Benefits of bilingualism brought home

The many and varied benefits of bilingualism in the Western Isles were at the heart of the launch of a new initiative and resource, as part of the Mod Fringe in Stornoway in October – the Western Isles branch of ’Bilingualism Matters’.

While the cultural benefits of speaking Gaelic are well known, the wider cognitive advantages that bilingualism brings – regardless of which languages - are only beginning to be understood.

The work of esteemed linguist Professor Antonella Sorace, on the advantages of bilingualism is at the core of this new, innovative project.

As Professor of Developmental Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, her groundbreaking research has truly dispelled the myth that exposure to two languages can confuse a child and hinder their mental development.

On the contrary, her work shows how bilingual children gain so much more than monolingual children.

A well attended, informal gathering at An Lanntair, was welcomed by Comhairle nan Eilean’s Director of Education and Children’s Services, Seonag MacKinnon, and heard from Professor Sorace as she emphasised the fantastic ‘bilingualism’ opportunity that GME offered in the Western Isles.

Deputy Rector from the Nicolson Institute, Angus MacLennan, spoke of the unique ‘bilingual’ situation the Western Isles offered with Gaelic, in a typically humorous, yet serious address.

In particular he talked about the duty we had as parents, organisations, and as communities, to set a bilingual example for the next generations to follow in the islands, and use Gaelic in as many situations as possible.

Representing the newly formed Western Isles branch, local co-ordinator, Iona Mactaggart, went on to thank all who spoke, especially Professor Sorace and the Council and Comann nam Pàrant for their support in the establishment of the branch.

With a small local team now trained up, she said they were looking forward to showing how the many benefits of bilingualism were there for all to see, and were an integral part of the opportunity that GME in the islands offers.

As well as organising different, informal events throughout the islands, she said the team would also love to hear from any groups, or parents out there who want to find out more.

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