Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal

31/07/2019 Leave a comment

Followers of Island Voices need no introduction to Archie Campbell.

He’s been a stalwart supporter and contributor since our very early days.

In recent months he’s been involved in a new pilot project in which the UHI Language Sciences Institute with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and Soillse, together with Irish partners, embark on recording the natural speech of Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers in their own communities with user-friendly equipment and techniques.

This film was made with Pàdruig Moireach in an early training session, and may be viewed as a sample of what’s to come. It builds on the model of the Saoghal Thormoid series, using the same basic two-camera set-up, with minimal editing work afterwards, so that the viewer gets a real feel for the natural conversational flow of two people speaking to each other, with all the normal repeats, reformulations, hesitations, and interruptions that characterise authentic spoken communication. Pàdruig quizzes Archie on his recollections and opinions on growing up and continuing to live on Benbecula. It’s a fascinating half-hour listen.

You can watch the video by itself on YouTube:

Or you can follow this link to catch it with an accompanying transcript on Clilstore:

Categories: CALL, Community, Research, UGC, Video

Shantiniketan Presentations

24/03/2019 Leave a comment


Island Voices co-ordinator Gordon Wells’s “lightning tour” of India concluded with a session in the Bhasha Bhavana (Languages Building) of the world-famous Visva Bharati University at Shantiniketan. Wearing hats from both Guthan nan Eilean and Soillse (for which he is the project manager), Gordon Wells delivered a summary of the overall Island Voices project while highlighting the partnership with Soillse, particularly in relation to Saoghal Thormoid.

Conchúr Ó Giollagáin’s talk. (Click to enlarge.)

CFEL publications. (Click to enlarge.)

Like the previously visited Jadavpur University in Kolkata, Shantiniketan also hosts a Centre for Endangered Languages, another link in a chain that connects many different parts of India. Soillse Director, Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, who also spoke in all three venues on the tour, is keen to develop dialogue and links between Irish and Scottish Gaelic interests and Indian efforts and initiatives to protect and promote linguistic diversity. In his talks on Irish and Scottish Gaelic culture and demography he noted in particular the striking disparity in international academic attention and resources devoted to India, with its rich mix of languages and cultures, in comparison with, for example, Western Europe which has far less linguistic variety.

The speakers, hosted by Profs Kailash Pattanaik and Abhijit Sen. (Click to enlarge.)

Both visitors certainly found Shantiniketan an inspiring venue to complete their tour, where they were warmly received by faculty members, research scholars, and students, and treated to a fascinating tour of the campus, as well as Rabindra Bhavan, which houses the Rabindranath Tagore museum.

Rabindranath Tagore’s house. (Click to enlarge.)

A PDF of Gordon’s presentation with live links can be viewed here.

Mediating Multilingualism: Video Documentation

20/03/2019 Leave a comment

“So, tha cunnart ann a bhith a’ dèiligeadh le aon chànan a-mhàin… Ma tha cànain eile agad tha an saoghal a’ sìor leudachadh a-muigh, agus faodaidh tu roghainn a dhèanamh, faodaidh tu deagh thaghadh a dhèanamh.”

(“So there’s a danger in dealing with only one language… If you have other languages the world keeps widening out, and you can make choices, you can make good choices.”)

This extract from Saoghal Thormoid, particularly in keeping with the theme of the Indo-Scottish colloquium at Amity University Haryana, was used as the final example in Gordon Wells’s second presentation, in which he was invited to speak on aspects of Video Documentation in an ethnographic context.

The PDF of the presentation, with live links to further exemplifying material is available here.

Categories: Research, Video

Island Voices in India

19/03/2019 1 comment

As part of the “Mediating Multilingualism” colloquium held at Amity University Haryana, Gordon Wells was invited to speak about Island Voices. Here are his introductory remarks:

“Latha math, a chàirdean. Tha e na urram dhomh a bhith a’ bruidhinn ribh aig a’ choinneamh an seo, agus tha mi airson taing mhòr a thoirt dhan fheadhainn a rinn obair mhòr airson a cur air dòigh. Agus tha mi gu math dòchasach gum bi deagh chòmhradh againn thairis air an dà latha a tha romhainn.

