Happy New Year’s Eve or should I say Happy Hogmanay!

Why do we say “Happy Hogmanay” in Scotland?

As l’m from Glasgow l have many fond memories of Hogmanay, my grandmother sitting on the sofa snoring as we wait for “the bells”, traditional Scottish folk music with Highland dancing on the television and a coffee table full of fruit loaf, black bun, mince pies, nuts and various other assortments. As the clock struck 12:00 midnight the TV changed to Edinburgh Castle where Mons Meg (A cannon from 1449) is fired, the Champagne glasses are filled and swiftly emptied and off we go to “first foot” to my aunts house. Not once did l ever stop to think, why do we call it Hogmanay in Scotland when the rest of the world calls it New Year’s Eve (in English speaking areas)?

Apart from the fact that we Scots like to be difficult and different, the etymology of Hogmanay is diverse and somewhat debatable. We must, however, realise that the etymology of the name and the traditions are separate creatures from different pasts.

The word Hogmanay has various different roots, all are plausible but there is not one which can claim to be the legitimate source, however, l personally follow the belief that it comes from Norman French hoguinané, a derivative of the Middle French word aguillanneuf (to give a gift at New Year’s, ask for a gift or simply meaning “New Year’s). This ties in nicely with our Scottish tradition of “first footing”, it is tradition in Scotland (after hearing the bells chime) to visit a close family member or important friend. You are the first person to enter into their house and you should bring gifts, some coal, cake and “Uisge Beatha” (Gaelic for “water of life”) otherwise known in English as whisky.

In Scotland the 2nd of January is also a holiday, l presume to rest and overcome the effects of the “water of life”!

Multiple intellegences.

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has revolutionised thinking in education, opening up learning to students who, in the past, would have been ‘labeled’ as stupid, strange or ‘thick’. We now understand that these student are as intelligent (if not more so) that the rest. Thanks to Gardner’s theory we understand that these students learn by different intelligences and that it is the teachers responsibility to ensure that the student learns in a way which makes sense to them, allowing them to achieve their goals and reach their potential.


Catholic education in Scotland, leave it alone!

As those of you who know me are fully aware, l’m Scottish and damn proud of it! However, first and foremost l am a Roman Catholic. I also happen to be a teacher, just not in Scotland!

Born in Glasgow and educated as a Catholic by my father and my mother (who is not a Catholic l may add) l attended one of Scotland’s greatest schools, St Ninian’s High School in Giffnock. 

Note that l said ‘Scotland’s’ greatest and not ‘one of the best Catholic schools’. We are a minority in our own country, with a long yet difficult history of integration. Our schools teach us values, morals and ethics. These may be Catholic but they are universal to those of faith and those of none. Our schools are a success story of an impoverished, marginalized minority who have worked hard to become an important part in society and for society, at the service of others.

Every few years those troglodytes who still wish for a sectarian state attack our Roman Catholic schools, luckily to no avail. Their accusations turn out to be unfounded and unjust. Their accusation that our schools foster sectarianism has been proven over and over again to be untrue (although it usually is their own bigotry and sectarian views which are behind their very own accusations of our schools). 

Now l read this article, after exhausting all avenues of attack against our schools, after every accusation has been rebuffed they now turn to this tactic. Read for yourself what tactic it is, all l have to say is that it reminds me of China and their state control of religious freedom.

We are Roman Catholics, we are proud, united and strong. Leave our schools alone.


Europe, a waste of money?

While many people all across Europe cannot pay their bills, feed their children or heat their homes this is just what we need… another EU building, another waste of money. 

Click here to see Another pointless EU building on the BBC.

What is the best language strategy for bilingual children?

The great bilingual language paradigm! The correct way to raise a bilingual child? How should we do this? These are all problems, fears and questions about raising a child in a bilingual environment. Here l want to have a look at one main approach.

One parent one language approach (OPOL): This has been the dominant approach for bilingual learning at home since the early 1900s. It was first mentioned by Maurice Grammont. It is simple in its application yet it requires a high level of consistency on behalf of the parents. This method requires that each parent selects a language and will only speak to their child in their chosen target language. This is probably the best choice for families where there is no clear common target language between the parents. Using my family as an example: we have chosen the OPOL approach, l am from the UK and my wife is Spanish. We live in Spain and my wife does not dominate English. Therefore the logical choice is the OPOL approach, l will speak only in English to my daughter and my wife will speak only in Spanish.

Annick De Houwer  has suggested that OPOL can help with an early development of metalinguistic awareness. In this metalinguistic awareness the child develops the ability to note that language is much more than just symbols, an awareness that words are can be separable from their referents (for example l am “dad” but if someone calls me John, l will still be dad to my daughter, meaning resides in the mind not in the words themselves). The metalinguistic awareness that language is a living being, it can evolve, change and be manipulated by the user to fit their requirements and aid in communication.

So far all of the areas seem positive, however, it is not so. There are various disadvantages to OPOL. The intention of OPOL is to enable simultaneous bilingualism converting both languages into L1, however, if (as in my case) l am the only source of English there is a severe risk of language attrition. Also if (as it is in my case) one of the parents is monolingual then l have to communicate with my wife in her selected language, my daughter could understand this as a hierarchy of languages and she could downgrade English almost to the level of L2.