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Speak like a local!

Scottich Gaelic is a Celtic language, related very closely to Irish Gaelic, spoken in the South and West of Ireland. It is also related, although not as closely, to the Gaelic languages spoken in Wales, Brittany in France and the Isle of Man.The term "Scots" was applied to settlers coming directly from Ireland fifteen hundred years ago.

At the closest point between Scotland and Northern Ireland, the distance across the sea measures around twenty five miles! While this explains the closeness of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, it also explains why the Scottish version is only spoken in the highlands and islands of the North West of the country.

For the rest of Scotland, which means the majority of the population, the Gaelic language is not used or understood. The language is English, however, it is an English thick with accent and rich in dialect which belies its heritage and influences from other languages.

The beautiful hills and pastures of Southern Scotland gave rise to several great literary figures, Sir Walter Scott and, of course, Robbie Burns are among them. While Sir Walter Scott stirred up the Scottish soul with romantic images of Scotland and its proud history, it was Burns who was inspired to use the dialect of the South for his poetry.

Try your hand at the following Burn's poem. We hope your tongue doesn't get tied in knots. Maybe if you learn this off by heart, you'll be taken for a local when you visit the beauty of the Scottish Borders for yourself!

Fortunately for you, we've only printed about a tenth of the entire poem. If you would like to find out more about what it means, or where you can find the entire text, there's a link at the bottom!

Robert Burns
Tam O'Shanter

When chapman billies leave the street,
And drouthy neebors neebors meet,
As market-days are wearing late,
And folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit bousin, at the nappy,
And gettin fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps, and stiles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Whare sits our sulky, sullen dame,
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter:
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses,
For honest men and bonie lasses.)

O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise
As taen thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A bletherin, blusterin, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was na sober;
That ilka melder wi' the miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That ev'ry naig was ca'd a shoe on,
The smith and thee gat roarin fou on;
That at the Lord's house, ev'n on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday.
She prophesied, that, late or soon,
Thou would be found deep drown'd in Doon;
Ot catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk,
By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.

Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthen'd sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises!

Congratulations if you made it this far! If you'd like find out more of the meaning, or see the whole poem (are you really sure, now?), then we've found an informative site at

If you'd like to enjoy more poems like this from the whole of the Britsh Isles from past to present, we can't recommend more highly "The Nation's Favorite Poems" published by BBC Worldwide Ltd.


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