Dr Bernadatte O’Rourke

Lecturer, Spanish and General Linguistics, Heriot-Watt University

Beltane Fellow: 13 Sept 2010 – 31 March 2011

Bernadette is a lecturer in Spanish and General Linguistics and teaches translation, interpreting and linguistics modules to undergraduate and postgraduate students. Her research focuses on the role of language in the construction of social difference and inequality, drawing on theoretical frameworks and concepts within the general area of sociolinguistics and the sociology of language. In this research Bernadette examines these processes as they unfold in the case of indigenous and non-indigenous minority languages in different European contexts including Irish, Gaelic and Galician and migrant languages spoken in Ireland and Scotland such as Urdu, Arabic and Polish. Bernadette has also worked on a freelance basis as a public service interpreter and through this she has gained first-hand experience in the way in which linguistic diversity is managed (and very often mismanaged) in a range of contexts including hospitals, courts, refugee appeals tribunals and prisons.

Bernadette’s Fellowship was used to explore ways in which to engage with public service providers and individuals who make up these bodies on the topic of linguistic and cultural diversity. Scotland, like many other countries in Europe and many parts of the world, is struggling to identify appropriate models for the management of linguistic and cultural diversity and to find a balance between a situation in which separate identities can be respected and at the same time create a sense of unity amongst its citizens. Through public engagement activities such as workshops and talks she increased awareness about such diversity. In collaboration with public service workers she developed language awareness training which  proposed a set of practical guidelines on how to deal with an increasingly multi-ethnic, multilingual and multicultural customer base.