LINCS BSL team rock at Critical Link 8

by Stacey Webb

Over the past year, Christine Wilson and the rest of the organising committee have been planning Critical Link 8 (CL8), which was hosted at Heriot-Watt University 29-June – 1 July, with pre-conference activities on 27-28 June.

Therefore, the Monday after the SML graduation, Heriot-Watt staff and student volunteers were busy ensuring the success of this conference.  For those who are unsure what Critical Link is, it is an organization that exists to:

  • Promote the establishment of standards which guide the practice of community interpreters
  • Encourage and sharing research in the field of community interpretation
  • Add to the discussion about the educational and training requirements for community interpreters
  • Advocate for the provision of professional community interpreting services by social, legal and health care institutions
  • Raise awareness about community interpreting as a profession            (Critical Link, 2016)

The theme of this year’s conference was the “next generation”- which we see very fitting with our recent graduates!

The conference was a huge event. Read the news story on the main HW website here.

Our BSL team was nicely represented with posters, presentations and the provision of interpreting services:

Posters

Brett Best, EUMASLI Graduate, How Signed Language Interpreters Perceive Facebook is Used by the Interpreting Community

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Heather Mole, 2nd year PhD Student, Do sign language interpreters think about their power and privilege as members of the majority hearing group?

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Jemina Napier, Head of LINCS/ Robert Skinner, Research Assistant and PhD Student (September 2017) in conjunction with Rosemary Oram and Alys Young from University of Manchester, Social Research with Deaf people Group, Critical links between Deaf culture, well being and interpreting: Translating the Deaf Self

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Stacey Webb, 3rd year PhD Student, Job Demands Job Resources: Exploration of sign language interpreter educators’ experiences

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Papers

Robyn Dean, 2016 PhD Graduate,  An Idol of the Mind: Barriers to justice reasoning in sign language interpreters

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Emmy Kauling, EUMASLI Graduate and PhD Student (September 2017), Tomorrow’s interpreter in higher education: a critical link between omissions and content knowledge

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Professor Jemina Napier, Head of LINCS/ Robert Skinner, Research Assistant and PhD Student (September 2017), and Professor Graham Turner, in conjunction with external colleagues  Loraine Leeson,Theresa Lynch, Tobias Haug, Heidi Salaets, Myriam Vermeerbergen & Haaris Sheikh Justisigns: Future proofing access to justice for deaf sign language users

Stacey Webb, Assistant Professor in Sign Language Studies & Suzanne Ehrlich from the University of North Florida,  Reflective Practice as a Pedagogical Strategy for Interpreter Educators

Yvonne Waddell, 3rd year PhD student,  Exploring the language and communication strategies of a mental health working with an interpreter in mental health interactions with Deaf patients.

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Interpreting Provision

Marion Fletcher, BSL Interpreter Coordinator at Heriot-Watt, did an excellent job coordinating the interpreting services for the conference. The team was made up of some fabulous interpreters and a few of them are also members of the Heriot-Watt  BSL team.  So a special shout out to our own-  Professor Jemina Napier, Yvonne Waddell, Robert Skinner, and Marion Fletcher. Thank you for not only providing excellent interpreting services, but also for being an excellent example of skill and professionalism to  the next generation of sign language interpreters.  I wish I had a picture of the team all together, but here are some shots of them in action:

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EIRSS 2016 programme updated!

This year’s Edinburgh Interpreting Research Summer School (EIRSS) is taking place on 04 – 08 July 2016, right after Critical Link 8.

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We are delighted to have Daniel Gile as our guest speaker again this year. Professor Gile was also our guest speaker in the inaugural EIRSS in 2013.

The EIRSS is designed to offer intensive research training for existing and future scholars in any field of interpreting. Relevant to researchers interested in Conference Interpreting (CI) and Public Service Interpreting (PSI) alike, for both spoken and signed languages, EIRSS includes lectures on the state of the art in CI and PSI research, seminars on methodology  and research design and a round-table discussion. Suggested reading lists and other materials for personal study are also provided. EIRSS 2016 fits in nicely with this year’s CL8 theme, so if you are attending both, you pay a reduced fee for EIRSS.

The five-day programme includes guest lectures from world-leading figures in interpreting research as well as seminars by Heriot-Watt academics, librarians and research managers. Participants also have the opportunity to network with world-renowned researchers in the field of Interpreting as well as the chance to showcase their own projects and receive feedback from the expert staff in LINCS.

