Including Gaelic in Interpretation


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"Including Gaelic in Interpretation - A Case Study of Fonn 's Dutchas: Land and Legacy", presented at a VSG Seminar in Inverness, April 2008

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Including Gaelic in Interpretation

  1. 1. Including Gaelic in Interpretation:A Case Study of Fonn s Duthchas – Land and LegacyIntroductionThis paper presents the results of the summative evaluation of Fonn s Duthchas: Landand Legacy. The exhibition was part of the Highland 2007 campaign and toured fournational venues in Scotland: Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, 13 January – 17 March 2007 Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, 6 April – 10 June 2007 National Museum of Scotland, 29 June – 2 September 2007 Stornoway, 22 September – 1 December 2007The exhibition showcased the history, culture, music, language, geology and geography ofthe Highlands and Islands of Scotland. It included iconic objects, paintings andmanuscripts from the collections of National Museums Scotland, the National Galleries ofScotland and the National Library of Scotland and from important collections in Highlandand Island museums. It also included a specially commissioned film, which showed peoplefrom different parts of Scotland talking about their culture and heritage, and included someGaelic speakers.Background on Exhibition ApproachAs this exhibition was part of the Year of Highland Culture, and subsidised by the ScottishGovernment, the decision was made at inception of the project to give Gaelic and Englishequal weighting in the interpretation of the exhibition.There was no front end public consultation done, however, there was a process of peerreview and consultation. The steering group included Gaelic speakers, includinginterpreters and staff. Although the text was the same in both languages, it was not just amatter of word for word translation. The Gaelic text was on average 10% longer than theEnglish text, due to the way in which Gaelic is constructed, and the text in both languageswas carefully thought out to make it look and flow and feel right.The exhibition designers were also carefully chosen for their experience. They hadpreviously worked on an exhibition with 6 different languages, and this showed their abilityin how to deal with dual language in design. One exception to the bi-lingual interpretationapproach was the film, which was not completely bi-lingual as the people in the film werespeaking either English or Gaelic.Evaluation BriefA summative evaluation of the Fonn ‘s Duthchas exhibition was carried out, which was co-ordinated across all four venues. The purpose of the evaluation was to measure theresponse of visitors to the exhibition, including: • Visitor interest and awareness of the exhibition and Highland 2007 • Visitor response to exhibition interpretation, including inclusion of Gaelic • Impact of the exhibition on visitors, including change in perception about the Highlands and inspiration to find out more 1
  2. 2. Evaluation ProcessThe methodology chosen was a self-completion survey, which was piloted with visitors inInverness, including getting feedback from Gaelic speakers on how to phrase thequestions asking about inclusion and presentation of Gaelic.We discovered this was a very sensitive issue, and went through several survey draftsbefore we ended up with the final version.As the exhibition itself was bi-lingual, we decided that the survey should be too, althoughthere were some difficulties here as none of the staff involved in designing and co-ordinating the survey were Gaelic speakers. However, staff in Stornoway translated thesurvey in to Gaelic for us, and it was offered to visitors in both languages.Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the uptake on Gaelic surveys was very low. And asyou can see in Figure 1, the sample sizes collected also vary greatly across the fourvenues which makes a robust comparison of results quite difficult. Total # of surveys collected Surveys collected in Gaelic Inverness 141 3 Glasgow 33 1 Edinburgh 140 0 Stornoway 14 0Figure 1: Survey sample sizesEvaluation Results - OverviewThere was a total of 20 questions in the survey, which covered interpretation (e.g. amountof information, film, inclusion of Gaelic), interest & awareness of both the exhibition andHighland 2007, exhibition impact (e.g. most liked, surprise, change in perception,inspiration) and overall experience, as well as some demographic questions to give us avisitor profile and put the responses in to context.I’m not going to go through all the survey results, I just want to give you a flavour of visitorfeedback, and I’m going to focus on the two areas where there were the most responsesrelating to Gaelic. One area was interpretation, where we asked visitors direct questionsabout the importance of including Gaelic. The other area was exhibition impact, specificallywhat visitors liked the most and what they were surprised by, where visitors mentionedGaelic in response to open ended questions.Interpretation* Importance of including Gaelic?* Best way or representing Gaelic?Exhibition Impact* What did visitors like the most?* What were visitors surprised by?Figure 2: Areas of feedback focusing on Gaelic 2
