Jack Capener: ‘More folk than ever are engaging with Scots’

This week we’re delighted to welcome Jack Capener to The Scots Curator. Jack is a founder of Oor Vyce, an exciting new initiative campaigning for the official recognition of the Scots language. Ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May, Oor Vyce are calling for candidates to sign up to a Scots Pledge to help promote and protect the language.

In this interview, Jack tells us how social media has led to a new generation of young people engaging with with this important but previously overlooked minority language. He also offers some fantastic advice for anyone wanting to find out more about speaking or writing in Scots.

Oor Vyce appears to be going from strength to strength. Can you tell us why it was set up?

Oor Vyce is all about trying to achieve proper legislative action to recognise, protect, and promote Scots and deliver some form of equity between Scots and Scotland’s other languages. The situation regarding Scots is definitely better than it was a decade ago, but it still suffers from stigmatisation and a patchy approach to language policy. Far too much of what’s keeping the language alive depends on volunteers and enthusiasts, so Oor Vyce is working to link up all these various disparate volunteers and groups to use our voice as a community to call for coordinated, national action. So far, we’ve gotten a huge amount of support, with a membership well into the hundreds and partnerships with Scots organisations across the country. Language rights are human rights, and that’s something a lot of folk can really get behind!

You’ve set up a Scots Pledge ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May. Why did you decide to go down this route?

We launched the #Scotspledge campaign to ask candidates in the coming election to pledge to, if elected in May, recognise Scots as a legitimate living language, raise its profile through their parliamentary work, and call for legislative action to better protect and promote Scots. It’s the second most spoken language in Scotland, yet it’s been strangely absent from our politics – so we want to make sure that the next parliament is a Scots-supporting one, with a big chunk of its MSPs explicitly pledging to support the language. You can ask your candidates to support the pledge on Oor Vyce’s website!

Does it feel like this an exciting time for the Scots language? Is there a new ‘revival’ coming through with the younger generation?

Absolutely. More folk than ever are engaging with Scots, to the extent that what’s happening at the moment has been characterised as a ‘Scots Language Renaissance’. I think the reason for this is quite simple – the more that folk are exposed to Scots, the more they want to engage with it. Social media has definitely played a role in this, by creating a space where Scots-speaking communities can thrive and blether away freely. That’s why it’s so important that Scots is more visible, whether in the media or in education.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to explore the Scots language but may not be sure where to start?

There are some fantastic resources out there. If you’re looking for learning materials, there’s an abundance of resources on the Scots Language Centre website, or if you’re wanting a crash course in the history and social context of the language I can’t recommend Billy Kay’s ‘Scots: the Mither Tongue’ highly enough. But the best piece of advice I can give is to use your Scots! Whether you feel like you have no Scots at all or had some in the past that you’ve lost, start small by dropping wee Scots words into your speech and build it up gradually, only doing as much as you feel comfortable and confident with. The more you engage with Scots through reading or having a blether with other speakers, the more words you’ll pick up, so be patient with it. Then, when you feel more confident, start pushing boundaries – try to use Scots in situations where you might not have done before, like formal situations. The only way we can break stigmas against Scots is by being trailblazers! Haud gaun!

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