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…

FYI the correct term is:

Why does it matter anyway?

I’m sure that you know that the UK is made up of 4 different nations: Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Of course we have many cultural similarities and political ties, but each nation does have cultural differences that we 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.
Gaelic was banned as it was the language of conspiracy – of plots again the Crown: over centuries it’s spoken traditions were broken apart as thousands of Gaelic speakers were exiled all over the world: families forever divided.
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.
“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
99% of our native Scottish population now speak English, with Scotland’s other languages real minorities: Scottish Gaelic (1%) and Scots (30%).

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?

It’s not too offensive when spoken by non-native speakers as we’re so used to it – be do be aware that it is culturally sensitive language: mentally update your language knowledge.
You might take some comfort in knowing that it’s not just the rest of the world who make this mistake – 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 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)…
In the 1980s I complained about the homogenising of the UK to my Northern Irish cousins, who said, well what about us 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 courses abroad and considering an English Learning Holiday in the UK it is probably a natural response to think first of learning English in England: London is undeniably convenient for travelling to from mainland Europe (as well as a fantastic, exciting city). Cambridge and Oxford are beautiful – and have a plethora of English language schools all feeding off their cities’ historic reputations as untouchable 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‘.

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 by practicing English around regional accents – quite the opposite in fact.
Any 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 – and as London, Oxford and Cambridge are diverse, multi-lingual metropolises you actually 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 in your pursuit of your ideal English Language holiday)*. Try searching for language schools in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and compare the courses, the class sizes, prices, activities or anything else important to you – and 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!
While it is still not (and never will be) correct to call us ‘English’, the Welsh, Scottish and Irish ways of speaking and teaching English are perfectly fine too.
Live language learning!
*I mean, we’re obviously going to argue for Scotland – and in particular for Blue Noun English Language School (Crieff, Perthshire).

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 read our funny article on how to make the most of a trip to Scotland here.

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.”

Blue Noun are a small, alternative and independent English Language School in Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland. We specialise in helping international professionals across all creative industries, develop spoken language skills and fluency through a personalised immersive language holiday.

Our small teaching team coach you in a mini-group (maximum 4 learners) in the mornings and take you on a schedule of tours, introductions, guest presentations and complementary activities each afternoon: we also have social events in the evening. It’s all designed to be both an introduction to Scottish and British culture and a fun, creative way to pick up and practice English language skills.