‘AN UNILINGUAL MINORITY LANGUAGE
COLLEGE IN A MULTILINGUAL
UNIVERSITY: SABHAL MÒR OSTAIG’
EUNoM Symposium on Multilingualism
Ljouwert
19 An t-Samhain 2010
19 November 2010
Prof. Robert Dunbar – Senior Research Professor and Soillse
Project Director, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig/UHIMI
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (SMO)
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SMO founded in 1973 for explicit language revitalisation purposes; F-T
courses started in 1983
‘Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is committed to being a centre of excellence for the
development and enhancement of the Gaelic language, culture and
heritage, by providing quality educational, training and research
opportunities through the medium of Scottish Gaelic; and by interacting
innovatively with individuals, communities and businesses, to
contribute to social, cultural and economic development.’
Degrees: BA (Hons) Gaelic Language and Culture; BA (Hons) Gaelic
and Development; BA (Hons) Gaelic and Media Studies; MA (Hons)
Gaelic with Education; BA Gaelic and Traditional Music; Diploma in
Gaelic Media; MA Material Culture and the Environment; Doctoral
studies
Enrolment: 75 F-T, 111 P-T; 182 Distance Learning; approx. 750 on
short courses (Summer, Easter)
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
SMO Àrainn Chaluim Chille
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
University of the Highlands and
Islands Millennium Institute
(UHIMI)
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The project started in 1993, with strong support from Highlands
and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council; Higher Education
Institution Status in 2001; taught degree awarding powers in
2008; full University status in 2011?
A confederation of 11 colleges, 2 research institutes
No particular Gaelic rationale, but its central mission is
contributing to the economic, social development of the
Highlands and Islands, something reflected in the degree
programmes
Lews Castle College (LCC) is the other college based in a
Gaelic-speaking area, but aside from Gaelic studies courses, it
operates through English
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
UHIMI Campuses
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
The Linguistic Context
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Gaelic is a seriously minoritised language: in
2001, about 58,000 speakers (1.2%) (a further
27,000 could understand it; and about 95,000 in
total with some Gaelic competences)
Significant and ongoing decline since at least
late 19th century
Heartlands now limited mainly to the Hebrides;
significant shift now occurring there
Almost half of all Gaelic-speakers live in the
Lowlands, and 3/4s live outside majority Gaelicspeaking areas; however, they are a tiny share
of local populations, present in few domains
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
Gaelic in Scotland (2001)
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
The Linguistic Context:
Education
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Gaelic generally excluded from Scottish schools
after Education Act 1872
From 1919 until 1985, teaching of Gaelic as a
subject at some secondary schools
Gaelic-medium primary education starts at 2 schools
in 1985; presently, about 2,200 students at 2
schools, 58 units, but little provision at secondary.
Gaelic taught at University level: Edinburgh (1882),
Glasgow (1904), Aberdeen (1916); almost no
teaching through medium of Gaelic in any other
subjects (except at SMO)
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
Higher Education Policy
Context
Increasing reliance on revenue from:
 (1) ‘Export’ of higher education services
 (2) Core research funding based on
assessment of research excellence
 (3) Commercial exploitation of research,
other commercial activities
 In all three cases, heavy bias towards
English; minority languages a burden?
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: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
Role of Higher Education in
Gaelic Language Revitalisation
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Acquisition planning: Language instruction, teacher training,
support for education through creation of materials
Status Planning and Use Planning: Symbolic presence in
public space—corporate identity, signage, etc; provision of
services through medium of the language; presence in new
domains, support for domain extension via training in key
subject areas through medium of Gaelic
Corpus Planning: Lexical development, standardisation,
extension; development of literature; use of Gaelic as a
medium of research
Research: in addition to literary, linguistic, historical research,
research relevant to language policy
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
The Language Policy
Context
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Historical absence of any policy for Gaelic
Significant initiatives only since the mid-1980s
Support for SMO from the beginning, both from
Gaelic development organisations and the British,
then Scottish Governments
Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005; Bòrd na
Gàidhlig; National Gaelic Language Plans and the
first plan (2007); statutory Gaelic language plans and
statutory Guidance (2007) on such plans; Ginealach
Ùr na Gàidhlig (2010)
Support for UHIMI—possible University status 2011
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
SMO Gaelic Language
Policy
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All teaching through Gaelic only; commitment to develop and
extend necessary terminology
Only Gaelic used in all other communications with students;
contracts with students re: full Gaelic use
Only Gaelic used in internal communication (written and oral)
Advertising through Gaelic only
Working towards HR policy of only Gaelic-speaking staff (with
training where necessary)
A fully Gaelic environment (visual and aural); Gaelic-only
signage
Gaelic Policy Officer, and annual assessment and reporting
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
UHIMI Gaelic Language
Plan (2010)
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Gaelic policy, 1999, 2005; Gaelic Committee, Manager of
Gaelic Strategy Development, 2005
Statutory Gaelic Language Plan, 2010, but for UHIMI
administration only
Fully bilingual corporate identity, signage
Bilingual greeting at reception, switchboard
Initial response to written communication in Gaelic
Many forms (including all application forms) bilingual
Corporate publications generally in bilingual format
Promotional materials for G-M courses in Gaelic only or
bilingually
Some G-M curriculum development (e.g. Translation, writing
skills)
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
Broader Contribution of SMO,
UHIMI to Gaelic Policy
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Adult language acquisition
Infrastructure support for media (Ionad Fàs: Cànan
(multimedia), Sealladh (film), TV and recording studio
Corpus development: Pròiseact Tobar an Dualchais, Faclair na
Gàidhlig, Ainmean Àite na h-Alba
Research: Lèirsinn (especially broadcasting, educational
research); Soillse--£5.29m over 6 years, UHIMI, Aberdeen,
Glasgow, Edinburgh; 6 academic posts, 9 doctoral
scholarships; Gaelic in the Family, Community, Gaelic in
Education, Gaelic Policies
Local economic, cultural, linguistic development in South Skye:
population (452 (1971) to 775 (2001); school roll (27 (‘72-3) to
63 (‘07-8), and in GME (7 (‘87) to 40 (‘10)); increase in Gaelicspeaking population
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
Remaining Gaps
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Virtually no instruction through medium of Gaelic in
most disciplines, including key ones for policy
implementation (health care, law, business and public
administration)
Huge materials deficiencies: SMO library collection
overwhelmingly English-based (except for Gaelic,
Celtic literature)
Limited publishing infrastructure, tiny market for G-M
materials
Uncertain future for funding (together with challenges
re: funding listed above)
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
A Multilingual (and broader
European) Aspect?
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No opportunity for third language acquisition at
UHIMI (though some possibility of joint degrees at
Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow)
International student exchanges with Nova Scotian
Universities (St. Francis Xavier, Cape Breton
University); Ireland
International research linkages (e.g. via Soillse), but
much could be done, including with European
networks, Universities and Research Centres
Linkages with other institutions operating through
minority languages?
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
Website: www.soillse.ac.uk (from early December)
Main contact: Iain Campbell, Senior Project Manager
T: 01471 888559 ~ 07870 575717
E: [email protected]
Director: Rob Dunbar
01471 888558 ~ 07879 056320
E: [email protected]
: the national network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture
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