Archive for the ‘Tools Diary’ Category


Experience of Clilstore workshops to Gaelic summer course students at SMO

August 25, 2013

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



March 26, 2013

clilstore-green45Approaching the final stage of product creation, the Tools team is trying to solve dilemma of choosing the best possible design for the clilstore/multidict/woordlink structure. To be honest, it is hard to call the creation of Caoimhin “a product”. It is rather a piece of technological art or a baby, nourished, created and shaped for many years. We all feel this love- the author’s love, the makers’ love; that is why it is so difficult to make a choice between Caoimhin’s  and Lone’s version.

Here is a series of quotations related to the subject- just to have a view of the whole team involvement in the issue.

Lone:lone “Just a few comments from me. I had a 3 very interesting days on Skye working together with Caoimhín.  I deeply respect his skills in programming; he’s working extremely serious with the task and is doing a great job. We certainly don’t agree when it comes to design, of cause that’s a pity, but that’s how it is. To Caoimhín:  You know I never liked your proposal with the 3 boxes, and I still don’t. To me it’s not a useful compromise, if that’s what you had in mind. I still believe that we’re e very far from each other, when it comes to the front page, and naturally I prefer my suggestion J.To me the front page is the main issue, and it’s here we have the biggest difference. On the following pages, I’m sure we can find a solution. I’ve been following the debate about the design, and I think people have many very clever and interesting comments. As you all know, design is not an exact science, we’re all colored of background and culture.  We might not find a solution that pleases everybody. It’s a quite difficult process, and I think we need someone to take the decision pretty soon.

IMG_0201 Caoimhin(Skye) Hi everyone,
Lone and myself had a profitable few days’ work together last week and I learned a lot from her design skills and artistic eye, which I very much respect.  I hope that she can continue to watch over things and advise us for the duration of the project. You’ll see that I have made various design changes to the Clilstore website.
One question, a comparatively non-technical one, is colour.  Lone’s original idea, as you’ll see, had a red theme, with little bits of red in the logos.  Lone kindly also produced green versions of the logos, which you’ll see I am currently using for Clilstore, so we have a choice what to use in the end.
I prefer green slightly myself from an artistic point of view, because I think it is easier on the eye and that red is rather garish.  Nothing at all to do with the fact I was born in Dublin!  And from a technical point of view I prefer a green design or some other neutral colour because it is a working website rather than a static website and I try to reserve red for warnings, error messages and things which need to be brought to the user’s attention – for example if they have produced a unit without specifying the language, or a unit which is unacceptable because it is too short.  For help text and for “success” messages I use green.  Try logging in with the wrong password and then with the right password and you’ll see what I mean.  However, I can live with a red theme if that is what people prefer.   Le deagh dhùrachd, Caoimhin (Skye)


“I think we must continue with the “voting”. BUT after the final decisions there may be time for improvements, we will also look at the result in Valencia and continue from there. You may remember that we in Gothenburg decided on a design that I had proposed, but that never came into action. We cannot spend more time on the design issue as it blocks two other work packages (The manual and the Videos), I have desperately tried for months to get to a decision so I cannot really be blamed for being impatient. For better or worse, as the project coordinator I must insist on the voting to be continued so we can put the design issue to bed.”


IMG_0196“We urgently need to make decisions on the outstanding design issues. Lone and Caoimhín have provided us with choices which relate to colour schemes and the layout of the homepage and the Clilstore homepage. The open discussion via email has been useful in encouraging debate on these issues but we now need to collate our respective views and preferences, to vote on the various options and to justify our decisions, particularly if they reflect user feedback.
We obviously need to balance key concerns such as functionality, attractiveness, user friendliness and intuitiveness but none of these concerns should be mutually exclusive. Lone and Caoimhín have clearly had a productive engagement, but if there was only one way forward they would have already made the changes, instead they have allowed the whole team to have its say,  so please respond to the options below and refrain from making suggestions which depart widely from the options we have on the table.
You can use the screen shots below as a guide but you should also use the links provided to see full screen online versions and to test the buttons provided.”

IMG_0195 - CopyGordon:  “Just to reinforce the point in Kent’s message (in which, by the way, he forgot to count my input on this subject ;-)…), it’s a concern to me that the design issue appears to have been rather neglected up until this point. Caoimhin (Skye) has been focussing on the nuts and bolts of the “engine”, which is undoubtedly his strength, but he has now asked for opinions and help on what the “car” should look like, and urged us to be frank. We have Lone’s suggestion before us, built with a designer’s eye. We owe it to them both to give them some honest feedback.”

Helle: “I read Caoimhín’s long mail on the use of colours (before I even knew that there would be a vote on the issue)


and I really liked it: it was carefully thought out and the arguments were clear and precise. I have to say that I very much support his points of view on the red colour – it will be a disaster for the website -and I also share his fear that we will end up with a website looking “like a camel – a horse designed by committee”, if we take the vote as the final answer to the challenge of creating a new layout.”


Cecilia: “Green is the colour of nature and life. Grass green is the most restful colour. Green symbolizes self-respect and wellbeing. Green is the colour of balance. It also means learning, growth and harmony. Green is a safe colour, if you don’t know what colour to use anywhere use green. So for me green is a good colour:-)”


RasaRasa : “If it were possible to combine the two designs, it would be ideal.  Lone’s  students’ interface really looks attractive, and the shade of red chosen by Lone is not scaring or irritating, as it is dark red (at least that’s what I can see on my laptop). But it is not only a matter of colours!

