Stòras Beò: Seònaid

01/06/2020 3 comments

In amongst the valuable Gaelic social history, Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal interviewer Pàdruig Moireach (Peter Murray) uncovered some interesting new family stories when he talked to his mother, Seònaid (Jessie) – including why she didn’t emigrate to Canada!

In the first part, Jessie, originally from Shawbost, Lewis, talks to Peter about their family history, and how his grandparents actually met and married around the time of the Depression in Detroit, where there was a strong Gaelic community. She tells stories of him jumping ship, and his working conditions and how they differed in America. On returning to Lewis they raised a family on the croft, and Jessie talks of her earliest memories of life on the land, herding the cows and getting home-made butter and cheese, and the food she got at school before they opened a canteen. (You can get a Clilstore transcript here: Unit 8388.)

In the second part, Jessie recalls her schooling and the weak Gaelic component to it, though the language was strong in the playground and the community. Communion practices are also recalled, as well as the role of supernatural tales, and New Year and Hallowe’en customs in a culture where house visits were common. After leaving school at 16 and some work experience, Jessie settled on training for nursing, which took her to Glasgow. Plans to move to Canada were abandoned when she met Peter’s father, and they returned to Lewis, first to Carloway, then Stornoway. Now living in Inverness, she offers thoughts on changes she’s seen in Lewis and the lack of opportunities. She prefers to remember home as it was. (You can get a Clilstore transcript here: Unit 8389.)

Categories: CALL, Community, Research, Video

विंडसर्फिंग – Windsurfing (Hindi version)

27/05/2020 Leave a comment

Ding dong! “लंदन को जाने-वाली ब्रिटिश एयरवेज़ की उड़ान…. British Airways flight to London….”

For those with a keen ear for language, the international departures lounges of airports once provided rich listening, as announcements in multiple languages provided a constant reminder of linguistic diversity across the world. Then came COVID and the lockdowns. Almost overnight, international air travel came to a near-complete halt, and those multilingual moments have turned into ever more distant memories.

But our taste for linguistic adventure lives on, and physical lockdown has not disabled our capacity for creativity and innovation in responding to new communicative challenges, as our contributor Animesh Biswas has recently demonstrated, here and here. Nor is he alone! We now welcome a new addition to our Other Tongues collection with a Hindi version of our Windsurfing film by Rohini Tolsma.

Gordon Wells met Rohini, who is based in the Netherlands, at the 2019 NEHU International Language Fest for Indigenous and Endangered Languages in Shillong. The Netherlands is currently relaxing some of its most stringent lockdown restrictions, but in this exercise Rohini followed the same simple modus operandi as previous recent contributors, recording her voice on her phone, and sending the results to Gordon by Facebook Messenger.

Anyone listening will be struck by the clarity of Rohini’s diction, and may find themselves wondering how her voice somehow feels familiar. Well, if you’ve passed through Heathrow Terminal 5 or any other similar airport lounge, the chances are you have heard her before, as Rohini’s day job is to record the public announcements in Hindi for airports across the world. Island Voices have a Hebridean locus, but a truly international reach!

Here’s the film:

And here’s the wordlinked Clilstore transcript: Unit 8610

Studies in Culture and Education

18/05/2020 Leave a comment

An academic journal titled “Changing English” may seem an unlikely location for a Gaelic-focused article, but the strapline, “Studies in Culture and Education”, captures better the breadth of field that comes within its scope. Island Voices came under the spotlight in its March 2020 special edition on Reading Aloud, edited by Sam Duncan, who had kindly invited Gordon Wells to give a presentation at the November 2018 symposium at the University College London Institute of Education. The title of his talk was “Reading Island Voices: issues around the primacy of speech and the privileging of literacy, from a Hebridean viewpoint”

Sam’s introductory editorial has this to say about Gordon’s contribution: “In our final article, Gordon Wells takes us to the Outer Hebrides and into a different perspective on relationships between literacy and oracy. Starting with potential tensions in ‘value or status’ between ‘community members’ (and their predominantly oral uses of Gaelic) and ‘language professionals, activists or academics’ (and their literacy-based claims on Gaelic) and moving onto how forms of oral and written language come together creatively in his Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean documentary project, Wells invites us to rethink the differences between the written and the oral. He reminds us that a ‘REvaluation’ of the oral need not be a ‘DEvaluation of the written.’ This final article – a printed version of a text originally written to be read aloud as a presentation to a listening audience, a text therefore first written to be voiced and then later readjusted to be read (silently?) rather than listened to – also reminds us of the third challenge this special issue has highlighted. How can the written form of an article, editorial or book express the ‘what else’ or ‘what different-ness’ of reading aloud? How can words on paper or screen contain that which we are arguing voice adds, ear captures and body enacts? This challenge is made explicit by Wells, but we can also read each of the other pieces with an eye (or ear) for how this struggle plays out.”