  3. 3. The responses will in the first instance relate to Edinburgh, since this was the evaluation Ioversaw myself, but where available I will reference responses from the other venues,although in Stornoway none of the responses to open ended questions mentioned Gaelic.First of all, though, I need to give you a brief overview of the profile of visitors whoresponded, so that you can put the following responses in to context. Figure 3 showswhere respondents came from: Local Elsewhere in Elsewhere in Overseas Scotland the UK Inverness 45% 15% 9% 2% Glasgow 42% 27% 18% 3% (1 person) Edinburgh 28% 17% 12% 42% Stornoway 72% 21% 0% 7% (1 person)Figure 3: Where respondents came fromAs you can see, there are some quite drastic differences in the make-up of visitorsbetween the four venues, e.g. in Stornoway the percentage of local visitors is a lot higher,whereas in Edinburgh the percentage of overseas visitors is far beyond any of the othervenues. However, if you consider that Stornoway is a fairly remote island in the OuterHebrides, and Edinburgh is a capital city and popular tourist destination, then those figuresmay not be that surprising.You will also have noticed that I have added some comments in the “overseas” column.With 7% of overseas visitors, we could read this as Stornoway being the second mostpopular tourist destination. However, you may remember that in Stornoway we onlycollected 14 surveys, so 7% actually equates to only one person. Therefore, it is not aparticularly robust sample size.This overview is a really good example of how important it is to put your results in tocontext, in terms of both visitor profile and sample size, when you are drawingconclusions. So if you take only one thing away with you from this paper aboutconsultation and evaluation, especially if you are new to the field, then please let that be it!Figure 4 shows an overview of the level of Gaelic language skills that visitors had. As youcan see, in three of the venues the lack of any Gaelic language skills is fairly high, and thisis something to keep in mind when we look at the feedback on how important visitorsthought it was to include Gaelic. Yes, fluently Yes, a little No Inverness 2% 16% 82% Glasgow 6% 21% 73% Edinburgh 1.5% 11.5% 87% Stornoway 28% 36% 36%Figure 4: Whether respondents spoke or understood Gaelic 3
  4. 4. We only asked visitors about their speaking and listening skills. In hind sight, consideringthe wide ranging issues with Gaelic literacy, we should also have asked about reading andwriting skills to give us some further context.But we will learn from our mistake for the next time. So, on to the results…Evaluation Results – Importance of Gaelic InclusionWe asked respondents to rate how important they thought that Gaelic had been includedin the exhibition on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being not important at all, and 5 being veryimportant. 1 2 3 4 5 Mean Score Inverness 6% 6% 10% 26% 51% 4.1 Glasgow 0% 9% 21% 15% 55% 4.3 Edinburgh 2% 4% 17% 17% 59% 4.3 Stornoway 0% 0% 14% 29% 57% 4.4Figure 5: How important respondents thought it was to include Gaelic (1 = not important atall; 5 = very important)As you can see in Figure 5, at all four venues over half of respondents felt it was veryimportant to include Gaelic in the exhibition. Interestingly, Edinburgh, which you mayremember had the lowest percentage of Gaelic speakers, also has the highest percentageof visitors who gave a rating of 5, and by no means had the lowest mean score. In fact, ofthe 42% overseas visitors in Edinburgh, 24% rated the importance of including Gaelic at 5,and 7% rated it at 4.We then followed up that question by asking respondents what they thought was the bestway to represent Gaelic alongside English in exhibitions. Inverness Glasgow Edinburgh StornowayFull translations in 45% 15% 9% 2%Gaelic alongsideEnglish textGaelic summaries of 42% 27% 18% 3%English text (1 person)Translations of key 28% 17% 12% 42%headings only intoGaelicOther 72% 21% 0% 7% (1 person)Figure 6: What respondents thought was the best way to represent Gaelic alongsideEnglish in exhibitions 4
  5. 5. In all four venues, including Edinburgh, respondents felt that the best way forward was tohave full translations in Gaelic alongside English text. There were a few alternativesuggestions, while some respondents made their feelings very clear about not includingGaelic at all. Overall though, there was a high level of support to giving Gaelic equal statusalongside English, from both locals as well as domestic and overseas tourists.Figure 7 shows some examples of the other suggestions that were given. You’ll see thatI’ve included information on the profile of the respondents, where available, to give a littlecontext. These suggestions are learning towards the full equal status approach.“English translations from Gaelic text.”(Edinburgh, no Gaelic)“Full translations – English with Gaelic underneath.”(England, no Gaelic)“Full translations when relating to Highlands and Islands.”(Inverness, no Gaelic)“Only Gaelic speakers entitles to decide.”Figure 7: Other suggestions for representing Gaelic alongside English in exhibitionsThe examples in Figure 8 are a bit more moderate, leaning towards a half way approachor offering some other alternatives.“A few captions to educate people.”(Edinburgh, no Gaelic)“Interesting for tourists to see the Gaelic.”(Edinburgh, a little Gaelic)“As a Dutchman its difficult to understand Gaelic – but keep it.”(Netherlands, no Gaelic)“Something on te language itself.”(Aberdeen, no Gaelic)“Found English before Gaelic slightly confusing.”(Peebles, no Gaelic)Figure 8: Other suggestions for representing Gaelic alongside English in exhibitions 5