The updated programme can be found here

For more information about the EIRSS, please click here

To register, please click here – EARLY BIRD ENDS ON MAY 13th !!

Looking forward to meeting you and talking about research in Interpreting Studies!

eirss@hw.ac.uk

#EIRSS2016

A taste of the real thing

by Fanny Chouc

Heriot-Watt’s interpreting students were given a great opportunity to apply their skills to a real-life setting thanks to Heriot-Watt Engage. They interpreted for the Illuminations event, which was held on campus on Wednesday 02 December to mark the end of the UN Year of Light.

As part of this event, Professor Jim Al-Khalili gave a fascinating talk on the history of optics, looking at all the scientists who contributed to the build up towards our current understanding of Light. Students were given a unique chance to interpret his speech into French, Spanish, German and British Sign Language, working either in booths or in front of the stage.

All students involved have been training as interpreters, but this was, for most, their first experience outside a classroom environment. And what an experience! They provided simultaneous interpreting to a live and e-audience (the event was streamed online), in an auditorium set to welcome 450 people. A particularly daunting prospect for our BSL students, as they were facing a particularly large audience! Students in the booths also took on a challenge for their first taste of professional interpreting: they volunteered knowing that the topic would be challenging, and in some cases, they were working into their B language.

So how beneficial was this first taste of the real things? Student volunteers saw this as a very good reminder of the key skills highlighted in class, with one of them saying: “it reminded me how important it is to stay informed not only in the field of politics and current affairs but also in the field of science”.  They also valued the chance to put their skills to the test in a real, live setting, stressing that “from a learner’s point of view it was very useful to be given the chance to interpret in a professional context in front of a live audience”. And this opportunity also enabled them to make the link between preparation and the actual interpreting process.  But most importantly, they enjoyed this chance to put their skills to the test, with one of them stating that “it was fun and a great opportunity”.

The feedback from the audience was also very positive, especially considering that some of these students only started their simultaneous interpreting training three months ago: they kept going, providing a clear and lively rendition of Prof Al-Khalili’s speech in the target languages, and coming up with clever strategies to convey the sometimes technical explanations of this well-known scientist, delivering a pleasant and efficient version of the speech in the various languages.

In the end, this proved to be a very successful experience for all, and a very good warm-up in preparation for our annual multilingual debates, scheduled for Wednesday 23rd March.

The topics chosen this year are: “This House believes that new technologies are killing real human interactions” (morning debate) and “This House believes that accessing public services in your native language should be a recognized and implemented human right” (afternoon debate). And as last year, it will also be possible to follow the event online and to listen to the interpreters in the booths or watch BSL interpreters at work. Note that the BSL interpreting will be provided for the first time by Heriot-Watt students: the first ever cohort on our M.A. in BSL interpreting has reached their final year and they’ll be joining their peers in our annual events. So save the date, and check this link if you are interested in the live streaming.

 

 

Translating Cultures and the Mediation of Indigenous Rights in Peru

Raquel

While we were all busy teaching, marking papers, setting exams, attending conferences and writing papers, Dr Raquel de Pedro Ricoy spent part of the first semester in the jungle. Literally.

Raquel is working on an AHRC-funded project entitled “Translating Cultures and the Mediation of Indigenous Rights in Peru” with Prof. Rosaleen Howard (Newcastle University) and Dr Luis Andrade (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú), in partnership with the Directorate for Indigenous Languages of the Ministry of Culture and the rural development agency SER. The project looks at new state-sponsored initiatives to facilitate better communication between the Spanish-speaking majority and speakers of the many Amerindian languages of the Andean highlands and the Amazon basin. The aim of the project is to research how far translation and interpreting, in contexts of mediation between the Peruvian state and its indigenous populations, can achieve the state legislated goals of upholding indigenous rights, while also sustainably developing the resource-rich territories where the indigenous populations live Ever since the Spanish conquest, Peru’s indigenous languages have lost ground to Spanish, which dominates all fields of formal communication and is seen as having greater prestige than the local Amerindian tongues. Indigenous people often suffer discrimination on linguistic as well as sociocultural grounds. However, this situation is gradually being reversed. Languages such as Quechua and Aymara in the highlands, and Asháninka and Shipibo in the rainforest, are spoken in schools and health centres, and bilingual indigenous people are becoming trained professionals in a variety of fields. Laws passed in 2011 make translation and interpretation a right, and the government is responding by translating the laws into the native languages as well as training bilingual indigenous people to be interpreters.

This is why Raquel spent two weeks in the high jungle town of Quillabamba,where the Ministry of Culture was running a training course for speakers of indigenous languages. As part of the project, Raquel and the rest of the teamobserved the training sessions, contributed to a panel on language rights and ran a workshop with the participants on the experience of translation. The trainees were speakers of: Matsigenga, an Arawak language; Harakbut a highly endangered language spoken by just 2,800 people in Madre de Dios department; and five different varieties of the Andean language Quechua. Raquel subsequently travelled to Pucallpa, in the Peruvian western jungle, where she interviewed community leaders who had used the services of interpreters in a consultation process facilitated by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. During her stay in Lima, Raquel delivered a plenary lecture at the XII International FIT Forum and joined government representatives and legal experts for a round-table discussion on legal translation and interpreting for indigenous languages.

The team is currently working on an article about the indigenous experience of translating indigenous rights law, involving translators in the difficult task of expressing western concepts such as ´rights´ and ´law´ in their own Amazonian and Andean tongues.

 

EU study on Public Service Translation in Cross-Border Healthcare is out!

After 10 months of non-stop work, we are delighted to announce that an EU study on Public Service Translation in Cross Border Healthcare, led by Prof Claudia V. Angelelli is published. The Report, commissioned by the Directorate-General for Translation, responds to an increasing interest in the role of language provision and information access in cross-border healthcare.

Linguistic diversity permeates every thread of the European Union fabric. Cross-border healthcare is increasing among EU citizens and residents who seek care under Directive 2011/24/EU or Regulation (EC) N° 883/2004.

In a multilingual and intercultural society like the EU, patients and providers may not share a language. If patients cannot access healthcare services in a language they fully understand, equal access to safe and high-quality healthcare is not guaranteed. Through the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods, this exploratory study examines language policies as well as responses provided (or lack thereof) to linguistically diverse patients in areas of Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The cost of language provision as well as good practices are also studied.

Results show that a variety of responses, ranging from professional translation and interpreting support to informal and unprofessional ad-hoc solutions, are used to address the language needs of patients. In the absence of formal language guidance in EU legislation, in most observed cases appropriate language services are not provided for patients who do not speak the language of the Member State in which they seek healthcare. This study has implications for policy makers, healthcare providers, educators, translators and interpreters serving the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse patients.

The full document of the study is available here

Les publics multilingues

by Katerina Strani

This post was originally published in the CREM research blog Publics en Question. For a similar (but not identical) English version, please visit this page.

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Il a longtemps été prouvé que notre langage a un impact sur la façon dont nous pensons et, finalement, la façon dont nous soutenons nos arguments (Whorf, 1956). Notre langage façonne notre pensée et notre vision du monde. C’est par la langue que nous devenons des êtres politiques. Le philosophe Ludwig Wittgenstein a dit que les « limites de ma langue sont les limites de mon monde ». Dai Vaughan a adapté cette citation célèbre en déclarant que« les limites de ma langue sont les limites de ton monde ».

Qu’est-ce que cela signifie quand nous parlons des langues différentes dans les sphères publiques?

L’argumentation constitue la pierre angulaire de la sphère publique, mais, malgré l’importance du multilinguisme sur la construction sociale des sphères publiques contemporaines, ceci reste relativement sous-exploré. Les sphères publiques ne sont pas statiques, mais dynamiques et en pleine évolution. La citoyenneté post-nationale (comme la citoyenneté de l’UE), les sphères publiques sous-nationales (assemblées, collectivités locales, etc.), les langues minoritaires dans l’administration publique, les publics diasporiques en raison de l’augmentation des migrations ont abouti à la communication publique multilingue augmentée. Si on ajoute à cela les nouveaux médias et des « tiers-espaces » de communication (Bhabha, 1994), on voit que la communication multilingue a modifié la composition de la sphère publique non seulement en termes de structure mais aussi en termes de nature communicative. Les interprètes sont de plus en plus utilisés pour parvenir à la compréhension et favoriser le débat dans un environnement multilingue (voir les sphères publiques de l’UE). La reconnaissance des différences culturelles et la thématisation de l’«altérité» font désormais partie du débat multilingue (Doerr, 2012). Les logiciels de traduction deviennent également populaires dans les forums multilingues en ligne, bien que parfois avec des résultats mitigés.

Cependant, malgré la réalité multilingue évidente, il reste quand même une idéologie monolingualiste (Doerr, 2012 ; Pym, 2013) et une hypothèse erronée de l’homogénéité linguistique des sphères publiques. Et cela est encore plus alarmant quand on sait que le multilinguisme dans la sphère publique n’est pas quelque chose de nouveau. Rappelons-nous de l’Empire des Habsbourg, de l’Empire Ottoman, ou bien de la France du 19e siècle ; et aujourd’hui, des pays comme la Belgique, la Suisse, le Canada, l’Afrique du Sud ou l’Inde sont officiellement bilingues or multilingues.

Le multilinguisme continue à constituer une partie intégrante de la sphère publique contemporaine, dans laquelle l’argumentation politique peut défier les barrières linguistiques. Comme Thomas Risse et Marianne Van de Steeg (2003) l’ont fait valoir, il n’est « pas besoin de parler la même langue pour communiquer d’une manière significative » ; comme Nicole Doerr (2012) l’a démontré dans ses recherches sur le Forum social européen, malgré le pluralisme linguistique et les compétences linguistiques asymétriques des participants, les débats multilingues sont plus inclusifs que les monolingues. D’un bout à l’autre, la communication devient peu à peu détachée du fonds linguistique.

Bien sûr, cela a des implications pratiques ainsi que normatives. La compréhension semble de plus en plus inaccessible. Une autre langue ajoute un niveau supplémentaire à la contingence (et au risque de mécompréhension ). En outre, les différences de pouvoir dans les sphères publiques multilingues peuvent non seulement être enracinées dans le statut, l’éducation ou l’accès, mais aussi dans la langue choisie pour la communication ou enfin dans la façon dont la langue dominante est parlée (Doerr, 2012 ; Fraser 2007). Le manque d’une langue commune dans l’UE, par exemple, n’empêche pas l’hégémonie linguistique; et toute lingua franca ne sera probablement parlée que par les élites où les éduqués (Fraser, 2007).

Mais il faut considérer ceci : quand nous parlons une langue différente, nous devenons essentiellement des personnes différentes. Quand nous pensons dans une langue différente, nous pensons d’une manière différente. Les langues représentent les cultures, les systèmes de croyance, les mondes vécus. Si nous passons à une autre langue, nous passons à une vision du monde différente. Forcer les gens à parler la même langue, en particulier dans le débat politique, revient à les forcer à penser différemment et à avoir des arguments différents. Certaines personnes considèrent cette obligation comme une forme d’oppression.

Pourquoi dire que l’anglais en Grande-Bretagne, le français en France, etc., est la seule langue admise de débat critique rationnel ? Il est arrogant de penser qu’une langue dominante est la langue de la raison et la seule pourvoyeuse de la vérité. Voilà pourquoi nous devons adopter le multilinguisme, nous devons le favoriser et l’encourager, surtout en politique, où il est le plus vital. Il encourage le pluralisme dans la pensée et l’expression, ce qui est au cœur de la démocratie.

Références

Bhabha H., 1994, The Location of Culture, London, New York, Routledge.Doerr N., 2012, « Translating democracy : how activists in the European Social Forum practice multilingual deliberation », European Political Science Review, 4 (3), pp. 361-384.

Fraser N., 2007, « Transnationalizing the Public Sphere : On the Legitimacy and Efficacy of Public Opinion in a Post-Westphalian World », European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies, doi : 10.1177/0263276407080090.

Pym A., 2013, « Translation as an instrument for multilingual democracy », Critical Multilingualism Studies, 1(2), pp. 78-95.

Risse T., Van de Steeg M., 2003, « An emerging European public sphere ? Empirical evidence and theoretical clarifications » : Conference on the Europeanisation of Public Spheres, Political Mobilisation, Public Communication and the European Union, Science Center Berlin, 20-21 juin.

Whorf B.L., 1956, « The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language », pp. 134-59, in : Carroll, J. B. et al. (dir.), Language, Thought and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf, Cambridge, MIT Press.

The Language of Reason

by Katerina Strani

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A café. Once a dedicated space where people gathered to discuss culture and politics. A space of arguing, debating, learning. A space where public opinion was formed and authority was challenged, contested, or at least influenced. A public sphere: a communicative space where people gathered to talk about public matters – politics.
Their aim – to form public opinion and to influence government.

