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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.

Taisbeanadh_CEUTSlide2

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

Island Voices & Aire Air Sunnd

10/05/2022 1 comment

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!

Under the Gaelic ASR Bonnet

06/05/2022 Leave a comment

Old Island Voices friend, Will Lamb, delivered some fascinating insights into the development of Automatic Speech Recognition for Scottish Gaelic in a recent seminar for the Soillse inter-university research network. In a step-by-step approach, he outlined the progress made so far, the current state of the art, and plans for further development to a local and international audience representing a range of languages in addition to Gaelic, including Basque, Friulian, and Maltese.

His talk was recorded, and you can view it on the Island Voices Videos YouTube channel:

Will has also made a PDF of his presentation available for anyone who wants to study it in detail. This includes live links to other online sites and resources for further background reading (or viewing).

ArchieASRHere at Island Voices we have, of course, been following the progress of this development closely for some time, and were very pleased to contribute substantially to its initial phases through the provision of our own collection of ready transcribed recordings, which Will generously acknowledges.

The benefit has been mutual, as the ASR project has in turn provided Island Voices with the impetus to develop the subtitling of our videos using the YouTube Closed Caption option. It was nice to see a sample Island Voices clip used in Will’s presentation, as well as one from the Ceòlas collection!

Categories: CALL, Community, Research, Video Tags: , , ,

Old Storytellers Newly Subtitled!

07/04/2022 Leave a comment

TormodEoinRevived interest in storytelling brought the Island Voices Storytellers page into renewed focus recently. First put together nearly ten years ago, it was a pleasure to look back over this collection of videos, many of which pre-figured later exciting developments, such as further series of recordings of Norman Maclean and the Stòras Beò style of conversational capture.

But it turned into more than an exercise in fond reminiscence! Given the existence of Clilstore transcripts for three of the items it became a relatively simple exercise to use these as the basis for incorporating YouTube subtitles into the films in question. This has now been done, which means you can view the videos with Gaelic subtitles, using the CC button. And further, using the Auto-translate function in settings you can also get subtitles in a host of other languages too. The translations are not perfect, of course. (Iain does not work a 400-hectare “harp”…) But they’ll generally give you a good gist in any place where your own Gaelic is not yet up to scratch. Take a look and see!

“Master raconteur Norman Maclean tells the spine-tingling Gaelic tale of Àiridh na h-Aon Oidhche, a local landmark out near Rueval in Benbecula, and reveals how it got its name… He relates the story for Mary Morrison, an enthusiastic community participant in the Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean project.”

“Norman Maclean tells the story in Gaelic of the Battle of Carinish in 1601 – as if it was yesterday. And, master storyteller that he is, he brings it right up to date with references to current singers who still mine this rich cultural heritage.”

“”Difficult Encounters with Mother Earth” – Iain talks to his old friend and neighbour, Mary Morrison, a retired English teacher and revitalised Gaelic learner. Their conversation covers three generations of family and friends from the acquisition of the croft, through the many changes since, to current practice today, via English-teaching in Spain, the North Uist Highland Games and other highlights.. Iain speaks clearly and precisely and is always keen to encourage Gaelic learners. This is Mary’s first Gaelic interview.”

 

Categories: CALL, Community, Video

Sgeama “Ar Guthan”

14/03/2022 Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Community, Video

Karaoke sa Ghàidhlig

04/02/2022 1 comment

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:

KsaGHiRes

Categories: Audio, CALL, Community, Video
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