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The School of British Accents — Learn The Scottish Accent

Scottish English makes a strong case for being one of the coolest accents in the UK, but mastering the accent is no walk in the park! Here's how you can sound like a bonafide Scot!

What exactly do we mean by "Scottish English"?

Scottish English – isn’t that just Gaelic? No, actually! Before we look at the Scottish accent in more detail, let’s take a little trip through the linguistic history of Scotland. First, there was Gaelic, the ancient language of the Celts. In around 1500 there was a geographic shift, and Gaelic became mostly confined to the Highlands; whilst in the Lowlands, a different language began to develop distinct from Gaelic – Scots! (No, still not quite Scottish English…) In the Lowlands, Scots mixed with Standard English (both mutually influencing each other), and in the 18th century, Scottish English was born! Scottish English can best be summed up as being an accent that is the perfect combination of Gaelic roots, Scots phonology and an English lexicon. And, linguistically speaking, the fact that Scottish English only developed three centuries ago makes this accent one of the "newest" accents in the British Isles!

What should I look out for with Scottish English?

Having come from the Celts, it’s not surprising that the Scottish accent shares some similarities with Welsh English; for example, the slight trill of the “r" which is apparent in both accents. Another throwback to Gaelic is in phonology, where the “o" sound in Standard English is often pronounced with an “ae" sound instead. And, looking at Gaelic, you’ll see that the vowel combination “ae" is very common. Take for example the word "cannot" in Standard English. – In Scottish English, the "t" is swallowed, and the "o" sound changes to "ae", becoming "cannae".

Another distinctive feature is the glottal stop – the blocking of the airway to pronounce the letter “t" (though, in Scottish English the letter “t" seems to be swallowed by the glottal stop entirely). For example, “glottal" would become “glo’al". Listen to the sentence from the video again: ‘I cannae do it.’ Not only does the "t" at the end of "cannot" get swallowed, but "it" also has that distinctive glottal stop after the vowel sound, so you don’t actually hear the letter "t" in the sentence at all! Master those three big phonological differences from Standard English, and you’ll be well on your way to speaking Scottish English.

Which famous Scots can I imitate?

Attempting to mimic the Scottish English accent can be very difficult for non-Brits, so we recommend listening to famous Scots in order to learn exactly how to master the Scottish tones. Luckily for you, when it comes to famous Scots, there’s an embarrassment of riches of Scottish sports stars, film stars and other celebrities whom you can listen to! For a dash of classy Scottish, look no further than the actor Ewan McGregor. Or, if you’re looking to emulate a version of Scottish English that would help you blend into a city such as Glasgow, then watching celebrated Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly should be your first port of call the next time you’re on Youtube.

The first step to perfecting your Scottish English is to brush up on your English first! (With Babbel of course)

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