Colloquium organiser Professor Udaya Narayana Singh with Island Voices co-ordinator Gordon Wells

Much as I would love to continue speaking in my mother’s Mother Tongue for the next half hour, I suppose I should switch to our shared Other Tongue for the purposes of EFFECTIVE communication across languages, with some regret if the communication loses some of its AFFECTIVE power through not being delivered in what my mother claimed to be the “Language of Eden”! (I was just saying it’s an honour to be here, and we’re very grateful to our Amity colleagues for all the preparatory work to set this colloquium up.)

I plan to outline the development of the project over the last 10 to 12 year period, give an overview of its component parts, and generally talk about how it works. It’s a project that was designed and developed to meet a particular geographical and linguistic need. Whether any of its elements may be open to transfer or adaptation to other contexts is an open question, which I would hope we may be able to discuss in due course.

इसके ऊपर मैं यह भी कहना चाहता हूं कि, हमारी तरफ़ से, हम जानते हैं कि भारत एक बहु-भाषीय देश है जहां बहुत बहुत अलग अलग भाषाएं साथ-साथ चलती रहती हैं, और हमें उमीद है कि दोनों भी तरफ़ से हम एक दूसरे से कुछ न कुछ नयी जानकारी सीख सकें जिस का इस्तेमाल हम, आगे बढ़के, अपनी ही स्थितियों में, कर सकें.

In the UK, and perhaps also Ireland, recognition and acceptance of multilingualism in culture and society is an ongoing challenge. How India handles these issues on a much wider scale is of keen interest to us.”

And here’s a PDF of the presentation:

Categories: CALL, Research

Talking with Magaidh Smith

08/02/2019 1 comment

Facebook turns up gems sometimes! A reply to a post in the “Scottish Gaelic Speakers Unite!” group led Gordon Wells to uncover a new (to him) Gaelic treasure trove – the online world of Magaidh Smith. Old classmates from the early days of Ceòlas, they met again this week, this time in Glasgow, when Gordon was able to quiz Magaidh on what she’s been up to in more recent years, including traditional tales, drama, poetry and local history. She’s not been idle!

Clearly, Magaidh’s work chimes nicely with the Guthan nan Eilean orientation towards capturing local voices and providing them with a wider platform. We’ll be watching this space closely!

In the meantime here’s a table of Magaidh’s Soundcloud recordings of stories from local Lewis tradition.

Story Description Links
S daor a cheannaich mi fiadhachd MacAulay men at Loch Langabhat and the landmark Clach Bhess Magaidh’s blog post
An Seann Fhiadh Deer hunting at Loch Langabhat on the border of Lewis and Harris in days gone by. Who was the wee wizen man? Soundcloud
Fir Mhealista Mealista men who went to gather a cargo of wood for roof timbers. A love story and what is extant of a dream song. Soundcloud
Sabaist Mhor Wick Circa 1870 when the herring fishing was booming a large number of fishing boats were in Wick Harbour when a fight broke out. This account includes details of men from Lochs who were in the fracas. Soundcloud
Ishbal Nighean Dhomhaill Ban The love Story of Ishbal nighean Dhomhnaill Ban an t-Struim who herded the cattle in Uig and Calum MacAmhlaigh from Harris. Magaidh’s blog post

STOP PRESS UPDATE – 15/04/19. Island Voices now has a Magaidh Smith page with a full collection of her online recordings, all supplemented with Clilstore transcripts. Check it out!


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

Island Voices MOOT

27/01/2019 4 comments

People sometimes ask what kind of project Island Voices is. There’s no one simple answer to that question, as there are various ways of thinking about it. Here’s a new one for 2019, which actually raises another question for our followers. Any answers or comments welcome!

You’ve heard of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Well, Island Voices, while being a fundamentally educational online project, doesn’t do “courses”. We don’t take anyone step by step from A all the way to Z in a pre-determined order. The learning we aim to help is “resource-based” – we put material online for anyone to browse or sample or use in any way they see fit. That means it’s up to the learner to think about and shape their own learning path. This can seem scary or off-putting for some, particularly in the beginning stages of language learning, while others may find it liberating and empowering, especially when they’ve already got past the preliminary steps. Obviously, we would hope that we can help move folk from the first camp into the second.

