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English with a Scottish accent… is it difficult to understand?

Posted by IH Aberdeen on 9th March 2015
English with a Scottish accent… is it difficult to understand?

One of the most common questions that new students ask at IH Aberdeen is ‘Will my teacher speak standard or Scottish English?’ It seems to be a common perception for students when they are choosing a place to study... that the Scottish accent is difficult to understand. But is this really true?

Is the Scottish accent really so different?

One amazing thing about the UK, is that for such a small country, we have so many different accents!

Every UK city has an accent and its own dialect, words and expressions. Some people will speak more standard English and some will speak in dialect. And Scotland is no different.

The Scottish accent is Friendly

In fact, in a recent survey of the UK’s favourite accents, the Scottish accent featured twice in the top 10!

The number one favourite accent is ‘Received Pronunciation’, which is the classic standard English, also known as the ‘Queen’s English’.

However, in second place, was the Edinburgh accent, said to be associated with ‘culture and intelligence’. Australian, Irish and Yorkshire accents made up the rest of the top 5. But the Glasgow accent featured at number 9, which means there are 2 Scottish accents in the top 10!

London and South East English accents did not feature in the top 10 at all…

Also, a recent customer survey rated Scottish accent as second most appealing, with customers thinking it is a ‘friendly’ accent.

So is the Scottish accent difficult for students? Who better to ask than our students!

Carmen Muller, Switzerland

'In my opinion the Scottish accent is not more difficult to understand than others, especially in Aberdeen. I had more difficulty understanding people in other cities. Furthermore, teachers and host families will speak        extra clearly or adapt their speed. As long as you know that ‘wee’ in Scotland means ‘small’, you’ll be fine!'


Karoline Pachinger, Austria

'Before I came to Aberdeen I was afraid of the Scottish accent. Would I be able to communicate with the natives?

The answer is: it’s no problem at all! The Scottish accent is very easy to understand.

I can say from my own experience that the Scottish accent is easier to understand than the one spoken in London. My host father was born in London and there are more communication barriers between us, than to the Scottish natives.

There was only one case when I wasn’t able to understand a native. It was a bus driver. The reason was that he spoke in real Scots dialect, which is only spoken by a small percentage of Scotland’s population.

So don’t worry and let yourself be enchanted by the beautiful Scottish landscape and their lovely inhabitants!'


Kamar Balgabayeva, Kazakhstan

'I don’t have difficulty to understand Scottish accent in communication with native Scottish people,  in the shopping centre and public transport. In comparison with London it’s easier to understand Scottish people. London people have a mixture of accents and it’s not really clear or original.'


Carmen Munoz, Spain

'It could be a problem at first but the advantage is that if you understand a Scottish person, you will be able to understand all accents! It doesn’t take a lot of time to get used to the Scottish accent.'


Paulina Jozefczyk-Kocjan, Poland

'The Scottish accent is definitely not a problem for students studying in Scotland. You can communicate with everyone and understand him. You can speak with everyone here using standard English language, because the fact is that their language is English indeed!

Every part of the UK has its specific words, which people use there, and that’s normal in every part of the planet! You will learn these words in one month of being there.' 

So now you know... Scottish people speak English just as well as everybody else! 


To find out more about studying English at IH Aberdeen, email us on info@ihaberdeen.com, or call on +44 (0)1224 634006

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