In this post, Dr Stuart Dunmore, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, describes his recent Go Abroad Staff experience at the Sorbonne Nouevelle in Paris, France, where he taught students about the use of Gaelic within and beyond the education system…
Springtime in Paris, 2019: what a time and place to develop my teaching repertoire, I thought, and what an experience it proved to be. While Erasmus+ funding for teaching mobility should continue for UK academics beyond Brexit, it seemed sensible to co-ordinate my visit to Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III) for late February into early March, so that I could teach postgraduate linguistics students’ there without fear of any potential Brexit impact.
My postdoctoral research on Gaelic acquisition and use has regularly taken me to communities throughout urban and rural Scotland, and all over the province of Nova Scotia in Canada. Paris provided an altogether different setting in which to discuss the major theoretical and practical themes of my research, and a truly awesome backdrop for this task in the shape of the Sorbonne’s Institut de linguistique et phonétique générales et appliquées, intellectual home of the linguistic subdiscipline of phonetics.
The programme of lectures and seminars I developed for my week of teaching at Sorbonne Nouvelle was largely informed by my doctoral and postdoctoral research on the use of Gaelic within and beyond the education system.
The student community I addressed through the week was principally made up of MA students of linguistics and PhD candidates in the fields of sociolinguistics and immersion education. The Masters course I contributed to during the week’s mobility, Politics of language in the English-speaking world, constituted a very relevant channel through which to explore bilingual English-Gaelic discourses of language use in Scottish and Nova Scotian communities, as well as the underlying ideologies which are frequently conveyed to rationalise language practices.
Bilingual narratives of this kind were rather new to the Masters students I spoke to, all of whom appeared motivated to further explore minority language communities in contact with English-dominant societies as part of their postgraduate study, and to learn more about the qualitative method of discourse analysis I employ in my research for the purposes of their own MA theses.
It was thus within the wider context of European collaboration and co-operation between academic communities that I was afforded this opportunity to build on existing contacts between University of Edinburgh and Sorbonne Nouvelle (one of 13 “successor” universities to the former University of Paris) and to develop ongoing academic collaboration between the two historic institutions. The notion of “community” in respect of Gaelic language and culture on both sides of the Atlantic is central to my own research and teaching, so it was really encouraging to see the early stages of a nascent academic community taking shape in the Latin Quarter of Paris this month.
Who knows, in the spirit of the Franco-Scottish Vielle Alliance, and ongoing academic collaboration between our two countries, some of the postgraduate students I met this month may one day join us in Edinburgh to further pursue their interests in the politics of language and minority communities.