Talking Points: The Teacher

Le Gordon Wells

JanepicThis is one of four linked blogposts, building on the Norman Maclean “Talking Points” series of discussions, which focus on specific contributions from the participants.

Jane NicLeòid was raised speaking Gaelic, and later English as well, on the Isle of Lewis. A trained teacher, she worked on the mainland for some years, before recently returning to her home island, where she continues to teach Gaelic, and is also closely involved in the new pressure group, Guth nan Siarach, to promote the interests of vernacular speakers.

Jane made a thoughtful and challenging early response to the 2020 “Gaelic Crisis” report by the Soillse team led by Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, on the influential Bella Caledonia website, in which she drew on her rooted teaching and community experience. You can read it here.

And in this final extract from the Norman Maclean Language Contact discussion Jane summarises key points of commonality identified in Norman’s thoughts, and underlines her own perception of the disconnect between institutional support for Gaelic, and a grassroots activism and egalitarian sensibility uniting the various interest groups.

Links to the three other blogposts in this short series are given below:

The Scholars (Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Udaya Narayana Singh, Joseph Farquharson)
The Interpreter (Kalyan Das Gupta)
The Poet (Audrey West)


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Island Voices & Aire Air Sunnd

Le Gordon Wells

The Island Voices project has collaborated with Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath (The North Uist Historical Society) on joint work in the past, and we’re delighted to renew the link in the new Wellbeing initiative, “Aire Air Sunnd”, led by the Comann Eachdraidh in a partnership which brings in the Universities of Aberdeen and St Andrews, as well the Highlands and Islands (UHI). It’s funded by the Ideas Fund, with each partner contributing from some of its own strengths and specialisms. This leaflet gives an outline of the overall shape of the project, with an explanation of what the different components are.

The project was launched on Friday 6th May in a hybrid format event, with the various academic partners giving online presentations to a North Uist audience either “Zooming in” from their own homes, or gathering at the Carinish School society headquarters, with the St Andrews “Smart Heritage” team taking care to record the contributions from the various presenters. The Island Voices role will be primarily linguistic, focussing on Gaelic in particular as a key element of local cultural heritage. You can see Gordon Wells’s short (15 minute) presentation here on initial thoughts and plans for the Guthan nan Eilean component of the project.

The eagle-eyed may spot that most of the images after the second slide contain embedded links. If you wish to explore these further, please open this PDF version of the presentation. You can then click/tap any picture or graphic to explore the webpage to which it links.

Cò MiseOrdinarily, Gordon probably wouldn’t start a presentation with the level of personal detail offered here. But the CEUT connection is a close one, as his first picture shows!

The story of a rooted Hebridean family with close connections around the globe, through Australia, Canada, China, Singapore and elsewhere, as well as India (if we were also to go through the histories of Ann’s eight brothers and sisters…) is probably one that many other Hebridean family albums could tell just as well. When it comes to reflection on the links between heritage and wellbeing, and the value of transcending imagined boundaries, bilingual Island Voices may offer special insights!

North Uist residents and relatives! If aspects of this project are of interest to you and you’d like to learn more about it or are interested in taking part, contact details and further information are on the project leaflet. Siuthadaibh!


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Sgeama “Ar Guthan”

Le Gordon Wells

The Gaelic Books Council has announced a support scheme for new authors, and wants to spread the word!

While the Island Voices emphasis is on spoken language, we’re more than happy to help get the message out about a project titled “Ar Guthan”, even if the voices here will be written ones, especially when island communities are listed among the under-represented groups from whom applications are particularly welcomed.

Alison Lang, Director of the Gaelic Books Council, talks about the scheme here:

You can read more about the scheme in Gaelic or English in this press release, which also gives details of how to apply.


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Karaoke sa Ghàidhlig

Le Gordon Wells

Roll over, Beethoven!

