What have the Scots done for us (or why should you come to Scotland to learn English)?


It is argued, and not just by the Scots, that Scotland has made a greater contribution to the modern world than almost any other country. However, many study travel agents tell us, that, for example, the vast majority of people in many different countries don’t know much about Scotland. Yet everyone in the world knows what a television is, and television was invented by a Scot (John Logie Baird). Similarly, many people live in cities full of people who travel by bicycle, which was again invented by a Scot (Kirkpatrick McMillan). And virtually everyone in every country regularly uses a telephone, also invented by a Scot (Alexander Graham Bell).

Where would the world be without the Scots? Would there have been an Industrial Revolution? Arguably the most important person in that revolution was Scot James Watt, who pioneered and improved the steam engine that powered Britain to become the ‘Workshop of the World’ in the 19th century. How would we be able to drive along modern roads, or land on the ‘tarmac’ at airports across the world, if it hadn’t been invented by John McAdam, the Scottish engineer from whom tarmacadam takes its name? Not to mention (although we just have) the modern rubber tyre (invented by a Scot, John Dunlop) upon which all cars (and airplanes when they land!) keep in contact with the tarmac road surface!

We all know James Bond, the most famous fictional spy in the world. And the actor who is most associated with the role is Sir Sean Connery, born in Edinburgh, as was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author and creator of the world’s most famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes (there is a statue of Doyle in the street where he was born, not far from where we have our Global School of English).

We could go on and on. The toaster, penicillin, the electric clock and the fax machine, neo-classical economics, the American Navy, logarithms, beta-blockers, the steam-boat, the adhesive postage stamp, the thermos flask, even the Bank of England – all these and many more were invented/founded by a Scot.

So the next time a student asks where they should go to study English, why not suggest they set off on a voyage of discovery to Scotland!

Andrew Lennox, President, Global School of English

Scottie, the kilt and the bagpipes (part 1)

It’s a subject of great interest to many of the students who come to study with us here in Scotland why some Scotsmen wear what appears to be a woman’s skirt or dress. In most of Europe and North America only women wear skirts. However, in Africa, India and indeed parts of Europe and Asia, male “skirts”, in the form of a length of material, sometimes called a sarong, a veshti or mundu, are often worn. So why do we do it here?

Scottie, as you may know, is one of the Schools’ mascots. He wears a kilt. In fact, he wears traditional “Highland Dress”, the combination of kilt, sporran, jacket, feather bonnet (hat), socks and shoes recognised across the world as “Scottish”. How Scottie – and the Scots – began to wear the kilt is a very interesting story…

The history of the kilt in Scotland goes back to the seventeenth century at least. Originally, it was a much bigger garment than the modern kilt. This “great kilt” was also called a “plaid”, and consisted of a large, woollen cloak which could be wrapped around the body. It was worn mainly in the Highlands – the northern, mountainous part of Scotland.

Nowadays, everyone associates the kilt with tartan cloth, with each different tartan identified with a family or “Clan”. However, in the earlier centuries different patterns (tartans) of cloth were associated with a region, not a Clan or family grouping. These ancient tartans were not really like the modern, more colourful tartans (like the one on Scottie’s kilt), which are a much more recent invention.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the modern, shorter kilt evolved from the “great kilt”. Many people are surprised to discover that the modern kilt was invented by an Englishman, not a Scotsman! His name was Thomas Rawlinson and he came up with the idea of a shorter kilt in 1728 when he was living and working near Inverness. This new kilt was much easier to work in and soon became popular.

The Scots who lived in the lowland areas of the country began to wear the ‘short’ kilt and in the nineteenth century Queen Victoria, who loved coming to Scotland, helped make it even more popular by dressing her sons in it when they came to stay at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire in the summer.

It was also in the nineteenth century that modern tartans – and their association with different Clans – began. Many people refer to this as the “Balmoralisation” of tartans, because the British royal family was very keen on Scottish culture and when they came to Balmoral Castle encouraged the wearing of “Highland Dress” amongst the Scottish gentry (the rich men who owned most of the land) and their families.

We’re not sure if Scottie is a member of the gentry or not, but he does look very smart in his kilt! If you haven’t been to Scotland before, it’s important to tell you that we don’t wear kilts all the time (unless we’re playing the bagpipes!), but when you do come to study in Scotland, with any of our three Schools of English, you will see people wearing kilts and also hear the bagpipes.   We’ll tell you a bit more about Scottie’s kilt, and about his bagpipes, in our next article.

From Brazil to Belgium, our English language students all have one thing in common!