Today, public spheres have evolved into more complex, more sophisticated spaces but also equally more diffuse and more informal. Think of online platforms such as blogs, twitter, facebook. A public sphere does not have to be a physical space waiting to be used, as these online platforms have proved. Instead, public spheres are spaces of communication that emerge with communication and die out when communication stops, when there is nothing left to debate.

Also, nowadays people are constantly bombarded with information and opinions, they have become more knowledgeable, but also more passionate about certain economic and political issues. Political debates are not a privilege of the elite anymore. Again, think of online platforms such as blogs, twitter, facebook. Think of public squares such as Tahrir square during the Arab spring, Syntagma square during the Greek financial crisis, or Taksim square during the demonstrations in Turkey in 2013. Anyone can join the debate, anyone can make themselves heard, anyone can influence public opinion – right???

Well, not really.

In order to participate in online public spheres, for instance, you need to have access to a computer and an internet connection. With this prerequisite, we’ve already narrowed down participation by about half (and having access to technology doesn’t mean you can use it)… But that has always been the case. In ancient public spheres, for example, such as the Forum in Rome or the Agora in Athens, only a tiny proportion of citizens actually participated in the debate. Only free-born male landowners and citizens of Rome or Athens, so no women, no foreigners, no slaves. Fast-forward to the 18th – 19th centuries and the situation hasn’t really changed. An eminent German philosopher with the name Jürgen Habermas writes that the public spheres of that time, such as coffeehouses and salons were composed of male citizens who had property in their name. These people communicated – allegedly – through the public use of reason.

So there has always been some form of gatekeeping – be it gender, financial status, nationality. Today most of these barriers are not relevant anymore, but there is one that still persists : language. It’s funny, language, be it spoken or signed, is at the heart of communication and yet multilingualism seems to be largely ignored in communication studies. An increasingly globalised world means that public spheres are becoming more multilingual, more multicultural. It means that people can participate in public life by speaking a language different from their ‘native’ one, or if that’s not possible, use the medium of translation or interpreting. If you ask me, this has always been the case but it has been largely bracketed, to use Nancy Fraser‘s term.

So what do we see today? A rise in the use of “minority languages” in citizen debates, such as Polish, Urdu or BSL in Britain, for example. With the exception of BSL, these are sometimes called migrant languages, to distinguish them from so-called heritage languages that are also gaining popularity once again, such as Gaelic in Scotland, Breze in Brittany, Cornish in Cornwall etc. I use the terms minority, migrant and heritage languages with caution, as these eventually overlap and their definitions are a bit fuzzy. The point is, multilingualism in political debate is a hard fact and it is here to stay.

The practical issue here, of course, is that historically, common languages (linguae francae) were used for convenience, so there was always a dominant language used in everyday discussions and in national parliaments. But think of national parliaments in Switzerland, Belgium, Canada. In the EU Parliament, interpreters are used and any cases of miscommunication are similar to ones that occur in monolingual environments anyway.

A lingua franca is not always the most practical solution. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Because if we think of the gatekeeping issue, if we impose a lingua franca we are immediately excluding those citizens and taxpayers who choose to speak their own migrant, minority or heritage language, whatever you want to call it. And there are enough exclusions already, don’t you think?

When we speak a different language, we essentially become different people. When we think in a different language, we think in a different way. Languages represent cultures, belief systems, lifeworlds. If we switch to a different language, we switch to a different worldview. Forcing people to speak the same language especially in political debate is to force them to think differently and to have different arguments. Some people consider it as a form of oppression.

Who is to say that English in Britain, French in France etc. is the only accepted language of critical-rational debate? It is arrogant to think that one dominant language is the language of reason and the sole purveyor of truth. This is why we need to embrace multilingualism, we need to foster and encourage it, especially in politics, where it is most vital. It encourages pluralism in thought and expression, which is at the heart of democracy.

Understanding understanding *

“I want people to understand each other” –

That was the best I could come up with when asked to sum up my research in fewer than 10 words during last year’s Heriot-Watt Crucible. But it did prompt people to ask me questions such as how are you planning to achieve this, why do you want people to understand each other, what is the scope of your research, can you give us a bit more context etc. But nobody asked me what I meant by “understanding”.

Understanding is a hugely complex cognitive process that involves great uncertainty, yet it is fundamental in communication. It is also taken for granted or tends to be assumed too quickly.