The Reading Aloud special edition of “Changing English” (Volume 27, 2020 Issue 1), with the full collection of papers, is available online here:

There are various ways of going directly to Gordon’s article.

Firstly, if you have automatic access through an academic institution to the journal (or plenty of spare cash!) you can follow this link:

Alternatively, there are up to 50 free e-prints available. The article dwells to some extent on the need to strengthen connections between Gaelic academia and the Gaelic communities on whose behalf it may sometimes claim to speak, concluding “deeper reflection may be called for on some fundamental assumptions and expectations in respect of speaking and writing skills, and perhaps even some closer self-examination on the part of researchers and activists in relation to the links and linguistic power relations between academy and community.” Gordon would like the paper to be as widely available to the wider community as possible. So anyone who is able to access it through the link given above, rather than through the free e-print route, is urged to leave the latter open for those who have no other choice. If that is not an option, you can access the free e-print here.

Lastly, if you find the free e-prints all used up, there is still the option of reading Gordon’s original script for the symposium, which is very close to the eventual printed article – and viewing the accompanying presentation (with embedded links) – on this 2018 post about the event.



Categories: CALL, Community, Research

সমুদ্রপথে সেইন্ট কিলডা – Seatrek to St Kilda (Bangla version)

08/05/2020 2 comments

এই তথ্যচিত্রের মাধ্যমে সেইন্ট কিলডার সংক্ষিপ্ত বিবরণ তুলে ধরা হয়েছে। ল্যোওসের একটি পর্যটন সংস্থার সঙ্গে এই অভিযানটি সম্পন্ন হয়েছে। ভ্রমণের তালিকায় রয়েছে মূলদ্বীপের প্রাকৃতিক ও সাংস্কৃতিক পর্যটন। আটলান্টিক মহাসাগরের বুক চিরে এই অভিযানে দীর্ঘ সমুদ্রযাত্রার ক্লান্তি তো নেইই বরং আছে মন ভালো করা সব অসাধারণ দৃশ্য। নির্জন সমুদ্রসৈকত, অজস্র পাখিদের কোলাহল, প্রকৃতির নিবিড় ছোঁওয়া ও প্রাচীন মানব সভ্যতার ঐতিহাসিক উপাদান সব মিলিয়ে এক রোমাঞ্চকর অভিজ্ঞতা।

Bangla (Bengali) is the latest addition to Island Voices’ Other Tongues initiative, thanks to independent researcher Animesh Biswas, who can now add “film narrator” to his list of other talents! The language has hundreds of millions of speakers, yet the question may well be asked if any of them have previously had any access to information about the St Kilda dual natural and cultural heritage site in free-to-view online documentary format in their own language?!

On a linguistic note, it’s worth listening out for the pronunciation of placenames in the film. Animesh generally opted to go for Gaelic rather than English models, a process greatly assisted by the regular phonetic nature of Indian writing systems. Nach math a rinn e!

A Clilstore version with full wordlinked transcript and embedded video is available here: Unit 8568.


Categories: CALL, Community, Research, UGC, Video

Stòras Beò: Christine

01/05/2020 Leave a comment

Christine Primrose will need little or no introduction for the Gaelic enthusiasts who follow Island Voices. A stellar singer, she has long been a leading light in the promotion of Gaelic music and the tradition which nurtures it. If, by chance, you are coming to acquaintance with her for the first time, this interview in English (with further useful embedded links) for Folk Radio will give you an indication of her central position in the world of Gaelic music.

In the clips below, she talks freely in Gaelic to Pàdruig Moireach – who also has Carloway roots – for the Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal project. A feast for the ears for anyone with a taste for good Lewis Gaelic!

In the first part, Christine first recalls her early childhood in Carloway, Lewis – a close community in which every house had a loom. She started school very young, but always remembers singing – whether to neighbours in their homes, or at community concerts when still a young girl. She talks about the pressure of performance and how to look after your voice. Choral singing is also discussed. Her early career through school, college, and work in Glasgow was marked by singing, culminating with the prize for “seann nòs” (a term which she questions) at the Mòd. (You can get a Clilstore transcript here: Unit 8434.)

In the second part, Christine talks about touring Ireland and the novel experience of presenting her songs outside her community, emphasising the importance of feeling to maintain authenticity. She is disciplined in her approach, while also bringing her own interpretation to a song. Care for the rhythm of the words enhances the story. Moving to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig enabled her to maintain her singing career, while helping to promote the Gaelic college. She enjoys teaching, and listening to singers from other traditions. She stresses the importance of giving young performers time to learn their craft before pressurising them to perform. Return visits to Carloway underline for her the importance of acknowledging change. (You can get a Clilstore transcript here: Unit 8435.)


