Uist welcomed a short visit from Soillse Director Professor Robert Dunbar this week. During his tour he was able to visit the offices of Am Pàipear and Sgoil Lìonacleit, as well as speak with Gordon Wells, Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean co-ordinator. Originally from Canada, Rob’s first introduction to learning Gaelic was through teachers from Uist – and he’s never looked back!
Here he speaks also about his ambitions for the Soillse research project to engage closely with the local interest in Gaelic – in education, in the family and the community, and in relation to policy and planning.
Public visibility of the Gaelic language in written form may be one of many factors affecting perceptions of its current state and future prospects. Rob takes an interest in linguistic landscapes, and took the opportunity to gather some examples during his visit. (Click to enlarge.)
Am Pàipear is the local community newspaper for the Uists, here in the Outer Hebrides. But that doesn’t mean that interest in it is restricted to just these islands! There are subscribers in various countries around the world – wherever families with Uist connections have chosen to settle.
And now, through the Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean connection a growing body of language learners (of both Gaelic and English) are also taking an interest. There is a new “Guthan: Voices” tab on the Am Pàipear website featuring homegrown lifestyle pieces created in English or Gaelic by local community members, and it’s proving popular with online visitors from around the world.
And another area of interest is the development of the Clilstore online learning platform with multiple dictionary access, in a partnership with the European TOOLS project. So now, for example, vocational students at the Marijampole Vocational Education and Training Centre in Lithuania are finding out all about Am Pàipear as they test drive an early prototype English learning exercise with online Island Voices video, wordlinked transcript, and supporting Hot Potatoes crossword exercise. This project has some way to run yet, but it looks like connections between our “offshore” islands and mainland Europe are getting shorter already!
English tutor Mary Morrison and Gaelic tutor Archie Campbell put on scriptwriting hats recently in a remarkable collaboration that saw cross-community involvement in the staging of a traditional tale – Gille an Fheadain Duibh (The Lad with the Black Chanter). The story was chosen from the “Thugam agus Bhuam” collection, as told by Pàdruig Moireasdan, with his own grandson (also Pàdruig) taking the central role – as well as adding to the musical accompaniment.
Originally a Gaelic tale, the full stagescript was written bilingually, giving the option of English or Gaelic for each character – with an English “subtitling” system in place for any members of the audience who might struggle with the Gaelic sections. Could this be a model for replication elsewhere? The local group would be pleased to offer advice and encouragement to others who wish to try it out.
Mary talks here in English about how the project came about, and the high degree of community involvement (of both young and old) in all aspects of the production – dramatic, musical, and artistic:
Archie talks here in Gaelic about the challenge of writing for speech, and discusses how participating in this kind of project can be helpful for learners: