New academic year starting!



With RADAR workshops, Critical Link 8, EIRSS, performing at the Fringe and the Applied Languages and Interpreting Summer School, our summer this year was busy but fun. The “holidays” have traditionally been a creative time in terms of research and impact.

Now Welcome week is here and the campus is buzzing with newly arrived students. There is a truly international mix, and that’s not just LINCS.

Teaching starts on Monday 12th September. In the meantime, we are running events to welcome all LINCS students. From coffee and muffins for 1st year students at the newly-opened Learning Commons, to drinks and nibbles in town for MSc students, we make sure that you are properly welcomed and are ready to start your academic journey with us. Our consistently high NSS results (2nd in Scotland and 6th in UK for student satisfaction!) prove how much we value the student experience.

But we never rest on our laurels.

This year, we are asking new and continuing students to participate in a competition to celebrate European Day of Languages. Students need to answer the questions “Why study languages?” and “The best thing about studying languages is…” for a chance to win Harriet, the Heriot-Watt cow that can also be used as a stress ball. There are 10 cows up for grabs!


The winning statements will be put on a poster which will be displayed at the LINCS stand during the University Open Day on 23rd September, as part of the celebrations for the European Day of Languages on 26th September.

We have a range of programmes in both languages and cultural studies, as well as some exciting new elective courses to add more flexibility to your degrees and give you more options depending on your needs. More information here for undergraduate and here for postgraduate programmes.

If you’re thinking of joining us, why don’t you come along to one of our Open Days? More info on





On Deafhood Space

by Steve Emery


[English version]

Last week, I went to Paddy Ladd’s lecture. He was talking about “Deafhood – A Pedagogy”, which was about theories of teaching Deaf children.

It was really interesting, but there was one part of his lecture that really got me thinking,  when he was talking about  “Wounded Space”, which means “damaged space”…Well, what does he actually mean by that? This concept relates to the experiences of Deaf children through their development into adults and how the effects of oppression through oralism. The overwhelming and stifling experience of this has damaged Deaf children emotionally as individuals and subsequently as a community of adults. There’s a need to rebuild the community, to begin again.

During his lecture, Paddy Ladd explained what he meant by “Deafhood – A Pedagogy” and as he was doing this, it gave me a lot of ideas , and I was thinking about the process of change, how do we move forward and go through a transition from a Wounded Space to Deafhood?  To a place where we can become healthy, where we can improve, develop and build? I began to consider what we would need to do to be able to achieve this aim.

Paddy Ladd’s lecture focussed upon how the use of appropriate teaching methods is the way to achieve Deafhood. In my view, that is one part of it, to be able to advance and move forward, however, there are a number of other factors that need to be taken into account for us to attain this.

It’s very important for Deaf people to be a part of a collective group, this is essential. Yes we are all individuals, we have our own lives, but we need to be connected to each other as a collective, this is really important for us all,  it’s been recognised that we need to be a part of society.

The next thing that came to me, concerning the need to rebuild and develop a Deafhood Space, is that we need to have an input and participation from the wider community, not just from academics. Yes, academics are important individuals who have a place, but ordinary members of the community should not be excluded as the wider community of Deaf people need to participate and be involved in this process of development.

The third point I’d like to make is, that hearing people must be thinking, “Where do I fit in, into this Deafhood Space?”  This is really important , to be able to build a new space, Deaf and hearing people have to work together, as allies, to be involved in making and developing this new space.

My fourth and last point is about spirituality. Paddy Ladd talked about this in his lecture. Spirituality can mean many things, it can relate to religious beliefs for example. He gave his perspective that we Deaf people are of the Earth and that we are here for a reason. Our understanding and development of what that spiritual aspect of being Deaf means is a part of the development of Deafhood Space.

His lecture gave me a lot to ponder over especially this concept of Deafhood Space. Its very important for us to reflect and recognise the idea of Damaged Space, in ourselves and in others and how we can change this and make a transition by moving to and developing a positive space.  These are a few of the suggestions that I think are important for us to take into account when we are discussing moving towards Deafhood.

An Irish of the future

A few weeks back I uploaded some information on the upcoming round of WorkGroup Meetings as part of the COST EU Action on “New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe“. The meetings which will be held at Heriot-Watt between 6-7 March 2014.

