Summer is (not) for holidays?

I haven’t had a chance to write here recently. I have been insanely busy pretty much since June 1st and it is still going full throttle!

June was a month of trainings for me. It was insanely busy but insanely rewarding as well. I completed a project management training with Fistral Training & Consultancy and I thought it would be really boring, but it turned out to be… really interesting. Who knew! I can definitely see myself going down the project management path in the future.

Then there were a bunch of SGSSS trainings, particularly on interviewing and oral histories. It was a really interesting one and got me thinking a lot about narrative as a reimagined entity, where memories are reshaped every time the story is retold. Narrative analysis is a skill I have started building very recently for the analysis in one of my chapters, so this provides a valuable insight into understanding why and how people tell the stories of their lives. What do they put forward? What gets pushed aside? What are their words and how do they organise their stories, and what can we as researchers find in these organisations? It has been very interesting (but also frustrating!) thinking about all these questions while writing my very first findings chapter, which, coincidentally, was my July in a nutshell.

This coming month is going to be really tough but interesting as well. We have a draft to submit for the 22nd of August for the conference FEL (Foundation for Endangered Languages) 25, with the theme Endangered Languages and Diaspora. So exciting! I will be working with Murat Topçu, and we will be writing about the Circassian language and diaspora in Turkey (abstract at the bottom of the post!). As part of my academic advisory role, I am also planning the upcoming year’s training and seminar sessions for TADNET (Endangered Languages Network) in Turkey. There is just so much to do and so little time!

So that’s my summer in a nutshell! Hopefully though, right after all of that, my husband and I will be going on a short trip to Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park here in Scotland and enjoy some magnificent views such as the one below. I hope September is good to us & we catch at least one good weather day!

Early Summer at Loch Lubnaig, Trossachs, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Early Summer at Loch Lubnaig, Trossachs, Stirlingshire, Scotland | by Kirstie Campbell

Abstract for the conference: This study presents a brief history of the Circassian diaspora in Turkey, reports on previous findings regarding the issues around language within the various parts of the diaspora, and introduces an ongoing case study of grassroots activism, the Network of Laz and Circassian Civil Societies project, as part of language maintenance efforts. One of the biggest ethnic groups in Turkey today, the Circassians have had to flee their native Caucasus to then-Ottoman Empire (modern Turkey) in waves between 1850 and 1870 due to the Russian expansion (Saydam, 1997). While relatively well-studied in terms of its diasporic past and present (e.g. Besleney, 2014; Kaya, 2011), the Circassian community in Turkey is still far from being well-researched from a linguistic point of view. Recent studies regarding the sociolinguistic status of Circassian show that while there is an emphasis on keeping habze (a sum of the Circassian beliefs and tradition) alive, the language suffers endangerment and cross-generational attrition (Yıldız, 2021). This is attributed to anything from outside marriages, urbanisation, lack of educational and occupational opportunities in the close-knit communities, lack of a need for the language, lack of educational material and opportunities, and lack of literacy in the language (ibid). Other studies point to the problem around education in the native language, and the lack of access to education harming the Circassian individuals’ sense of identity and social integration (Yılmaz, 2015). After this overview of the previous studies, this study introduces Network of Laz and Circassian Civil Societies, an EC-funded project aiming to raise awareness regarding the endangered languages of Turkey. Running since July 2020, the project has aimed to create awareness and bring up-to-date resources to the endangered language communities and speakers. The study will detail the work carried out so far within the scope of the project by various volunteers and Laz and Circassian organisations, presenting the Circassian case of language endangerment activism in the diaspora by looking at examples from the project.

Teaching Yoruba in English, at an Irish school… at the age of 11.


Does the title sound a bit outlandish to you? Do you find yourself asking “How can a 10-year-old do this?”

Well, this is just one of the marvelous ways learners can surprise us when we let them use their language repertoires to the fullest, and give our learners autonomy.

This is not a made-up scenario. The example comes from Scoil Bhríde (Cailíní) in Dublin, Ireland. In their research, Little and Kirwan (2019) show how using the learners’ full linguistic repertoires in the classroom have helped them:

  • attain higher levels of self-esteem and wellbeing,
  • highly increased levels of metalinguistic awareness (in other words, a better understanding of how languages work),
  • higher levels of literacy in all of the school’s languages (English, Irish, French) and in their home language (without any instruction at school),
  • perform better (above the national average) in annual Maths and Reading tests consistently,
  • taking on language projects without being prompted, and often ambitious ones!

How did this happen? Well, a little bit of background first. Scoil Bhríde (Cailíní) is a school where 80% of the students have migrant backgrounds, and the school boasted 51 home languages at the time of research. Thus, most of the students start learning English as an additional language (EAL for short) when they start school. Now, we brush home languages aside at school for a variety of reasons: the (misplaced) belief that one language at a time in the classroom is better for the students, teachers’ worries about managing a classroom with many languages, and so on. However, the study showed that it only takes a change of perspective and little work on the teachers’ part to turn home languages into an advantage for everyone.

This was made possible by giving students more language autonomy in and out of the classroom. Since the home language is central to the students’ identity, this worked wonders. Even in instances where the teachers did not speak the home languages, home languages functioned in three important ways:

  • A communicative tool for learners amongst themselves, when their shared languages were similar enough
  • A display of cultural identity and self-esteem: being encouraged in the classroom to share information on the home language. (“This is how we say X in my language”)
  • A source of linguistic insight: remember metalinguistic awareness? When learners shared how their home language differs from the languages taught at school, this also made them think about different ways languages operate, and helped them attain a higher level of awareness, which helps them in every language.

So this brings us to the title. In this instance, we have an 11-year-old Nigerian student, who translated a song called “L’abe igi orombo (Under the orange tree)” in their home language, Yoruba, and taught it to a group of junior infants at the same school!

Isn’t it amazing to see the great things learners can achieve when we let them use their linguistic creativity?

Listen to “L’abe igi orombo” here:

Showcased research: Little, D. and Kirwan, D., 2019. Engaging with linguistic diversity: A study of educational inclusion in an Irish primary school. Bloomsbury Publishing.