Irish-speaker Seán Ó Muiris has announced a new voluntary and non-profit initiative to replicate his work in producing an Irish language karaoke repertoire with a parallel Scottish Gaelic stream. First fruits can be tasted in the YouTube link above, with his rendition of Runrig’s classic “Alba”.

Scottish Gaelic enthusiasts “of a certain age” may recall a previous venture in the karaoke genre, spearheaded by Comann an Luchd-Ionnsachaidh, nach maireann, in collaboration with Clydebank College (also no longer with us in the shape pictured here).

IMG_3421

 

As Gordon Wells’s notes to that pioneering production point out, “Scottish Gaels had of course … developed their own (pre-electronic) means of musical entertainment without instrumental backing, in the shape of puirt-à-beul…”. He also remarked that “Singing can be very helpful for the language learner. It allows you to concentrate on your pronunciation, and helps to fix unfamiliar vocabulary in your memory.” So, given that the original cassette-based package may not have fully withstood the test of time, this new venture in the world of Gaelic karaoke could well be overdue!

Seán makes the point strongly that his innovative approach is undertaken in a completely voluntary capacity, without any institutional backing, for the benefit of the Gaelic languages. You can hear him talking about it in detail in this interview in Irish for RTE. With over 100 karaoke versions of Irish songs on his YouTube channel he now wishes to start something similar for Scottish Gaelic and is offering to run free training seminars for anyone who might be interested in helping out.

His graphic below gives more detail:

karaokesaGhaidhlig

 

 


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Talking Points le Tormod et al

Le Gordon Wells

MOOTPicFinalSna seachdainnean mu dheireadh aig a’ phròiseact Mediating Multilingualism aig Institiùd Rannsachaidh Cànain Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd ‘s nan Eilean thàinig na com-pàirtichean eadar-nàiseanta sna h-oilthighean ann an Alba, Diaimeuga, agus sna h-Innseachan còmhla airson cuspairean san robh ùidh aca uile a dheasbad cuide ri luchd-labhairt às an Rìoghachd Aonaichte aig a bheil cànanan coimhearsnachd. Chleachd iad pìosan a-mach à Saoghal Thormoid airson na deasbadan (a chaidh a chumail sa Bheurla) a thòiseachadh. Chaidh na còmhraidhean seo a chlàradh, agus tha iad a-nis ri fhaighinn air sianal YouTube Guthan nan Eilean.

Bheir an clàr shìos ceanglaichean ris na deasbadan gu lèir, cuide ris na bhidiothan le Tormod MacGill-Eain a’ bruidhinn.

Cuspair Còmhradh Clàraichte Earrann à Saoghal Thormoid
Cànanan ann an Cunnart Talking Points 1 Saoghal Thormoid 1
Cànanan air an Rangachadh Talking Points 2 Saoghal Thormoid 2
Cànanan Taobh ri Taobh Talking Points 3 Saoghal Thormoid 3

Faodar criomagan às na h-earrannan ann an Saoghal Thormoid fhaicinn an seo, airson blasad fhaighinn dhe na beachdan aig Tormod fhèin.

1. Gaelic Trajectory? 2. English Ascendancy?
3a. Bilingual Balance? 3b. Homecoming Postscript

Agus ma tha ceistean agad, no ma tha thu airson puingean a thogail air-loidhne sna deasbadan seo, faodaidh tu pàirt a ghabhail sna còmhraidhean a bhios a’ dol ann am MOOT Guthan nan Eilean! Rud nach bi a’ tachairt a h-uile latha… Siuthad! Carpe diem!


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Invitation to Unmute

Le Gordon Wells

MOOTPicFinal

Who remembers we once mooted a MOOT?

Well, the idea of an Island Voices “Multilingual Open Online Teach-in” is now no longer, um, moot – for want of a better word. “Chan ann a h-uile latha a bhios mòd aig Mac an Tòisich”, mar a chanas iad, (“It’s not every day Mackintosh throws a party” – loosely) but its time has come.

