Archive for August, 2013

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Experience of Clilstore workshops to Gaelic summer course students at SMO

August 25, 2013

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Over the last few weeks, I have been delivering Clilstore workshops to adult learner students on the Gaelic language short courses here at SMO, and I thought it would be worth sharing my experiences with the list…

Clilstore – or rather the combination of Clilstore, Gordon’s “Guthan nan Eilean” (Island Voices) videos, and the excellent “Faclair Beag” Gaelic to English online dictionary (which does lemmatization) – proved very popular indeed. A typical comment was, “Why have we not heard about this before?” I came across some of the students using it for themselves in the evenings and weekends outside of classes.

Demonstrations with an overhead projector were ok, but hands-on workshops worked much better. The Clilstore interface is now clear enough that it doesn’t need much of any demonstration beforehand. The students’ familiarity with computers varied widely though, so it was good to have them on individual computers and be able to sort out individual problems and questions.

Two important things I learned you should have with you if you are giving a workshop (in addition to the feedback forms) are (1) a form for the students to sign their names on, and (2) spare pens for students who have not brought a pen. That way you stand the best chance of getting paper-trail evidence which we can supply to the EC project evaluators.

The classes which most appreciated Clilstore were the intermediate level classes – the “breakthrough” level classes who would otherwise be struggling to find any authentic Gaelic language material on the Internet which they could cope with. The higher level classes found the Guthan nan Eilean videos wonderful, but they managed to cope with them ok with the help of the transcripts and made little use of the dictionary, whereas the intermediate level students used the dictionary a lot. One thing which emerged is that it would be good to have more advanced level material in Gaelic, at levels C1 and C2.

Another thing which emerged is that we have a bit of work to do on lemmatization within Clilstore/Wordlink/Multidict. Even though the Faclair Beag does lemmatization, other Gaelic dictionaries do not and the current compromise of throwing out ‘h’ when it appears as second letter is not good enough. This applies even more so to Irish Gaelic.

The class which was most effusive in their praise for Clilstore was an intermediate level Scottish Gaelic class for Irish Gaelic speakers – i.e. a cognate language. They would not have been able to understand the Guthan nan Eilean videos much at all without the transcripts. Even with the transcripts, they did not recognize a lot of the words because of spelling and other differences from Irish Gaelic. But with the help of the dictionaries they were able to recognize the connections immediately and made fast progress. This was very encouraging to see, because a cognate language learner was something which we promised to help support in the TOOLS project application.

Incidentally one of our full-time distance learning students told me that she found Wordlink tremendously useful for something which I had never expected – namely going from English into Gaelic. I had never expected that because nearly all Gaelic speakers these days know English better than they know Gaelic, and that was true of this student too even though she is German and living in Germany. So why should they be looking for a Gaelic translation of English words in an English texts? The answer is that this student does a lot of work on the Gaelic Wikipedia, and often translates parts of English Wikipedia pages to Gaelic. So she views the English Wikipedia page with Wordlink, and can easily find Gaelic translations of English technical terms as she goes along.

Caoimhín O Donnaile

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