The project involves researchers from some 17 European countries. In the project we are interested in finding out more about what it means to become a ‘new speaker’ of language in the context of a multilingual Europe.

One of the multilingual strands we are exploring is indigenous minority languages and what it means to become a new speaker of languages such as Irish, Gaelic, Welsh, Galician, Catalan etc.

As a new speaker of Irish, I have been intrigued by this growing phenomenon in the case of the Irish language. I am also a new speaker or neofalante of Galician, a language spoken in northern Spain. I have also begun to pick up a smattering of Scottish Gaelic since my move over to Edinburgh.

I’ll leave my observations on Galician and Scottish Gaelic for another blog post and focus on new speakers of Irish for now and a project on which I am now working on jointly with Dr John Walsh at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Becoming a new speaker of a minority language requires commitment and dedication. The new speakers I interviewed during my field trips back to Ireland had clearly invested a lot of time in learning the intricacies of the language.

In the early years after political independence in Ireland, there was a strong link between national identity and the Irish language.

But new speakers of Irish in 21st century Ireland are no longer speaking Irish for patriotism.

Speaking Irish is more about establishing an individualized identity as opposed to a collective national identity (O’Rourke  2011: 339)

In the globalized world in which we now live, becoming a speaker of a minority language such as Irish is about standing out and being different.

As one of the new speakers I spoke to way back Dublin in 2003 told me “I think that I am very proud that I can speak Irish .. .I like that side of it you know like when other people think about you or ‘she has Irish’…. so like I stand out because of Irish and I like that…” (O’Rourke 2005: 294).

So in the Irish context where English has become the language of the majority of the population, the minority language would seem to be used by new speakers to symbolise an authentic individuality, allowing them to ‘stand out’ and as an expression of difference, reflecting a heightened concern about self-realisation and identity (O’Rourke 2005: 295)

While the Irish language was for a time tainted by the association of nationalism with political violence in Northern Ireland, for a lot of young people now, being a new speaker of Irish is more about tolerance and recognition of diversity.

New speakers bring with them new ways of speaking the language – they often mix Irish with English, they make up new words, use the language in creative ways and often speak with an urban accent.

The term ‘Dublin Irish’ was used by some of the new speakers I spoke to refer to their own way of speaking. These new speakers are bringing Irish into new contexts, ranging from hip-hop music to playful use of the language in internet chat rooms.

So instead of drawing on an Irish of the past, they are inventing and re-inventing an Irish of the future.

Bernie O’Rourke

Email – B.M.A.O’

Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke

Twitter – @BernORourke

New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe

The recent resignation of the Irish-language commissioner in Ireland, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, featured strongly in the Irish media just before Christmas.

Irish is the official language of the Republic of Ireland. It is one of the only minority languages in Europe and perhaps in the world to have this level of official status.

However, despite this apparent protection at institutional level, there has been a very laissez-faire attitude to the language.

It is little wonder that the Irish-language commissioner accused the Irish Government of hypocrisy, and said Irish speakers in traditional heartland areas of the Gaeltacht (meaning Irish-speaking) were being neglected.

But the Irish language, like many of Europe’s other minority languages, including Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Galician, Occitan, Sami, Romani, Yiddish etc., is being embraced by new speakers.

New speakers are individuals who were not brought up speaking the language in the home as “native” speakers but who learned it as a second language outside of the home, either at school, through adult classes or some other formal means.

Followers of the blog will remember a post on the concept a few years back inviting people to our symposium New Speakers of Minority Languages: A Dialogue.

This is an exciting moment for Irish and others minority languages which are now being used in modern and new contexts.

I am currently coordinating an EU-funded COST project on the theme, ‘New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe involving researchers from some 17 European countries.

As part of the project, some of my European colleagues and I are interested in finding out more about what it means to become a new speaker of a minority language such as Irish, Gaelic or Welsh.

In particular:

▪   Why do people decide to invest time and effort in learning a minority language?

▪   What are their experiences of speaking these languages?

▪   Who are these people?

