Community Playlists

04/08/2022 Leave a comment

Community Projects ImageA sharpening of focus on the vernacular Hebridean communities has become evident in some Gaelic sociolinguistic research in recent years. In this period, Island Voices has partnered with various related projects, and helped to spread news and discussion of findings and issues.

At the same time, a parallel interest in wider international comparators for the Gaelic context has also been broadcast through Island Voices channels.

Projects with close community links will be on display at the Stornoway conference on Rooting Minority Language Policy in the Speaker Community at the end of August. Series of videos will be viewable in Island Voices playlists, including “Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal”, “Saoghal Thormoid”, “Island Voices Series 1&2” and “International MOOT”.

And the playlists can be viewed remotely as well, with live links embedded in this PDF poster. This also includes additional information about the links between Soillse and Island Voices, and other collaborative research work with other universities in Scotland and internationally.

Stòras Beò: Coinneach & Maighread

01/08/2022 Leave a comment

CandMmontageHere’s a new departure with some well-known and well-loved faces. Comann Eachdraidh Sgìre a’ Bhac (Back historical society) have been producing home-grown videos for YouTube for a while now, many of them fronted by Coinneach MacÌomhair, a very familiar voice from decades of sterling service with BBC Radio nan Gàidheal. In the video below, he’s joined by renowned singer Maighread Stiùbhart as they take viewers on a walking tour of Col Uarach.

It’s a remarkable film, in which the presenters’ deep knowledge and love of their home turf shine through, beautifully expressed in Gàidhlig Sgìre a’ Bhac. The video has been online for a few months now, but there’s been a new development – the addition of CC subtitles (which you can switch on or off, according to taste). This has been made possible following meticulous extra work by Maighread to transcribe the entire video so that it can be added to the Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal collection. And as followers of Guthan nan Eilean know, once the Gaelic subtitles are up, YouTube settings will also offer you auto-translation into many other languages – English included!

Plus, the “Stòras Beò” treatment means you can also access the full wordlinked transcript online through this Clilstore unit:

Naturally, we’re delighted at Island Voices to be able to work with another local history society in the Western Isles. We hope such partnerships will continue to blossom and grow!

Categories: CALL, Community, Research, UGC, Video

Gaelic walks with CEUT

31/07/2022 Leave a comment

Three “Gaelic walks” have been announced for August, as part of the Aire air Sunnd project led by Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath. Gum bi deagh shìde ann air an son!


Categories: Community, Research

Taisce Bheo: Aodán Ó Cearbhaill

19/07/2022 1 comment

AodanAodán Ó Cearbhaill from Gaoth Dobhair speaks to Colm Mac Giolla Easpaig.

In the first part Aodán describes his family background and his teaching career to date.

He goes on to detail the career break he took to teach Irish in Nova Scotia. In preparation for this role, Aodán describes how he learnt Scottish Gàidhlig and this leads him and Colm to discuss the similarities and differences between the Donegal dialect and Gàidhlig.

Finally, Aodán describes his affinity with Tory Island, the birthplace of his father, and recites a famous folklore story about how Colm Cille came to bring Christianity to the Island.

A wordlinked transcript alongside the embedded video is available here:

In the second part of the conversation, Aodán describes some customs and superstitions from Tory Island, most notably the story behind the Tory soil that keeps rats at bay. They discuss the musical heritage of the island before Aodán sings “An Buachaill Deas Óg”, and they chat about how Aodán is newly married and living in the area.

This leads them to discuss the fate of this rural area. Aodán explains his fear about the future of the language but also his hopes for tourism in the area. Planning issues are discussed before Aodán details the polytunnel he had installed in his new home. They end the conversation with Aodán describing the unique manner in which he would spend a win on the National Lottery, and he finishes with a rendition of the renowned Tory Island song “Amhrán na Scadán”.

A wordlinked transcript alongside the embedded video is available here:

This is the third set of Irish recordings in the Taisce Bheo na nGael project in which the UHI Language Sciences Institute with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and Soillse, together with Irish partners, record the natural speech of Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers in their own communities with user-friendly equipment and techniques. We are again indebted to Dr Gearóid Ó Domagáin of Ulster University for his meticulous work on the transcriptions.

Categories: CALL, Community, Research, Video

Monster Gaelic Video Playlist

06/07/2022 Leave a comment


With all 75 Gaelic videos having been CC subtitled in Series 1 and Series 2 Outdoors, Generations, and Enterprise, they have now been collected into a single playlist on YouTube. Set aside some time, a chàirdean, for the ultimate box set binge! (And remember you can use the settings wheel to get automatic translations into multiple other languages…)

Here’s the new Series 1 and 2 playlist.