“Talking Points” with Tormod

We’ve recently placed a whole series of “Talking Points with Norman Maclean” recordings on our YouTube channel, built on a merging of materials and ideas from the Soillse/UHI Language Sciences Institute projects Mediating Multilingualism and Saoghal Thormoid. In the last few weeks of the funded period for Mediating Multilingualism, linguists in universities in Scotland, India, and Jamaica discussed topics of common interest with UK-based community language speakers, stimulated by brief extracts from the final session of Saoghal Thormoid. And these discussions are now available to view.

It’s an experimental format, mixing subtitled Gaelic recordings with live English debate. The topics are sociolinguistic, covering Language Endangerment (Gaelic Trajectory?), Language Hierarchies (English Ascendancy?), and Language Contact (Bilingual Balance?). And they may raise just as many questions as answers, if not more. Just the thing then for the enquiring mind, and quite in the spirit of the “Teach-in” philosophy described in our 2019 post! In the end, we didn’t set up a separate online forum then, and we won’t now. There are perfectly good comment and reply functions on YouTube and here on WordPress for any questions readers or listeners may have.

YouTube Playlist

But to help provide a degree of focus or sense of direction – without closing down the options for diverging lines of thought and enquiry – we’ve put together a special “box set” International Island Voices MOOT playlist on YouTube that brings together the Talking Points material with some other key videos from our overall body of work which underpin and exemplify our multilingual approach.

Previews

By the way, we knitted some 2-minute Norman Maclean “highlights” into the recorded discussions, as an aide memoire for the longer extracts that were being discussed. If you want a quick taste of a topic, we’ve extracted them here, and you can take a quick look at any of them now, before choosing which full discussion to dive into for the wider treatment.

1. Gaelic Trajectory? 2. English Ascendancy?
3a. Bilingual Balance? 3b. Homecoming Postscript

Taking Part

There’s no start or stop date on this. The “Talking Points” participants are separated by up to ten and a half hours difference in time zones between India and Jamaica, so a simultaneous “launch” has not been feasible. And our geographical catchment is worldwide, so the approach is deliberately asynchronous – completely independent of any timetable. View the videos, ask questions, and make comments (which will be moderated) as and when you can and wish. Please be polite, and be prepared to be patient if waiting for responses.

Choosing where to comment is up to you. Specific queries about particular videos may be best posted under the relevant YouTube clip. But if your point or question is more general, then a comment here under this WordPress post may be the best place.

Binge-watching the whole playlist in one go is probably doable, if challenging, but perhaps not the best way of giving yourself time to think through issues that arise and about which you may have questions. A better approach might actually be to split up the longer discussion videos into smaller chunks – for which the “chapters” function in YouTube may well come in handy. If you take a look at the video description for any of these long clips you’ll find timed listings for each of the speakers, which you can click on to go straight to that particular point in the film.

And any time you catch yourself wondering which one’s Treebeard, it’s probably time for a break…

We’re pleased to have a receptive and supportive audience and readership, of course, but comments, questions and other feedback are always very welcome. Wikipedia tells us “Teach-ins are meant to be practical, participatory, and oriented toward action. While they include experts lecturing on their area of expertise, discussion and questions from the audience are welcome…”

Dear readers, whether you have questions or suggestions, the MOOT is open. We invite you to “unmute”!

International Island Voices MOOT: the YouTube Playlist


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Gaelic Jorni

Le Gordon Wells

Jorni3“Winta jos a ton ina spring ina di Outer Hebrides, we de pan Scotland wes kuos. Di priti plies dem mek yu memba se dem ailan ya suun fulop a piipl we lef dem yaad an kom pan alidie ina di at mont dem we suun riich, bot rait ya nou wan gruup a luokal piipl a go pan a chrip pan di Naatwes kuos a Ireland. Bak ina di diez,  dem wuda chavl bai waata an wuda go fram ailan tu ailan ina dis lang schring a komyuuniti we piipl ongl chat Gaelic. Bot nou-a-diez Benbecula ierpuot gi piipl wan iiziya an muo komfatebl wie fi go bout dem bizniz…” (Jamiekan)

