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Highland Council hears how hard-working Gaelic translation service sets the ancient language in 'stone and skin'

By Alasdair Fraser

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Highland Council's bilingual HQ sign. Picture: Gary Anthony.
Highland Council's bilingual HQ sign. Picture: Gary Anthony.

A Highland Council Gaelic translation service has been lauded for its work – after scripting everything from boring committee papers to a person's tattoo.

Among the less frequent demands on the service was a request for the correct Gaelic wording for a council tax payer’s body art.

Councillors at today’s online meeting of the Gaelic committee commended the service’s efforts, with committee chairman Calum Munro noting that the ancient language had been “set in stone and skin” by staff.

Members were updated on the range and output of the council’s translation service, as well as future developments being planned.

Over 900 requests for translation were administered, varying from short phrases to projects running into thousands of words.

Most of the translation requests were received from the council’s education service, Gaelic development team, and corporate services for committee papers, news releases and corporate documents.

Public correspondence by emails and letters, job adverts, street, road and building signage and interpretation panels were also among the many items processed by the service, which works closely with Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA), the Gaelic place names organisation.

Future development of Gaelic within the Highland Council includes plans to recruit a Gaelic graduate intern to help improve the level of Gaelic on the council’s website and to provide public engagement in Gaelic on social media.

Members were also informed that training would be provided for customer services staff to help reinforce a Gaelic welcome when customers contact the local authority.

These staff will continue to ensure that if customers wish to speak to frontline services in Gaelic that they will be provided access to Gaelic speakers to enable this.

Councillor Munro said: “Committee members are very impressed by the level of output and quality of the translation service provided to the council.

“This high demand-led service is commendable and provides a vital service in the council’s delivery of its Gaelic language plan.

“While the council’s translator mainly responds to requests for translating educational materials, corporate documents, and street and building signage it was fascinating to hear from her that a few requests were from the public for the translation of house names and tattoos.

“Not only has Gaelic been set in stone but also in skin!”

The committee heard guidelines on bilingual signage for Highland Council staff and additional guidance for the use of Gaelic were produced in 2010 and require review.

They will be updated and aligned with the current Highland Council and national Gaelic language plans.

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