Bernie O’Rourke

Email – B.M.A.O’

Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke

Twitter – @BernORourke

Edupunk, Engagement and the Rise of Peer Training

Last week, the Thesis Whisperer visited Heriot-Watt. No, it wasn’t an expert in animal training nor was it a visiting speaker who hadn’t learned to project their voice but instead Dr Inger Mewburn, known online for her Thesis Whisperer blog. Although her talk was aimed at helping young academics use social media to help them up the career ladder, one of the most memorable moments was her presentation of the idea of “Edupunk.”

Edupunk is new, dating from just 2008. Basically, it promotes a “do-it-yourself” rule-free approach to teaching and learning. What Dr Mewburn added was that this could easily apply to academic careers too. At a time when blogs and twitter feeds say as much about an academic as their publication list and CV, why play by the existing rules? Why not use new technologies to get the word out about what you do rather than spending all your time filling in form after form after form?

It’s not far off an approach that was tried here at Heriot-Watt to get Deaf and signing people more engaged with research. Since these people are online and engaging with blogs anyway, why not aim a blog at them and let them engage with research online? You will need to either come to the upcoming BAAL conference or wait until the paper hits the journals to find out how that went.

Still, whether that was successful of not, the point remains that nowadays, online, interactive, innovative learning is hitting the mainstream. In the world of commercial translation and interpreting, providers like eCPD and experts like Marta Stelmaszak are making waves with courses like Business School for Translators and showing that translators and interpreters can and should learn from their fellow professionals. National associations have long shown that this path is worth treading. ITI is only one example of a professional association that has long made a  point of providing opportunities for its members to learn from each other.

It’s a cultural shift that is spreading far and wide. But this wouldn’t be a LifeinLINCS post if we just left it there. Just as crowdsourced and professional translation might not be implacable enemies, so it is with Edupunk and traditional training. There are, after all, good reasons for boring-sounding concepts like Learning Outcomes and Syllabus Design. While you could almost certainly string together micro-course after micro-course and spend the same number of hours on informal translation and interpreting training as you could on a degree course, it wouldn’t add up to the same thing.

Of course, some would say that this only favours online and peer learning. A masters degree does not a translator make. That may well be true but it is also true to say that the good degrees can be recognised by the fact that they mix both practical and theoretical training, alongside exposure to events that provide a starting point for the transition from graduate to freelancer.

There might therefore be space for partnership between the new and the old or even for them to learn from each other. The new online course providers could perhaps do with looking at how universities pull together courses into a single package and how they check that the courses they offer are working. They might also want to take a peek at the transferable skills that graduates are supposed to learn to see what they could add to their approach. Learning how to learn effectively is, after all, as necessary a skill for aspiring freelancers as learning to market their services.

For pre-Edupunk academics, the lessons are more striking. For one, if the edupunk approach is has merit then some of the structures normally put around learning might be completely unnecessary. At the very least, it might mean mixing up the methods used for teaching and making more materials available online to absolutely anyone. Edupunk, engagement and peer learning tell us that people want to be far more involved in their own training. Perhaps it’s time to give them that opportunity.

Author: Jonathan Downie

[Editor’s note: The first public version of this post erroneously suggested that national associations had “jumped on the bandwagon” in providing online, peer-learning courses. It has been correctly pointed out that this is not the case and in some cases the courses provided by national associations pre-date some of the examples given by several years. Jonathan apologises for any offence caused by this inaccuracy.]

Upcoming Event: Language Education Policies for Deaf Children

We are delighted to confirm our next EdSign lecture by Dr John Bosco Conama from Trinity College Dublin, on Tuesday 6 November, 6.30PM, at Deaf Action:

Who decides? – Language education policies for Deaf children
Selected findings from a comparative analysis of Finnish and Irish policies on signed languages

John will talk about comparative language education policies in Finland and Ireland. He will present his research discussing different components that influence language educational policies. Showing excerpts from interviews and commenting on the situation in Finland and Ireland, John highlights equality issues around language education policies in general.
Date: Tuesday, 6 November 2012
Time: 6.30pm-8.30pm
Venue: Deaf Action, 49 Albany Street, Edinburgh EH1 3QY

Language: The lecture will be presented in International Sign, and there will be interpretation into English and BSL.

The event is open to everybody and you do not need to book in advance, but spaces are limited, so arrive early.

On a different note, the consultation on the proposed British Sign Language
(BSL) Bill in Scotland is still open, but the deadline is approaching soon: 31 October 2012.
Please take a look at the BSL documents. Responses and petitions should be sent to Mark Griffin MSP, Room M1:20, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP.