As I mentioned in my comments in the survey, to my eyes the two versions of the screen design seem to be meant for different target/user groups, representing or rather being focused on different levels of mentality/likings. Caoimhin’s version for me is the tradition and style (academic included) while Lone’s version is more light and modern. I know how much heart Caoimhin has put in creating the whole structure, and now the time has come to polish and round off the corners, and it is good that Lone’s ideas made you look at your creation from different angle and perspective.”


TOOLS in EfVET conference 2012

December 14, 2012


More VET teachers will use Clilstore after Tools project was presented to delegates of EfVET annual conference in Palma de Mallorca on the 24-27th of October, 2012. EfVET ( ) is an NGO unifying about 300 VET providers’ institutions all over Europe and each October it holds its annual conferences. The conferences with more than 220 delegates has a special part in the agenda, called Round table sessions where coordinators of project under various sections of LLP programme can present their product to a big number of VET providers across Europe. Tools project this year received a lot of appraisals not only from European teachers, but from such non-EU countries as Azerbaijan,   Hong Kong, Bahrain, Turkey, and Montenegro. Tools was also presented as an example of good practices at schools, using IT to deliver certain subjects in the classroom and was one of the most popular among the delegates. Itmallorca-2 was agreed that the Clilstore can be used for various purposes, not only as a tools for language teaching or a CLIL.

This year the conference received exceptional attention from the EU Commission, as it was attended by Director General of the DG EAC Mr. Ian Truszczynski, who also made a presentation on the 2nd day of the conference.


Ode to languages – Postilla by Mikalojus Daukša (1599)

February 9, 2012

The situation with the Lithuanian language at the juncture of XIX and XX centuries was catastrophic. Since the end of XVI – beginning of XVII centuries the language was only spoken by peasants and small hidalgos, and later on it was only meant for low and uneducated people. It is amazing that most prominent linguists and men of letters of XIX century learnt the language not at home, not even in schools or gymnasiums; – only later, after graduating universities (most went to Sorbonne, or Petersburg , some to Germany) they discovered the uniqueness and beauty of their native tongue and learnt it. They introduced language norms, unified them and taught the nation the unique grammar. But this was even later…

Here is a nice fragment – to my mind one of the most beautiful historical texts about languages, written by Mikalojus Daukša in 1599. It was written as a foreword to Postylla Katolicka by Jokubas Vujekas, rector of the Vilnius Jesuit College, which Daukša translated from Latin into Lithuanian. In this foreword he gave his due to the Lithuanian language, and the Foreword itself  can be regarded as an ode to any Mother tongue. For several decades this fragment is learnt by pupils at schools in Lithuania by heart.

The “Foreword to the Gracious Reader”, which exalts the native tongue, emphasizing its importance to nation, and which expresses the hope that Lithuanian will become the language of Lithuanian literature and public usage is highly significant to the history of Lithuanian culture.

Fragment of  THE FOREWORD

It is neither the bounty of its crops, nor the distinctiveness of its garments, nor the beauty of its countryside, nor the strength of its castles and cities that make a nation hale; rather it is the maintenance and use of its native language, which strengthens fellowship, peace and brotherly love. For our language is our common bond of love, the mother of unity, the father of civic solidarity, the guardian of nationhood. Destroy a language and you will destroy consonance, unity and virtue of a nation. Destroy language and you will kill the sun in the sky, muddle up the order of the universe, and take away breath and honour.

In connection to what I previously wrote – the Basque language. Language teachers from San Sebastian have always been in pools project, but the revival of the language has taken place much earlier. I just marvel at the energy of those people – they were heroes of their times – who managed to bring back the Basque language into the country’s lives and homes. They managed to preserve one of the world’s treasures. Same are our colleagues from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and University of Ulster, I guess. Their energy and efforts of trying to revive the Gaelic – Scottish and Irish – language are worth highest admiration! I am sure they will succeed.

P.S. amazing how each of us can use most modern tools to revive history and world heritage.


(And I think to myself…) what a wonderful tool!

February 8, 2012

January 2012, after kick off in Brussels

Spending some time after dinner with your project colleagues from different countries (socializing!) provides good opportunities for extra cultural exchange. It can even inspire deeper cultural and linguistic discourse.

Sitting the other day with our Tools team in Brussels, talking about languages; one of the funs of different languages speakers is to find out “What’s the Gaelic for… What’s the Lithuanian for…?”  It seems that all linguists try to reach as far back as Adam and Eve, trying to find out the etymology of each word, the common roots. And this is also inspiring, even though the beauty is in diversity, all people in certain circumstances like to think, act, share like brothers and sisters. (That’s a good project team!:)

Listening to an old Scottish tune (was it Auld Lang Syne?, – naturally – most tunes should be Burns’ in Scotland! 🙂 sung by a colleague Iain Gordon was an impulse to reflect about the role, importance and fate of languages. Iain told it was easier for him to learn Gaelic from songs. Sure it was! I learnt most of my pronunciation from English songs, and we use this method with our students. But he is a Scot. And I thought – the clilstore will be an ideal instrument for all the Scots, Lithuanians, Spanish, Danes, Irish, Portuguese and Basque – and other people – scattered all over the world – who didn’t have a chance to learn their Mother tongue; they can listen to a song and see the verse and then click on a word to be translated into a language he is using now.  So – tools4clil is not only for professionals.