German philosopher Jürgen Habermas believes that what is crucial in achieving understanding is intersubjectivity. This places emphasis on a distinct common social world shared by people when they speak. It requires us to overcome our biased, subjective views so that, instead of communicating our own subjectivities, we are communicating intersubjectively. And understanding is reached when people relate to something in “the one objective world” (which I don’t agree with, but that’s another story), something in the common social world that they have created through communication and something in each one’s subjective world.

This model is certainly not without its flaws, but it highlights the fact that understanding is a shared process. Even in the absence of others, when we read a book alone, for example, we try to understand by relating what we read to past shared communications. And that involves great uncertainty. In many cases, people assume they have understood each other even though they have created different images in their head that do not coincide. Understanding in this case is reduced to a “fictional coupling of expectations”, as my former PhD supervisor neatly put it.

And we haven’t talked about different languages yet.

In a recent conference in Cork organised by the University Association of Contemporary European Studies, I presented a paper on “The impact of multilingualism in public sphere communication” (abstract here). I tried to show that multilingualism is an integral part of post-national citizenship but it is frequently ignored in political communication. Because of multiculturalism and multilingualism, we have seen the profusion of new publics – subnational, diasporic publics, for example. And let’s not forget the EU public sphere, where 24 different languages are used! How do people argue when they speak a language different from their language of habitual use? How is debate transformed when interpreters are used? (Nicole Doerr from Mount Holyoke College has written extensively on this, looking at interpreted debate during the European Social Forum). How do we negotiate and establish meaning, understanding and ultimately consensus?

One of the questions I was asked was if language was actually important in communication and understanding. The argument was that, even when we speak different languages, we reach understanding one way or another (through paralinguistic communication, educated guesses (!) or through interpreters). So if understanding is achieved, it doesn’t matter what language you speak. The focus should be on the message and not on the language used to convey it.

IF understanding is achieved. That’s a big IF. Even in monolingual, unicultural environments we get “fictional coupling of expectations” instead of complete understanding. Multilingual environments add another level of complexity because when we speak a different language, we become different people (or do we?). If language is linked to culture, then when we speak a different language do we acquire different cultural traits? I joked once that I would probably be more efficient if I spoke better German.

But bold claims aside, we do change when we speak a different language. We do start to think differently. And if understanding is a shared process, this ultimately influences how we communicate our thoughts, our perceptions of meaning and ultimately the way we argue.

Multilingualism does not impede on our communication, but it adds another dimension to our understanding of meanings and perceptions that we must take into account.  Recognition and awareness is a good start.

Katerina Strani

* The title is borrowed by Heinz von Foerster’s book Understanding understanding: Essays on Cybernetics and Cognition, Springer, 2002.

Irish in a multilingual world

In my previous post, I mentioned that new speakers of Irish are bringing the language into new contexts. While some speakers still try to model their Irish on what was traditionally spoken in the Gaeltacht, many others deliberately move away from this model. They break the rules of grammar and adopt hybridized forms of language. Although language purists may be critical of these non-conventional forms, as we all know the nature of language use is that it changes. The language is also been used in new and creative ways by the many new speakers of Irish amongst Ireland’s New Irish. These New Irish originate from places like Poland, Romania, Nigeria, the Philippines and China, to name but a few. I recently met a woman from Poland who was learning Irish and sending her children to an Irish-medium school. Many of the parents of immigrant background I met were very enthusiastic about learning Irish and ensuring their children would become speakers of the language. In a way, becoming a new speaker of Irish is not such a big deal for them. They are already multilingual individuals anyway. So they’re open to the idea of learning and trying out new languages. Of course new speakers of Irish are not restricted to Ireland itself. Irish is also spoken outside of Ireland. You can study Irish in Germany, Spain and Russia and there are dozens of universities in North America where Irish is taught. In fact, with the help of technology and the Internet, it is possible to learn Irish from anywhere in world without ever even coming to Ireland. To end, here is a fun video which tells the story of Yu Ming who learned Irish in China. As you will see, however, when he reaches Ireland he is a bit frustrated to find that in Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, he finds it difficult to find Irish speakers. For new speakers of minority languages, this is often a challenge and the active seeking out of speakers is a big part of the process. Bernie O’Rourke Email – B.M.A.O’Rourke@hw.ac.uk Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke Twitter – @BernORourke

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’Rourke@hw.ac.uk

Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke

Twitter – @BernORourke