Categories: CALL, Community, Research, UGC, Video

Locks, Links, and Languages

07/04/2020 2 comments

It’s April 2020 and the global lockdown continues, whether you’re on the West coast of Scotland or in West Bengal. We’re largely “confined to quarters” in the international bids to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The internet has many faults, but now offers the potential to afford mental release in times of physical restriction, at least to those fortunate to have access to it. Here’s an example.

Animesh Biswas is from Nadia, West Bengal, India. Graduating from the Department of English at the University of Kalyani, he is an independent reasearcher working on Bangla folk songs. He has no training in music, but is learning from the folk singers he meets during his research work.

Attending the North-Eastern Hill University International Language Fest in October 2019, he made acquaintance with Gordon Wells (who was speaking about Island Voices, and its potential as a model for other language communities) and they’ve maintained contact through Facebook since. Having heard him sing in Shillong, Gordon was delighted just a few days ago to receive a recording from Animesh over Facebook Messenger, made in his home in Nadia. Followed by snaps from his camera, and some toing and froing over recording revisions, the ingredients were quickly all present for a new video and Clilstore unit, presenting a Bengali song in the Baul tradition with wordlinked transcript. Ta da!

For the full wordlinked transcript, follow this Clilstore link:

In addition, Animesh provided this English translation of the lyrics of the song:

You wish to chain my hands and my feet. How will you chain my mind?

You may shut my eyes and my mouth. How will you bind my spirit?

I couldn’t go to the banks of the Jamuna to fetch water. Nor, Sakhi, could I get a glimpse of him who stirs my passion.

You may refuse my wishes and deny my caress. How will you confine my passion?

I bring no shame to my family, nor stigma. What’s wrong with making him a garland round my body?

You may lock me in a room, block my way. How will you alter the cosmic design?


Animesh describes the Baul tradition as being at the confluence of Vaishnavism, Sufism, and Tantric Buddhism. Devotion to the Almighty is the essential component, here expressed through the love of the devotee Radha for Krishna.

Speaking of this song, he says “I think in a way it conveys how pent-up we are in today’s world. Even though in literature we get to visit our dreamland vividly, in actual life it is a distant possibility.”

Perhaps we may also take inspiration from Radha’s spirit of defiance and determination to transcend earthly shackles in a period of physical privation?

Categories: Audio, CALL, Community, Research, UGC, Video

New Gaelic videos online!

19/03/2020 Leave a comment

The Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal project has successfully met its target of producing 15 hours of new online community-based recordings of Scottish Gaelic, all fully transcribed! The collection comprises 31 videos of Gaelic speakers from four different islands in the Outer Hebrides talking about a wide range of subjects, including their upbringing in the islands and how they perceive things have changed during their lifetime. This project is led by the Language Sciences Institute (LSI) of the University of the Highlands and Islands, with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and Soilllse, and is supported by Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Foras na Gaeilge. Irish partners are in the process of gathering together a parallel collection of recordings from the Irish Gaeltacht areas.

You can read more about the project on the LSI website here, or you can use the table below to go directly to the videos (on YouTube), with accompanying Clilstore transcripts and summary descriptions (in “Unit Info”).

South Uist Benbecula North Uist Lewis
Tòmas MacDhòmhnaill (1) Eairdsidh Caimbeul Alasdair MacDhòmhnaill (1) Pàdruig Moireach
Tòmas MacDhòmhnaill (2) Ailig Mac a’ Phì (1) Alasdair MacDhòmhnaill (2) Iain Greumach (1)
Hughena NicDhòmhnaill (1) Ailig Mac a’ Phì (2) Dòmhnall MacDhòmhnaill (1) Iain Greumach (2)
Hughena NicDhòmhnaill (2) Màiri Robasdan (1) Dòmhnall MacDhòmhnaill (2) Seònaid Mhoireach (1)
Alasdair Mac Asgaill Màiri Robasdan (2) Dòmhnall MacDhòmhnaill (3) Seònaid Mhoireach (2)
Catrìona Nic an t-Saoir (1) Seonag Smith (1) Aonghas MacPhàil (1) Christine Primrose (1)
Catrìona Nic an t-Saoir (2) Seonag Smith (2) Aonghas MacPhàil (2) Christine Primrose (2)
Seonag Smith (3) Gina NicDhòmhnaill (1)
Gina NicDhòmhnaill (2)

If viewers see resemblances in style to the earlier Saoghal Thormoid project, these are by no means coincidental! Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal builds on previous Island Voices experience of bringing this kind of recording practice into the community, in a way that is maximally user-friendly, and feels as natural as possible. Not every recording has a fully professional polish in technical terms, and the editing has been deliberately light-touch, but arguably that gives viewers a closer picture of genuine interaction in actual practice. The project will now pause its recording work in order to review and evaluate its progress to this point. This is not an end, but hopefully a beginning…

Categories: CALL, Community, Research, UGC, Video
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