“Mu dheireadh thall tha sinn a’ cur ar cul ris a’ Gheamhradh anns na h-Eileanan Siar, sa chuan pìos a-mach à taobh an iar na h-Alba. Tha na seallaidhean àlainn gar cuimhneachadh gum bi luchd-turais gu leòr a’ tighinn ann am mìosan blàth an t-samhraidh. Ach an-diugh fhèin tha sgioba de dh’Eileanaich a’ dèanamh an slìghe gu taobh an iar-thuath na h-Èirinn. Aig aon àm, b’ e bàta a bhiodh aca, a’ leum bho eilean gu eilean ann an sreath slàn de choimhearsnachdan Gàidhlig, ach tha port-adhair Bheinn na Faoghla a’ dèanamh gnothaichean nas fhasa dhaibh an-diugh…” (Gàidhlig)

Jorni2“Tá an tEarrach ag teacht sna hOileáin Siar amach ó chósta thiar na hAlban. Cuireann na radharcanna áille i gcuimhne dúinn go mbeidh neart turasóirí ag triall ar na hoileáin seo sna míonna teo atá le teacht. Ach san am i láthair tá buíon oileánach ag imeacht ar thuras go cósta Iarthuaiscirt na hÉireann. Blianta ó shin is turas farraige a bheadh ann, ag imeacht ó oileán go hoileán i slabhra de phobail Ghaeltachta. Ach anois cuireann Aerfort Bheinn A Faoghla modh níos áisiúla taistil ar fail…” (Gaeilge)

“Winter is just turning to spring in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. Picturesque scenes are a reminder that these islands will host a steady stream of holidaymakers in the warmer months to come, but right now a team of islanders is heading off on a trip to the Northwest coast of Ireland. In earlier times the journey would have been by sea, hopping from island to island in an unbroken string of Gaelic-speaking communities. But now, Benbecula airport offers a more convenient means of travel…” (English)

Following his work on the Tobar an Dualchais Dijitaizieshan Senta, Hugh Campbell of the University of the West Indies Jamaican Language Unit has kindly voiced another Island Voices film – the “Gaelic Jorni” documenting the seminal linkage with Irish language speakers in Donegal.

As with his first film, this is part of the transnational “Mediating Multilingualism” project linking Scottish, Indian, and Jamaican universities. Congratulations also to the UHI IT team for adding Jamaican to the growing list of languages in which the university’s webpages are now available!


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Seanchas le Magaidh Smith

Le Gordon Wells

Maggie (2)“Bhuail e mi nach eil cruinneachadh de sheanchas a tha a’ buntainn ri Sgìre nan Loch an àite sam bith, is gum bu chòir dhomh cuid aca a thoirt cruinn agus mar a bha sa chleachdadh bho chionn fhada an aithris. ‘S e bha nam amharc gum biodh iad ri làimh dha daoine òga a tha ag iarraidh an aithris aig a’ Mhòd, no aig a bheil ùidh ann am beatha anns an sgìre bho chionn fhada”.

Magaidh Smith explains how the need for a collection of traditional tales from the Lochs district motivated her to record some in the old style. They might be useful for young people entering the Mòd, or who are interested in the traditional life of the area. We’re delighted that she offered them to Island Voices to place online. They will also contribute to the Stòras Beò collection.

Here she retells the story of Calum Bàn, Tacksman of Laxay, from her own knowledge of oral tradition.

You can access a wordlinked transcript on Clilstore with the video embedded here: https://multidict.net/cs/10037

Here she brings back to Gaelic life a story from William Cummings’ edited collection “Family Traditions: John Macleod, 11 Melbost”.

You can access a wordlinked transcript on Clilstore with the video embedded here: https://multidict.net/cs/10036


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Hebridean Dijitaizieshan Senta

Le Gordon Wells

DijiSentaWahn shaat flim ina di Jamiekan langwij bout di Tobar an Dualchais (Well of Heritage) Dijitaizieshan Senta ina South Uist, ina di Outer Hebrides ina Scotland.

We were pleased to get Island Voices representation on the Digital Museum’s truly continent-spanning special event on International Mother Language Day this year. Starting in Bangladesh, where the movement began, the various sessions crossed Asia, Europe, and Africa, before finishing up with speakers from the Americas.

Gaelic was presented alongside Jamaican, and from that initial contact an exciting collaboration is growing up between the University of the Highlands and Islands Language Sciences Institute and the Jamaican Language Unit of the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. This is being developed through the enlargement of the inter-university Mediating Multilingualism project, which was already linking UHI with Indian partners.

The Jamaican Language Unit conducts research on the Jamaican language, and advocates for the recognition and officialisation of the language, and its teaching to native and non-native speakers. As part of Mediating Multilingualism it will oversee the creation of audio and audio-visual materials in the Jamaican language, the provision of transcripts, translations, and related lexicographic work, plus compilation of a 500,000-word corpus.

Test Clilstore units are now coming through, based on Island Voices documentary material, making use of the same Custom Wordlist function first tested out on Okinawan. Here’s an early sample, adding yet another language to our Other Tongues collection. The Tobar an Dualchais film was first made in Gaelic and English for Series Two Enterprise, with a Scots version following later. Many thanks to Hugh Campbell and the Jamaican Language Unit for this new production!

Hugh’s voiceover narration has been transcribed using the approved Cassidy-JLU orthography for the Jamaican language. Here’s the wordlinked Clilstore unit, with every word clickable for a Jamaican to English translation: https://clilstore.eu/cs/9897


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Scotland’s Gaelic College: an Okinawan take

Le Gordon Wells

Okinawandumptitle (2)

ソールモールオスタイク んでぃいーる スコットランド ぬ ゲーリック 大学に ちーてぃ うちなーぐち っし  うんぬきやびら。

(“Nach bruidhinn sinn mu dheidhinn Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Colaiste Ghàidhlig na h-Alba, ann an Uidsianàguidsidh – cànan Okinawa.”)

At Guthan nan Eilean we centre our Gaelic attention on the Hebridean islands where the language is still most widely spoken, while reaching out to a worldwide community of interest. We believe this provides a firmly grounded platform, rooted in day-to-day vernacular practice, on which to build links and relationships with other linguistic communities who may be facing similar challenges, transcending nationally drawn boundaries of frequently debatable relevance or disputed authority for those who actually speak the languages in question.

So we’re delighted now to add Okinawan – another island language at apparent risk of societal desuetude – to our list of Other Tongues in which our films have been re-purposed. Here, Tomoko Arakaki of the Okinawa Christian University has provided a fresh voiceover for our short documentary film about Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. This was first made in Gaelic and English for Series 2 Generations, with a Breton version following more recently. It’s a source of pleasure and encouragement to us to make this concrete and practical new link across seas and continents, with a view to sharing news and ideas in a manner as suggested, for example, in the “Two Lands Many Languages” film which was shot mainly in Meghalaya during the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Hebridean communities have functioned bilingually for generations, with the balance only tipping drastically in a majoritised monocultural direction within the living memory of current residents – an experience commonly shared in similar contexts across the world. If Island Voices has anything to offer in terms of redressing that imbalance, we’re more than happy to share lessons from our Gaelic work with others.

Producing an accompanying Clilstore transcript – at https://multidict.net/cs/9722 – presented various challenges, not least the lack of an appropriate online dictionary for Okinawan. Fortunately, Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle at SMO has already been putting his mind to this issue in relation to the “Mediating Multilingualism” project led by the UHI Language Sciences Institute. We can look forward to extending his “Custom Wordlist” approach beyond Okinawan to Indian and Jamaican languages in the near future. Watch this space!


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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