Choosing Your English Language Holiday in the UK

This blog takes a funny look at a little mistake and warns you of a more serious error you might make when choosing your English immersion holiday in the UK.

Read on for tips about choosing an immersion English holiday – and some cultural immersion too!

As usual, there is a practice exercise for English learners at the end.


A Rude Awakening

Ughhh, it’s happened again.

My early morning Radio 4 slumber disturbed.

Yet again, an international spokesperson referred to the whole UK-wide population, as da da da…

In case you don’t know, the correct term is:

Does it Matter?

I’m sure that you know that the UK is made up of 4 different nations: Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

We are not all ‘English’.

Of course, we have many cultural similarities and political ties, but each nation does have cultural differences that they are proud of.

Individual identities matter (to us) because a large part of the history of our ‘united’ nations is the struggle to keep them.
Did you know it was illegal to speak Gaelic in Scotland from 1616?
Less than 100 years ago children were still beaten into speaking English at school.

 A Forbidden Language

Gaelic was banned as it was the language of conspiracy – of plots again the Crown. Over centuries its spoken traditions were broken apart as thousands of Gaelic speakers were exiled around the world.

Families divided, forever.

It’s not known how many highlanders emigrated (voluntarily or otherwise) at this time but estimates put it at about 70,000.

Whatever the exact figure, it changed the character and culture of the Scottish Highlands forever.

English became the dominant language of Scotland, with ‘dominance’ a loaded term.
99% of our native Scottish population now speak English, with Scotland’s other languages real minorities: Scottish Gaelic (1%) and Scots (30%).


“Ah but you’re taking it all away

The music, the tongue and the old refrains

You’re coming here to play

But you’re pulling the roots from a dying age”

Lyrics, Capercaillie, Waiting for The Wheel to Turn, 1992


OK so far, but surely politically, ‘British’ and ‘English’ mean the same thing?

Actually no. As well as cultural identity, we have a strong political identity.

Since a 1997 referendum, Scotland has had a devolved government making its own laws.
On British matters, 57 MPs represent Scotland in Westminster (currently 47 MPs from the Scottish National Party, 6 from the Conservative Party, 1 from the Labour Party and 4 from the Liberal Democrats).
Of course there are exceptions, but generally speaking Scotland leans a lot further to the left than England.
Since BREXIT, the alliance of our 4 nations under one flag has never looked shakier. Support for the Scottish National Party rocketed after BREXIT, as Scotland voted with a 62% majority to stay in the EU but was forced into leaving anyway.
Who knows what will happen in the future, particularly regarding borders between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement. 
One thing is certain, our ‘United’ Kingdom has identity struggles ahead.
English Learning Holiday in the UK Goodbye Scotland Twitter feed
We loved the ‘Keep The Light On‘ message projected on the European Commission building in Brussels the night BREXIT took effect.

Oh no! I said ‘English’ not ‘British’ to describe people from the UK: How bad a language error is it?

I’m teasing a bit. It’s not too offensive when spoken by non-native speakers as we’re so used to it.  But do be aware that it is culturally sensitive language and mentally update your geographical terms.
If you have made this mistake, you might take some comfort in knowing that it’s not just the rest of the world who do this.

Forget Scotland

Some would argue that even the Westminster (London) government is guilty of forgetting about Scotland too – unless they have a new, unpopular and unfair taxation system they want to test out (like the 1989 Poll Tax). 


Or perhaps they are looking for a handy place to stash a decaying pile of Cold War nuclear submarines (the ‘Nuclear Graveyard’ – just 5 miles from Edinburgh).

Or need to harbour their current fleet of nuclear submarines (Faslane on the River Clyde)…


At Least We Have Weather

Back in the 1980s I complained about the homogenising of the UK to my Northern Irish cousins, who said, well what about us. They pointed and gestured at the weather forecast which was on in the background.


Throughout the 80s, on the weather map, Northern Ireland spent a lot of time masked behind the presenter.

Most often partially appearing behind a shoulder or (as they gestured somewhere in the north of Scotland), the whole country quickly glimpsed under an armpit.

English Learning Holiday in the UK How to choose the right language School English language courses abroad
Michael Fish, Weatherman (rocking the weather map and a tank top)

So is this “the big mistake” you mention?

No, all this is background it to show that if you are considering an English language course abroad — or an English immersion holiday in the UK, it is probably a natural response to think first of learning English in England.

English Isn’t Just England

London is undeniably convenient for travelling to from mainland Europe (as well as a fantastic, exciting city).
Cambridge and Oxford are beautiful. They have a plethora of English language schools all feeding off their cities’ historic reputations as bastions of the English language.
While these three cities may be the most obvious first choices, by far they are not your only options.

Remember the other 3 nations!

The ‘big mistake’ I mentioned is just to search for ‘language schools in England’, not ‘language schools in the UK’ or ‘ ‘English Learning Holiday in the UK’.

The ‘big mistake’ I mentioned is just to search for ‘language schools in England’, not ‘language schools in the UK’ or ‘ ‘English Learning Holiday in the UK’.

But, what about the regional accents? I don’t want to learn Scottish!

It’s really unlikely that an English language learning week or two in one town versus another will discernibly give you the accent of that town (yes, even Oxford and Cambridge).
You’ll not be scarred, or set back in any way around regional accents.

Firstly, and language school worth its salt will have teachers who speak clearly (whether they have a regional accent or not) and know how best to help you develop your oral and spoken language skills.

Outside of class, language practice with local people with regional accents is a really good thing!

It’s what real-life English is. London, Oxford and Cambridge are diverse, multi-lingual metropolises,

Statistically have more native speakers around you if you travel a less-beaten path touristic path.
So update your Google search terms: you really can go ANYWHERE in the UK to learn English (and of course to Ireland, North America and many, many more countries worldwide).
Try searching for language schools in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and compare the courses, class sizes, methods, prices, activities or anything else important to you.
Take all the ‘hometown/homeland of the English language marketing rhetoric with a pinch of salt.

You really don’t need to be anywhere near where Shakespeare once trod to learn contemporary English language skills!

Your English Language Challenge

We hope you’ve enjoyed our introduction to choosing an English language learning holiday in the UK. We cover a broad range of topics in our blogs – some a lighthearted look at Scotland, others an in-depth look at art and culture. There’s something for everyone.

If you’ve liked this blog, you might want to find out more about the Highland Clearances, I mentioned. We have a blog about it: 


Glen Quaich | Learn English in Perthshire


Your Blue Noun English Language Challenge is:

Use the comment section below to tell us about: an aspect of your countries culture that you love.

Write as much as you like, and if you would like us to check &  correct your English, write CP  (correct please) at the end.


Live language learning!


“tell us about an aspect of your countries culture that you love.”