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SLD's Outreach and Education work

Elaine Webster

This is the second in an occasional series of articles focusing on a particular area of SLD's work, to give readers a glimpse of some of the things we do on a day-to-day basis. This one features the work of our Outreach and Education Officer Elaine Webster.

SLD library display
Support, contribution, encouragement and sponsorship from Scottish Language Dictionaries' members and the wider community have always been central to the development of dictionaries. In the recent publication Scotland in Definition: The History of the Dictionaries (2012) eds. Macleod, I and McClure, J. Derrick Edinburgh: John Donald Short Run Press, there is full discussion of how dictionaries are made. Material is collected by Scottish Language Dictionaries from a range of historical and contemporary sources. The entries are rich in cultural information as well as linguistic detail. SLD's resources and publications are developed, supported and valued by the general public, educationalists, community groups, students as well as academics at home and abroad. To meet the needs of such a diverse audience is challenging, but developments such as the Concise Scots Dictionary, the Essential Scots Dictionary and the free online Dictionary of the Scots Language have proved popular. Work on this is on-going, the second edition of the Concise Scots Dictionary is nearing completion and the search functions of the online Dictionary of Scots Language are being streamlined and a new website is being designed for it. The Outreach and Education work of SLD helps to maintain the dialogue with all who use and contribute material to SLD's publications and helps to inform future projects.

Covering all geographical areas is a challenge for a relatively small organisation. The use of the internet, websites and email contact helps, but it is important to meet people face-to-face too. Outreach and education sessions are negotiated to fit in with interests and needs. Visits usually include a brief talk about the work of SLD, current projects and general discussion about Scots. This exchange of knowledge about Scots language is always enjoyable. On visits, community groups and schools share examples of projects and class work, valuing SLD's interest. Others undertake new projects following SLD visits. The impact can be immediate or long term. Hearing Scots and enjoying Scots literature often boosts the confidence of the group in expressing themselves. By developing an awareness of the history and structure of Scots language, myths can be challenged; the status of the language and the self-esteem of those using it can be enhanced. Some teachers have reported that disengaged youngsters have been motivated to read books written in Scots.

Working with the youngest learners involves activities and games as well as discussion. On visits, the youngest learners often ask questions which cut straight to important issues. Family members, carers and teachers often use the Scuilwab as a starting point for sharing rhymes, songs, poems stories and riddles in Scots with youngsters. Hearing different dialects of Scots attunes learners to the richness of the language and the power of their own voice. The Scuilwab website has proved to be an enjoyable way to facilitate dialogue with schools as they send in news and art work.

SLD's 10th birthday celebrations created a great context for outreach and education work. SLD commissioned Aileymill Primary School to produce a Christmas card. All three of the designs were excellent and choosing one was difficult. It was no surprise that the printed cards sold out very quickly. Some primary 7 pupils from Linlithgow Primary School who had been trained as Linlithgow Palace guides, assisted at the SLD’s birthday event at Linlithgow Burgh Halls. They were a credit to their school, helpful and smartly dressed in full period costume.

SLD's Outreach and Education Officer was invited to contribute to the Education Scotland's national Continuing Professional Development events in Stirling, Glasgow, Ayr, Aberdeen and Edinburgh which focused on 'Literacy and Scots Language'. This was a great opportunity to meet teachers representing schools from all over Scotland. Some teachers were modest about their knowledge of Scots but used teamwork, creative approaches and community contacts to good effect. Developments such as the General Teaching Council for Scotland's Professional Recognition Award for work in Scots Language and the new Scottish Studies Award have created interest in Scots. SLD staff have regularly supported and contributed to the Association for Scottish Literary Studies' annual conferences. SLD's Outreach and Education Officer met students and teachers from Edinburgh and Midlothian at the City of Edinburgh's 6th year pupils' Creative Writing Conference. SLD leaflets were included in conference packs. The annual Scottish Learning Festival has proved to be an excellent opportunity to meet educationalists and to raise awareness of SLD's work. The University of Glasgow's Scots Words and Place-Names Project (SWAP) valued SLD's input. The University of Edinburgh regularly invites SLD staff to teach on courses and give talks about SLD's current projects. Collaborating with other institutions has brought mutual benefits.

Building partnerships with professional networks is an important aspect of SLD's outreach and education work. Education Scotland, Creative Scotland and the more recent Studying Scotland websites centralise information on current practice and resources, including Scots language and culture. Their sites and personnel regularly acknowledge the expertise of SLD. Raising awareness of dialectal variations is a great starting place for community projects and groups value SLD's expertise in this area. Scots word collection projects and cross-generational projects lead to an exchange of local knowledge. Professional networks such as Learning Link Scotland keep SLD staff updated on current developments in adult education.

SLD's Outreach and Education also involves collaboration with cultural organisations who are interested in language, literature and literacy. Some schools have timetabled SLD visits as part of their 'Book Week Scotland' events. SLD is a member of the Literature Forum and SLD's director recently contributed to Creative Scotland's booklet, entitled An Introduction to the Languages of Scotland. SLD supports the Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland group. Scots and Gaelic are integrated into TRACS courses with opportunities for SLD's input to workshops and events. Festivals and celebrations involving Scots are as popular as ever but there is growing understanding of the importance of Scots language and literature all year round. Exhibitions, staffed displays and SLD banners in libraries have all helped increase awareness of SLD's publications. SLD's director has contributed to events at Stirling Castle, Celtic Connections and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Recent performances of older Scots texts such as The Flyting between Dunbar and Kennedy have gained acclaim.

Outreach and Education visits and e-newsletters generate interest in membership, the Word Collection and the roles of SLD's volunteer readers and informants. After events and visits groups are keen to contribute information, attend fund-raising events and tell others about SLD. Individuals and businesses are delighted to take part in the 'sponsor a word' scheme and to receive a certificate and quotations from the Dictionary of Scots Language to mark a special occasion. It has been a particular delight to get sponsorship from schools and to hear about the ways they selected their favourite words. The 'sponsor a word' certificate is often displayed in a public place for all to see and leads to even more discussion about favourite Scots words.

This article outlines some of the many approaches to Outreach and Education and the impact of this work. SLD's expertise and resources are shared and used extensively nationally and internationally, encouraging dialogue to inform future developments. Working collaboratively ensures that SLD's work is integrated into wider educational and community contexts, supporting and developing interest in lexicography and Scots language in formal and informal contexts.