continuum does. Labeling Scots a dialect is an extension of the attitudes the English teachers displayed toward it when the speaker was at school.

As a final word, both Westminster and Holyrood recognise Scots as a language, so there isn't really an argument to be made.

"What do you think about language education affecting dialects and ways of speaking?"

I think that standards are useful in aiding ease of communication within a society, and also as tools to help learners. I'm also a firm believer in being able to express oneself in one's dialect when speaking- look at Norway, where the standards are only written, not spoken. Even politicians take the stage using their local dialects, unlike in the UK where the best we ever see is a heavily-accented Standard British English.

I'd be ecstatic if a British politician from Derbyshire stood up in parliament and greeted the House with 'Ayup you lot. Thareet?'


The man delivers the vast majority of his speech in tolerably standard English with a Scottish accent; had he delivered the whole thing in Doric then it would have been very much more difficult to understand by anyone from the rest of the English-speaking world. He certainly throws in a number of Scots words for effect, but the lecture is in English.
So, in this youtube video, he is, himself, demonstrating the whole point of having a standard taught in schools; had he not been made to learn all those words from the tobacco tin then he wouldn't have been able to make such a speech on youtube to a worldwide audience!

Here's an old woman speaking Doric naturally and spontaneously, by way of contrast. I have no clue what she's saying...


Didn't know that. Americans in general tend to be rather oblivious about that sort of thing. Everyone I've talked to in real life had no idea Scots and Scottish English were two totally different tongues. I'll edit the post accordingly, thank you for the clarification. :)

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.