If you like that, bear in mind we also have other Gaelic playlists of varying durations on our YouTube channel!

Sgeulachdan Thormoid

Saoghal Thormoid

Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal

Categories: Community, Video

Aire Air Sunnd: Staing na Gàidhlig

24/06/2022 Leave a comment

Following on from the May launch of the Aire air Sunnd project with Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath, the first online session of the Gaelic-focussed strand was held on 17th June. As planned, the “hybrid” session was open to participation by Zoom as well as physical attendance at Sgoil Chàirinis, with Ùisdean Robertson taking the chair. The session started with a presentation by members of the research team behind the publication of “The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community“, principally Iain Caimbeul with support from Conchúr Ó Giollagáin. This presentation was recorded and has now been placed on the Island Voices YouTube channel. You can view it here:

The session was held entirely in Gaelic. YouTube subtitling will also allow viewers to read as they listen, and offers auto-translation into other languages, including English, using the settings wheel.

The presentation was followed by a lively and open discussion between CEUT members and the presenters about many of the points raised. This has laid a valuable foundation for further Gaelic activities as part of the Aire air Sunnd project, which will include walks and other events over the summer period, before returning to further online workshops planned for the autumn, which may take a closer look at selected Island Voices recordings.

Iain’s full Powerpoint presentation is available in PDF format here.


Categories: Community, Research, Video

Talking Points: The Teacher

15/06/2022 Leave a comment

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

Categories: Community, Research, Video

Talking Points: The Poet

15/06/2022 Leave a comment

Audrey1cropThis is one of four linked blogposts, building on the Norman Maclean “Talking Points” series of discussions, which focus on specific contributions from the participants.

Audrey West’s first language is Jamaican, and she’s trained to teach Spanish and French, as well as in Cultural Memory.

This gives her an awareness of the intergenerational post-trauma resulting from the trans-Atlantic practice of enslaving Africans for European colonial gain.

Resident in North Wales, she works as an artist, poet, linguist, psychotherapist, trainer, and community development practitioner.

In this extract from the Norman Maclean Language Hierarchies discussion Audrey reflects on her unrecognised bilingualism, being brought up in a Jamaican home in London. Norman’s exhortation to maintain the mother tongue struck home as she acknowledges how stigmatisation prevented ongoing intergenerational transmission. 

Over the course of the Talking Points sessions, Audrey also circulated this film and the script of her poem amongst the participants, an extract from which is given at the end of the Language Contact discussion. She’s kindly agreed to share the full text below.

How did you end up here? Where do you come from?

I remember a place
Where I am cradled by the Mountains
Rocked by the sea…

Mi memba a plies
We di mountin dem kriegl mi
We di sii rak mi in aar skort
Op di goli, pan tap a di hil
Mi kyan si faar faar
Plenti chrii, plenti griin, plenti sii

Memba a plies
We dem nuo mi niem
Dem nuo mi mada, nuo mi faada
Nuo mi fambili
Mi a smadi

Mi nuo se mi kom fram wie bak
A Timboktuu dem kaal it?
Mi piipl dem chravl a Hiijip
Riich bak uom,
A di mountin an di sii

Iz ou mi hen op ier?

Mi nuo se som a wi
De pan buot
Pak op pak op, stingk op stingk op
Kyaan briid
Bot wi riich

A wan plies dem kaal Jamieka
Nier di mountin, bai di sii
We dem
Mek wi wok
Brok wi bak
Tek wi uman
Kil wi pikni
Fi notn

Bot iz ou yu en op ier?

Mi nuo se mi kom fram faar faar
Mosi wan plies we niem Fraans
We dem fait.
Nier di mountin, bai di sii
Fait so bad, dem kaal dem
Espeute, fi suod.
Dem kaal dem Juu
Mek dem ron

Chravl faar faar
Riich klier a San Domingue
We dem
Mek dem wok
Bruk dem bak
Tek dem uman
Kil dem pikni
Fi notn

Mais d’ou viens tu?

Ron klier a Virginia
Weh dem
Mek dem wok
Bruk dem bak
Tek dem uman
Kil dem pikni
Fi notn

Bot iz ou yu en op ier?

Mosi chruu wan plies we niem India
Nier di mountin, bai di sii
Dem bring wi bak
Fi wok
Til wi bak brok
Lef wi uman
Lef wi pikni
Fi likl ar notn

¿Pero, como llegaste aquí?