We look forward to seeing you all soon,

The EdSign Lectures team

Thank You!

On behalf of the LifeinLINCS team, I would like to send a huge thank you to everyone who has posted, reposted and commented on LifeinLINCS posts recently. I would especially like to thank all those who have contributed to the incredible success of the blog in the past two days.

Until Monday, our most successful day was November 8th, last year when excitement for Graham Turner’s post, Broken Britain: Blame the Interpreters, meant that we received a respectable 757 page views. On Monday, that record was not just broken but smashed. Facebook and twitter, along with other superb interpreting blogs like the Interpreter Diaries  and TerpsTube  got the world stirred up about 7 Ways To Annoy Interpreters. It might have been the ironic humour, it might have been a hint of self-recognition, it might even have had something to do with the fact that interpreters tend not to have an “off” switch.

Whatever it was, it meant that the blog received 1,238 views, not far off double the previous record. And then the incredible happened. Just when we thought everything was getting back to normal, word spread even further. Yesterday, thanks to visitors from the USA, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Russia, as well as the UK, you beat the record again. By the time I woke up this morning, the picture was clear: yesterday alone, LifeinLINCS received two thousand, two hundred and ninety-one visits. 2,291!

Well, what good does this do? As well as giving the profile of Heriot-Watt University and especially LINCS a boost, it also points to a nice future for the profession. You see, yesterday alone, 36 people clicked on links sending them to info on Interpreter training. Over the last 30 days, an additional 24 people have done the same. If nothing else, it seems that Monday’s article has managed to increase enthusiasm for interpreting as a career and that can only be a good thing.

So, give yourself a pat on the back and please accept our sincere thanks.

And, if you know of anyone looking to train as an interpreter or a translator, feel free to use the links below.

For undergraduate degrees (including the new degree in BSL Translation and Interpreting) use this link:

For postgraduate degrees in translation and interpreting, use this link:

Word Up!

After years of dithering and de-prioritisation, it seems parliamentary action to address the decline in British citizens’ language learning is finally approaching. The Holyrood and Westminster governments are announcing plans for change, trying to put the brakes on a decade of implosion which has seen the numbers of young people taking foreign language qualifications at schools decimated. In 2010, 43% of pupils aged 15-16 were entered for a language in national examinations, down from a peak of 75% in 2002.

In London, the focus will be on English and other languages. The education secretary, Michael Gove, will promise a new focus on spelling and grammar when he sets out his plans for the teaching of English in primary schools later this week. Children as young as five will be expected to learn and recite poetry by heart in England. He will also put forward proposals to make learning a foreign language compulsory for pupils from the age of seven.

In May 2012, a study commissioned by the Scottish government said children in Scotland should begin learning a second language as soon as they start school at the age of five. The recommendations – made by the government’s Modern Languages Working Group  – also suggest that children should start to learn a third language before they reach 10 years old.

If this seems radical in a British context, it certainly isn’t unusual within Europe. Last year, the Edinburgh-based Consuls General of France, Germany, Spain, Italy and China joined forces to warn that Scotland needed to take modern languages more seriously. Scottish exports to these five nations alone were worth £4.52bn in 2009, representing about 21% of Scotland’s total international exports.

There are so many reasons for supporting these proposals. For a start, it’s easier for pupils to learn new languages when they’re young. They’ll become more fluent and the learning process will be more fun. Learning early will also help them to develop skills in their first language. And it will confer general cognitive benefits which will assist their all-round personal development.

Of course, many of these benefits can also be gained from learning indigenous languages other than English, and there is evidence of Gaelic being more popular than German in some Scottish schools . The current campaign to introduce school qualifications in British Sign Language  also looks set to be highly popular with pupils, and to promise significant broadening of linguistic, cultural and social horizons amongst students.

Still, as good as these plans may be, they won’t work unless there are teachers capable of delivering them. Modern languages have not hitherto been seen as a major priority – it’s future teachers of maths and sciences who qualify for the most generous ‘golden hellos’ (). Still, Throughout the UK, there appears to be belated recognition that it is never too soon for children to start on the path to bilingualism but is it too little, too late? Let us know what you think in the “Comments” box below.


Author: Graham Turner