Thursday, 5 July 2012


I have recently taught my students countries and nationalities and I was surprised to see how confused they were about the fact that people who live in Scotland are Scottish but they are not English! Scotland is a nation that forms part of a bigger country: the United Kingdom.

In fact, the correct name of the country is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it is formed by four nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain

Great Britain is the name of the biggest island in the archipelago of the British Isles, formed also by Ireland and many other smaller isles.  

The British Isles

Great Britain is divided into three nations: England, Scotland and Wales.
  • England is the largest territory and the most populated in the country. Its capital is London and people there speak English. The National Day is St. George’s Day (April 23rd).

    England flag
    Coat of arms
    Emblem: England

  • Scotland ies to the north of England, and is part of the United Kingdom since the Acts of Union of 1707. It is not so densely populated as England. It’s capital is Edinburgh. The official language is English, but most people also speak Scots, which is a language derived from English, and only 1.5 % of the population speak Scottish Gaelic, which is a Celtic language. The National Day is St. Andrew’s day (November 30th)

Scotland flag
Coat of arms
Emblem: Thistle

  • Wales lies to the west of England. It was conquered by king Edward I of England in the 13th century. It’s capital is Cardiff. The Welsh speak English and Welsh, which is a Celtic language.  The National Day is St. David’s Day (March 1st).

Wales flag
Coat of arms
Emblems: leek and daffodil

The second biggest island, Ireland, is divided in two:
  • The Republic of Ireland or Eire, which is an independent country since 1922, so it is not part of the United Kingdom. Its capital is Dublin, and people speak English and Irish, which is a Celtic language.
  • Northern Ireland or Ulster is the smaller territory that lies in the northeast of the island of Ireland. Its capital is Belfast and people speak English and Irish. The National Day is St. Patrick’s Day (March, 17th)

St. Patrick's flag (Northern Ireland)
Republic of Irleand  flag
Emblem: shamrock

We have seen the flags of all the territories that conform the United Kingdom, but as a country, it also has a flag: the Union Jack, which is formed by the union of the flags of England, Scotland and Ireland, as you can see in the following video.

The Welsh flag is not included in the Union Jack because Wales was part of England long before the United Kingdom was born.

Finally, let’s check how much we have learnt about the UK today with the following test. By the way, the acronym UK stands for United Kingdom. Type your first name to start.

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