FANCY learning a spot of Doric? Furry boots? Aiberdeen Varsity.

It's better known for its schools of medicine, law or international relations. But now one of Scotland's ancient seats of learning has launched evening classes in a language many of its scholars have derided: north-east Scots.

Aberdeen University's Elphinstone Institute has devised 10-week workshops in Doric, to help both locals and newcomers to the region learn to speak - and more importantly - write in the mither leid.

The Institute's Alistair Heather said: “Recent figures show that the Scots language - which includes Doric - is spoken by around half of the entire population of the north-east and used by 1.5 million people across Scotland.

"As the largest minority language in Europe, Scots is experiencing a real boost with so many new works and new translations into the tongue.

"Whilst north-east Scots can be heard throughout the region, and can often been seen in signage or adverts, people seldom get the chance to learn it as a written language."

Mr Heather writes in north-east Scots himself including features for The Herald and a column for our sister paper The National. But he is still encountering some readers - including fluent or regular speakers of Scots - who find it strange to see what is normally a spoken dialect written down.

The workshops, which begin in September, are not just aimed to help people find ways to put their language down on paper. Mr Heather said the courses would also help speakers improve their fluency and range of expression and learn a little about history.

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He said: "The workshops will focus on how people can use the language in their daily lives, and by the end of the first block of workshops they will have sent a tweet, made a Facebook post, some verse and even a letter to the press in north-east Scots!

"It will also invite newer arrivals to Scotland and the north-east to take a chance to learn and understand the speech and literary traditions of their new hame. Language can be the key to unlock the culture of the north-east and to help new arrivals settle in to the area."

Social media has thrust all the dialects of Scots in to the public sphere with people tweeting or Facebooking as they speak, rather than as they were taught to write at school. However, there is a large corpus of historic and modern literature in the language which can be studied too.

North-east Scots is routinely referred to as Doric - even by its speakers - despite the term's derogatory background.

The Herald:

Alistair Heather

Until last century all Scots dialects, including those of the central belt, and Northumbrian were called Doric in what was thought to be a joking reference to an ancient Greek language.

Athenians - or Attics - considered the speech or Dorians, Doric, to be rougher than their refined dialect.

Several parts of the North-East have the among the highest prevalence of Scots speakers, with 49 per cent of the population of Aberdeenshire saying they know the language. Knowledge of Scots falls in Edinburgh. The last census showed more than 311,000 of its 460,000 inhabitants of the Athens of the North could not understand, speak, read or write in Doric or any other Scots dialect.

For Herald features in Scots, by Alistair Heather, click here