Matheus Barros and Elisabeth Dewulf (pictured here with Scottie, the School mascot) come from two very different countries. Matheus is from Brazil, specifically the north of Brazil (where he says there are two seasons – summer and summer!), while Elisabeth is from Belgium. They also have very different backgrounds: Matheus has a degree in music and is involved in teaching music, while Elisabeth is a law graduate, with a Masters from Louvain La Neuve, who, after her course at Global School of English, is going on to a legal internship with the National Trust of Scotland.

They were amongst the friendliest, nicest students we’ve met (and they are all pretty good!) so it was a real pleasure to chat with them about Scotland, Edinburgh and Global School.

Both of them ‘found’ the School on Google, while exploring possible places to study. Elisabeth said she specifically searched for Edinburgh because she wanted to come here and not London, while Matheus had already been to Scotland (and London) five years ago, travelling with other musicians and playing in churches and other venues across the country.

EAch, said that one of the best things about coming to Scotland is the friendliness of the people and that it is such a safe country. They agreed that the small size of the city of Edinburgh is a benefit, especially compared to the vastness of London. They also agreed that the School was really good. Matheus, when asked to name the one best thing about the School got really carried away, saying “the teachers, the price, the atmosphere in the classes, the social activities, everything!” Elisabeth agreed with all that, but added “the way they teach you is very good. The classes are not too big, so the teachers have time to spend with you individually and help you practise speaking.”

Both Elisabeth and Matheus have travelled around Scotland during their time with Global School. Elisabeth has visited St Andrews (the home of golf), Perth (and nearby Scone Palace, close to the site where Scottish kings were crowned many centuries ago), but she really likes Edinburgh. She confessed that when she was younger she read all the Harry Potter books so it was great to go and see the café where J K Rowling began to write these stories!

Elisabeth, like Matheus, enjoys music, playing the flute and singing when she was younger, and she also was a keen fencer (sword-fighter) at school but is now an enthusiastic hockey player.

Matheus, as you would expect, is really into his music and enjoys the blues, samba and R’n’B. Being Brazilian, he has to like football, but he says that he prefers cycling for exercise.

Overall, both would really recommend Global School of English. If you are looking for a very friendly place to learn English, then why not come to Edinburgh and find out just why Elisabeth and Matheus enjoyed themselves so much here?

Two great things about Scotland – the people and the public transport!

Alessandro and Brunella (seen above with Scottie, the school mascot!) are from the beautiful Italian city of Naples. They have been studying at Global School of English for a few months now and recently were kind enough to take some time to chat about how they are finding life in Scotland and at the School.

I began by asking them why had they chosen to come to Scotland.

Brunella said that they had read about Scotland on the web and felt that they would be comfortable here and enjoy it. Alessandro said that they hadn’t seriously considered going anywhere else in the UK to study. One of the attractions of Edinburgh in particular was that it is very different from Naples.

Brunella said they really enjoy living here. I then asked what was the one thing that had surprised them both about Edinburgh. That was easy – they both agreed that they were pleasantly surprised by how friendly the people are here and also by how good the public transport is in the city.   We then had a laugh about how this compares to Naples, where, famously, driving around the city in a car can be very exciting indeed!

They are keen on cooking from scratch and have found no problem getting all the fresh ingredients they need here, but did say that the diet in Scotland is very different from what they were used to at home. However, they had both tried and enjoyed two Scottish ‘delicacies” – haggis, our famous national dish, and Scotch eggs, which are hard-boiled eggs, wrapped in sausage meat, covered in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. Eaten hot or cold, they are very tasty.

One thing which Brunella mentioned that was very interesting (and true) is that she found that reading recipes and cooking instructions on food she’s bought in the supermarkets here has helped her considerably to improve her English.

She has a degree in Spanish and Arabic, and she studied English at school in Italy, so she is clearly good at picking up languages. Alessandro had not studied English at school, but had done so at university in Naples, and his English too was very good.

When asked about the School, they both said that it was really good. “It’s fantastic – I really like my teacher,” said Brunella, and Alessandro agreed, explaining how the teachers “don’t just teach English but also often accompany students on activities and trips and tell you about Edinburgh and Scottish history.” He also praised Helen, who is the ‘go-to’ person for all students with almost every query you can imagine!

Finally, we talked about the entertainments, sport and leisure activities in Edinburgh. They have visited most of the monuments and galleries, and Edinburgh Castle of course, and have also seen Scottish football (not as good as Napoli, their local team, they said!) and international rugby on the television here. They enjoy other sports – Alessandro has a lot of experience in Tae Kwon Do, while Brunella enjoys going to the gym. Overall, they are really enjoying their experience here in Scotland and their English has improved considerably as a result of attending Global School.