Ron we, beli onggri
Go klier a Panama
Nier di mountin, bai di sii
Luk fi wok
Til mi bak brok
Dem tek mi uman
Kil mi pikni
Fi notn

Bot, a we yuu kom fram?

Mosi fram wan plies dem kaal Skatlan. Plenti hil,
An di sii skort uova aar fiit
Nier di mountin, bai di sii
Iz ou yu gaan klier a Skatlan?
Iz ou yu en op dier?

Onggri beli
Kech buot, kom a Hingglan
Riich a Soutamton bai di sii
Riich a Landan. Bes suut
Fi luk wok
Til mi bak brok
Sen fi mi uman
Dem kil mi pikni
Fi notn

Mi no si no sii.
Mi no si no mountin.
Grie so til.
Gaan bak uom.
We dem nuo mi niem,
Nuo mi fambili
Mi a smadi
Tek mi uman
Lef mi pikni
Dem aal rait

How did you end up here?
O le wyt t’in dod?

Pikni riich a Naat Wales
I’ve come a long way baby
Back to the mountains,
Back to the sea
Back home, to
Luxe, calme, et volupté

Homage to my parents
Alvin and Mary West

Copyright: Audrey West
June 2020

You can follow this link to get Audrey’s own translation of her poem into Standard English.

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

The Linguists (Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Udaya Narayana Singh, Joseph Farquharson)
The Interpreter (Kalyan Das Gupta)
The Teacher (Jane NicLeòid)

Categories: Community, Research, Video

Talking Points: The Interpreter

15/06/2022 Leave a comment

Kalyan2CropThis is one of four linked blogposts, building on the Norman Maclean “Talking Points” series of discussions, which focus on specific contributions from the participants.

Kalyan Das Gupta was raised in Kolkata, speaking Bengali, Hindi, and English, and spent a large part of his professional career running Community Interpreting and Translating Services, first in Edinburgh, and later in Lewisham in London, where he now lives in retirement.

Below is a transcript of Kalyan’s opening points in the Talking Points session on Language Hierarchies, in which he looks back over his life and career and recalls a series of personal and professional experiences related to this topic.

As an English speaker, I personally seldom experienced direct “linguistic hierarchism”, if you will, in Britain or in any English-speaking country, except as a function of blatant racism or a racist “colour-blindness” of the well- or ill-intentioned kind.

During my first visit to Britain, in the summer of 1980, our organised coach from London to Edinburgh halted at 2 a.m. at a motorway café in Doncaster, Yorkshire. As I squinted to try and read the menu stuck on the door, a group of white teenagers lounging inside saw me and decided to come out. One of them placed his face in mine and unleashed a torrent of what sounded like working class mock Indian words or sounds, or Indian-accented slang English. They all laughed. I headed for the toilet. Unfortunately, that was outside too, in the dark, in the back. They surrounded me, inside, whistling. I quickly exited onto the better-lit pathway and dived into the café, losing them.

As a new junior lecturer in Coventry, I and my white English boss stood confused and bemused as the dinner lady asked her “And what’s he having?”. We both just burst out laughing at this uncannily immediate real-life illustration of the example we had been discussing in our anti-racism trainer briefing session just before breaking for lunch, where we used the example “Does he take sugar?”.

More serious examples sometimes came second- or third-hand, and I hope my memory serves me well. A senior lecturer in our training team, a very dark-skinned Ugandan Asian gentleman, and former national hockey star from Uganda who spoke eleven languages, including highly polished English with a Rugby School accent, routinely received uncomprehending blank stares from his local white bank-tellers when he greeted them at the counter. Once, a concerned English white health professional requested him to see if, with his eleven languages, he could perhaps crack a seeming mystery. A distressed Asian mental health patient, sectioned in a ward for four years, had been known to break into animated apparent gibberish quite frequently at mealtimes. It turned out she had been desperately asking for the occasional Indian meal with chapatis in Gujarati, but no-one had bothered to check till now.

As the co-ordinator of the interpreting and translating service, I was once invited to Saughton Prison in Edinburgh to see if I could help a Chinese inmate there. When he was jailed for murder ten years earlier, his English was virtually non-existent and he was offered no interpreter at all to put his own side of the story to anyone. Now, ten years later, this handsome, clean-cut, polite young man spoke very clear English, having taught himself the language in prison, as well as law. He cheerfully, but with great propriety and almost professional self-restraint, entreated me to trigger a review, insisting he had been framed.

