Sufficient knowledge of the English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic language, not.

It is no secret that I have aspirations to naturalise as a British Citizen in the near future. I’ve lived in the UK for the past 8 years, and apart from my family back in Germany my life is pretty much based here. Also, I like it here, and I’d like to stay.

One of the things you have to do to get naturalised in the UK, apart from paying a rediculously extortionate fee, is to satisfy what is known as Sufficient Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK (KoLL). This requirement is based on the British Nationality Act 1981, which says that two of the requirements for naturalisation of an applicant are (i) “that he has a sufficient knowledge of the English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic language; and” (ii) “that he has sufficient knowledge about life in the United Kingdom”. It seems pretty clear from this that the law intends to give an equal status to English, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic, the last two being officially recognised as equal to English in one way or another in Wales and Scotland respectively.

For some time now I have planned to be the first person to satisfy the KoLL requirement through Welsh, something that I see as a personal challenge as well as a very important exercise in making practical use of the rights given to a language community and paying due respect to the other languages of the UK.

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The Hunt for English Isograms

A little over two years ago, while I was still an undergraduate student at Bangor University, David Crystal came around to give a talk based on his book By Hook or by Crook: A Journey in Search of English. One of the many adventures in language land he talked about was the hunt for isograms: words in which each grapheme occurs the same number of times. For instance isogram is a first-order isogram (or a 1-isogram), because each letter (i, s, o, g, r, a, m) occurs exactly once; deed is an example of a 2-isogram, since both d and e occur exactly two times. There are also a few examples of 3-isograms, such as deeded or geggee, but David was quite adamant that he did not know of any fourth-order isograms.

Naturally, this garnered my interest. It is certainly not a biggie to assume that order of isogram should be inversely related to frequency, i.e. 1-isograms will be quite common, 2-isograms somewhat uncommon, 3-isograms rare, and so forth; but a 4-isogram, while probably exceedingly rare, did not immediately strike me as something I would assume to not exist. So I went and googled isograms. A 4-isogram I did not find, but more questions I did.

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