Also, while we started out from a language teaching perspective, our interest is wider than simply helping people to learn Gaelic, or English (or any other language), irrespective of how they might subsequently use it. We’ve always tried to present the “bits of language” that we place online in the real-life context of the community in which they were recorded. We try to recognise, record, and represent the social factors at play which influence the linguistic decisions people make when a range of different language choices is at hand. That’s partly why, alongside the several pages of video and audio clips plus transcripts on our site, there’s an additional page for research and reports which attempt to tease out some of the wider issues, for example around bilingualism or biliteracy, which are not necessarily immediately clear if you’re approaching from a different or narrower language background or perspective. This may mean re-thinking some pretty fundamental concepts, even around what we understand by a term such as “language” or “languages”. These are questions which may be quite as meaningful for language teachers or mentors (and perhaps planners and policy makers) as for learners themselves.

Further, we do not claim some higher teacher’s authority that pours knowledge into the “empty vessel” heads of our visitors/followers/learners. We can never present a more than partial picture of the communicative community on which we focus. We make no promises not to leave you with as many questions as you started with – perhaps more – though we’d hope some at least will be newly formulated!

So, instead of trying to think of Island Voices as some kind of “course”, perhaps a more appropriate model might be a “teach-in” – which is “practical, participatory, and oriented toward action” and where “discussion and questions from the audience are welcome”. Wikipedia tells us that this concept has a radical political background. Well, that’s no disqualification! In a current UK climate in which language teaching of any kind (including of English!) is making difficult headway, and support for bi- or multi-lingualism is struggling to gain traction, we may be well advised to open ourselves up to more lateral thinking, and to be prepared to consider outwardly counter-intuitive solutions. And the Hebrides may be as good a place to start as any, perhaps better than most!

So let’s forget about an Island Voices MOOC. What we offer is a “Multilingual (or perhaps Massive/Medium-sized/Mini) Open Online Teach-in” – the Island Voices MOOT! Etymonline tells us the word has a long history connoting free assembly to discuss community affairs. What could be more appropriate, especially when you consider the Gaelic word Mòd stems from the same root, and was long ago used to denote a parliament or congress, dating from the Lordship of the Isles!

Our source materials, to which we shall continue to add, are already placed before you on WordPress, Clilstore, and YouTube, and we know that plenty of folk have already put them to good use without further prompting. Hopefully, our Facebook and Twitter channels will keep on pulling in new visitors too. But here’s the question: should we also aim to create a new “teach-in” space? This could be a dedicated online forum where MOOT participants can raise questions and debate points around language learning and language use, informed by their interactions with, and reactions to, Island Voices materials of all kinds – video, audio, transcripts, articles, papers etc. Or is the comment facility we already have on WordPress adequate as it stands? Is there a danger a new forum would detract from other online fora and/or Facebook discussion groups? Comments here please (or on Facebook/Twitter)!

Categories: CALL, Community, Research

Reading Island Voices – Aloud!

20/11/2018 Leave a comment

The “Reading Aloud in Britain Today” (RABiT) project is run by Dr Sam Duncan, a teacher, researcher and teacher educator working in adult literacy studies at the UCL Institute of Education in London.

The project is a two-year study which aims to capture the contemporary reading aloud practices of as many different adults as possible across Scotland, England and Wales, and to reach “people of all different ages, genders, ethnicities, faiths, cultural, educational and language backgrounds, in both urban and rural locations”.

Sam organised a symposium on 17th November as a part of her project, with the title “Everyday Reading: Explorations of Literacy and Oracy”.

In a gathering of researchers and educators from around the country, Gordon Wells was delighted to get the opportunity to speak about the Island Voices project, and its own approach to speech and writing and the uses made of Reading Aloud. Gordon’s subject was “Reading Island Voices: Issues around the Primacy of Speech and the Privileging of Literacy, from a Hebridean Viewpoint”. You can read the script of his talk here.

It’s probably best to read it online so you can make use of the embedded links and clickable screenshots to supporting video clips and other webpages. There are also some added footnotes with further information and references.

It’s not a long document, but if you’ve only got time for a short browse these Powerpoint presentation slides may give you a quick impression of the ideas covered. If you find them interesting, then do try and find the time to return and read through the talk to see how the ideas are linked.

It’s been a long time since Gordon made a work journey in the UK so far from his own geographical centre, and he was pleased to find a strong level of interest in Island Voices in such a remote location! Finally meeting up with David Mallows, the editor of Innovations in English Language Teaching for Migrants and Refugees (which contains a chapter on Island Voices), among the other innovative thinkers present in Applied Linguistic, Language Education, and related fields, was an added bonus.

Nach math gu bheil ùidh aig daoine eile anns na tha sinn a’ dèanamh!

Categories: Research
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