My Chinese predecessor in the job had campaigned for years against the practice of English-only registration forms being left dangling unexplained and unsignposted at health service receptions in clinics and hospitals. His mostly rural-derived women clients from Hong Kong were often illiterate even in Chinese. They frequently waited in those reception lounges, unserved for a while before leaving. There was no proactive guidance, service or translated signposting or explanatory literature, and many of them with urgent care needs simply felt like cyphers.

In France, around the same time, a woman who had come into a hospital for a pregnancy check-up was wrongly given an abortion before anyone realised what was happening. Staff there had not bothered noting the clear difference between her full Vietnamese name and the full name of another Vietnamese woman patient actually waiting for that procedure.

Community Interpreting and Translating Services started to be grudgingly set up as a public service in Britain, initially just in the voluntary sector, and purely as an adjunct to health or local community council or local authority or legal services, or immigration and refugee services, only following in the wake of a series of Race Relations Acts which themselves were legislated following a decade or two of major uprisings and struggles across cities in Britain, such as in Handsworth (Birmingham), Brixton (London), Toxteth (Liverpool), Cardiff and so on. A key stimulus in this was the Iqbal Begum case.

Iqbal Begum had been jailed for life in 1981 for murdering her abusive husband. In 1985, a chance visitor discovered that Mrs Begum had not had any clue as to what was being said to her and what the language mediator was either asking her or saying to her, so she had stayed silent in her confusion. This silence had been interpreted as an admission of guilt. The mediator, who was a Gujarati-speaking accountant press-ganged into service by the court, did not communicate to her clearly for her purposes. Mrs Begum’s particular dialect was a Pakistani variant of Punjabi. Mrs Begum was released, but, having spent four years in jail already, unable to bear the humiliation she later killed herself.

Under the joint cosh of the notorious Tory and Labour Private Finance Initiative drive, PFI, to privatise public services, the Interpreting and Translating services, which had for a while become grudgingly incorporated into the general local or health-initiated funded local authority services, started to become out-sourced to private, non-local, money-making outfits around the turn of the century, eventually succumbing to the re-worked version of the racist rant “Speak English!”, now sounding to our ears like “Learn English!” but with no difference in funding or support involved.

Many will find this testimony moving and powerful, yet elsewhere in the series Kalyan made a point of cautioning against over-reliance on personal experiences and anecdotes. In this clip from the session on Language Endangerment, he disavows linguistic expertise in favour of an explicitly political analysis.

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

The Linguists (Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Udaya Narayana Singh, Joseph Farquharson)
The Poet (Audrey West)
The Teacher (Jane NicLeòid)

Categories: Community, Research, Video

Talking Points: The Linguists

15/06/2022 Leave a comment

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

This post features the Linguistic Scholars Professor Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Professor Udaya Narayana Singh, and Doctor Joseph Farquharson.

Conchúr Ó Giollagáin is Gaelic Research Professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland, and the Director of the UHI Language Sciences Institute and of the Soillse inter-university Gaelic research network.

Udaya Narayana Singh is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Chair-Professor of the Amity Centre for Linguistic Studies at Amity University Haryana in India, and formerly Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan, and Director of the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore. He also has a keen interest in Creative Writing.

Joseph Farquharson is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics in the Department of Language, Linguistics, and Philosophy at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus in Jamaica. He is also the Co-ordinator of the Jamaican Language Unit and the Unit for Caribbean Language Research.

Professor Conchúr Ó Giollagáin

In the opening session on Language Endangerment – Gaelic Trajectory? Conchúr elaborates on 5 major points touched on by Norman, linking them to sociolinguistic research and findings. He finishes with a challenge to academics and policy-makers to engage in honest debate with the Gaelic-speaking community.

Professor Udaya Narayana Singh

In the second session on Language Hierarchies – English Ascendancy? Udaya reflects on prevalent linguistic accommodation in South Asia and offers an overview of language hierarchies in that region. He acknowledges the status of English as a “High Code” while emphasising the dynamic and enduring inter-relationships of other languages. 

Doctor Joseph Farquharson

In the third session on Language Contact – Bilingual Balance? Joseph considers the normalisation of the “monolingual ghetto”, agreeing with Norman on the narrowed worldview it affords. He goes on to introduce the concept of “Conquest Diglossia” resulting from a colonial schooling process that denigrates low-status languages.

Other Posts

The format for the other contributions to this series of blogposts is slightly different, as they include (or link to) significant additional writing as well as similar short video clips:

The Interpreter (Kalyan Das Gupta)
The Poet (Audrey West)
The Teacher (Jane NicLeòid)

Categories: Community, Research, Video
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