  6. 6. Whereas Figure 9 shows that some respondents did not see the value of including Gaelicin exhibitions at all. Unsurprisingly, none of them were Gaelic speakers!“No interest in it.”(USA, no Gaelic)“No need for Gaelic.”(unknown location, no Gaelic)“Does not matter.”(unknown location, no Gaelic)“Doesnt matter – cant speak it.”(India, no Gaelic)“As all Gaelic speakers speak English Id drop the Gaelic and give more information inEnglish – wouldnt it be better to have French, German, Italian so tourists can find outmore?”(England, no Gaelic)Figure 9: Other suggestions for representing Gaelic alongside English in exhibitionsEvaluation Results – Exhibition ImpactMoving on then to the impact that the exhibition made on visitors.Here we asked respondents what they had liked most about the exhibition. This was anopen ended question, so to be able to quantify the impact different aspects of theexhibition made on respondents, the comments were sorted into categories which, as youcan see in Figure 10, differed slightly between venues. Category Response RateInverness Interpretation 3% (1% Gaelic)Glasgow Gaelic 6%Edinburgh Inclusion of Gaelic 5%Figure 10: What respondents liked mostFor Edinburgh, the top 5 things that respondents liked fell in to the categories: video(21%), paintings, variety, layout/presentation (9% each), Scottish history (8%). However,although it did not feature at the top of the list, the inclusion of Gaelic also got anhonourable mention, and since this was an open ended question we need to rememberthat had respondents been given multiple choice options the response rate may have beenmuch higher. 6
  7. 7. Figure 11 shows some examples of the responses given to this question, that mentionedGaelic:“The use of Gaelic.”(Edinburgh, no Gaelic)“I liked the use of Gaelic language.”(England, no Gaelic)“That it has both English and Gaelic.”(USA, a little Gaelic)“Dual language.”(Canada, no Gaelic)“Nice to hear Gaelic spoken.”(USA, no Gaelic)“Video talking about the Gaelic language.”(Australia, no Gaelic)“Gaelic presentation and promotion – the scale encompasses everything, notromanticised.”(Edinburgh, fluent Gaelic)Figure 11: Examples of responses to the question what visitors liked most that mentionGaelicEvaluation Results - SurpriseAnother question we asked respondents was whether there was anything in the exhibitionthat had surprised them. This was again an open ended question with responses beingsorted in to categories. In Edinburgh, 8% of respondents were surprised by something inthe exhibition relating to Gaelic, with all but one respondent being from overseas. InInverness, 2 respondents (~1.5%), both from England, commented on Gaelic in responseto this question.As already mentioned, there was no reference to Gaelic for this part of the survey inStornoway. You may remember from the visitor profiles that over 70% of respondents inStornoway were local, so it is maybe not surprising that they were not surprised by theexistence or inclusion of Gaelic in the exhibition. From Glasgow the relevant informationwas unfortunately not supplied.Responses ranged from the discovery that Gaelic existed, to surprise at the exhibitionbeing bi-lingual, which partly reflects the high percentage of tourist visitors in Edinburgh. Afew responses indicated that there was some pre-existing knowledge of Gaelic, but thatthey had found out some new, additional information. 7
  8. 8. Figure 12 shows some examples:“I did not know there was Gaelic.”(Mexico, no Gaelic)“I did not know anything about Gaelic.”(USA, no Gaelic)“The translations.”(France, no Gaelic)“First exhibition where everything is in Gaelic.”(Ireland, no Gaelic)“How many people speak Gaelic.”(England, no Gaelic)“That there is a foundation to keep Gaelic alive.”(Switzerland, no Gaelic)“How much Gaelic is in our language.”(England, no Gaelic)“[There are] 4 different words for rain in Gaelic.”(Edinburgh, no Gaelic)Figure 12: Examples of responses to the question what visitors were surprised by thatmention GaelicConclusionSo, what can we conclude from this evaluation?As Figure 13 shows, there was divided opinion among respondents on how the inclusionor omission of Gaelic could improve the exhibition:“Far too little Gaelic [included in the film].”(Inverness, fluent Gaelic)“More Gaelic [would improve the exhibition].”(Inverness, fluent Gaelic)“I think the Gaelic police are taking over.”(England, no Gaelic) “Drop the Gaelic.” (England, no Gaelic)Figure 13: Examples of responses to the questions how the exhibition could be improvedthat mention Gaelic 8
  9. 9. Overall, despite the low level of Gaelic language skills among respondents, and the lowuptake on Gaelic surveys even in venues with moderate to fluent language skills, themajority of respondents supported equal status of Gaelic and English, ranking theinclusion of Gaelic as very important and supporting full translations in Gaelic alongsideEnglish text.The inclusion of Gaelic in the exhibition also made a big impact on tourists, especially atthe Edinburgh venue.As the final quotes from visitors, none of whom had any Gaelic language skills, in Figure14 show, Gaelic is very relevant to museum exhibitions and interpretation in Scotland.“[Audio] samples of Gaelic text would be interesting.”(England, no Gaelic)“Poetry in Gaelic to listen to.”(England, no Gaelic)“More information on how many people still speak Gaelic.”(Switzerland, no Gaelic) “An exhibition on Gaelic poets.” (Galashiels, no Gaelic)Figure 14: Further examples of responses to the questions how the exhibition could beimproved that mention GaelicJenni FuchsVisitor Studies OfficerNational Museums ScotlandApril 2008 9