Gaelic speakers over 60 from Western Isles needed!

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Gaelic speakers over the age of 60 living in Lewis and Harris are urgently needed for an important scientific study being conducted by the University of Abertay Dundee.

Psychologist Neil Kirk is investigating if people’s ability to speak more than one language might help keep them more mentally ‘agile’ later in life.

Neil is interested in talking to individuals who learnt Gaelic as their first language and before the growth of TV and the internet and so is keen to hear from participants from the 60+ age group.

Neil said: “It is critical that this research is done soon because we need to study people who learnt Gaelic in the traditional way, passed down orally from their families and communities.

“As digital technologies are increasingly used to learn and communicate, people are less likely to learn and use Gaelic in this way and so if we don’t do this research now, we may never be able to truly answer this question.

“Scotland is quite unique in that not only do we have many different dialects but we have many people who speak both Gaelic and English and have a geographically unique dialect.

“We want to compare data from the Scots population with existing scientific evidence from around the world.

“We are working on a dialect study at the same time and want to establish the similarities and differences between dialect and language from similar cultures.”

Neil will be conducting his research on Lewis and Harris from Monday 9th May until Saturday 14th May. He is calling on local community centres and church groups to get in touch to help.

He added: “The Gaelic language is incredibly beautiful and such a central part of Scottish culture, but we also think that people who can speak both Gaelic and English may stay mentally sharper later in life. We’re really excited about this study.”

The research trip to the Western Isles has been funded by the prestigious Carnegie Trust, which was set up in the early 20th century by the famous Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Neil can be contacted on 07548 481 651 or gaelic@abertay.ac.uk to arrange a language test. He is able to travel to private homes, and to church halls or community groups.

If any local church halls or community groups are able to organise space for a series of tests, Neil would happily show his thanks with a public talk – open to all of the local community – about the psychology of language, and why speaking more than one language is so important.

The research project is being supervised by Dr Vera Kempe and Dr Ken Scott-Brown at Abertay University in Dundee. Dr Kempe is an expert in language learning and Dr Scott-Brown is an expert in visual perception and cognition.