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19 December 2022

Jarlshof story translated into Shaetlan for the first time

A photo of Jarlshof prehistoric and Norse settlement

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have worked together with I Hear Dee to produce material in Shaetlan for the first time, at one of Shetland’s most well-known heritage attractions. 

Guide sheets and children’s quizzes in Shaetlan are now available at Jarlshof prehistoric and Norse settlement after staff at the site, which is run by Historic Environment Scotland, worked with the organisation to translate visitor materials into the language. 

Shaetlan is a highly distinct contact language that pre-dates Standard English in Shetland yet has never been officially recognized as a language. I Head Dee aims to document, describe and promote contemporary Shaetlan, working to raise its profile as a fully viable language variety in its own right locally, nationally and internationally.

Prof. Dr. Viveka Velupillai, principle investigator at I Hear Dee and affiliate of the Department of English at the University of Giessen, said:

“This is such a symbolically significant step as this is the first time ever that Shetlanders can see their own language represented as an equal among other languages on one of their own historical sites.

"HES has taken the first step to normalising Shaetlan in this bilingual community and give Shaetlan speakers pride of place in both its tangible and intangible heritage. It's a truly inclusive step to take and as a linguist engaged in documenting, describing and mapping languages of the world, I thoroughly applaud your hospitable and welcoming stance.”

The initiative at Jarlshof developed following an informal gathering of groups and organisations interested in Shetland's heritage at the Shetland Museum and Archives which was hosted by the Shetland Amenity Trust and following this I Hear Dee began working alongside members of the site staff at Jarlshof and wider HES staff including their interpretation team, to translate the site materials. 

Roy Mullay, co-investigator at I Hear Dee, said of seeing the materials for the first time:

"As a native Shaetlan speaker can I say just how liberating and welcoming it is to see such high-quality public information material written in my mother tongue for the first time. I hope the rest of the Shaetlan-speaking public get the same kick out of it as I am getting now – I’m sure they will!" 

Corwen Broch, District Visitor and Community Manager - North Region (Orkney & Shetland) at HES, said:

“We’re really pleased to have partnered up with I Hear Dee to help champion the use of Shaetlan, by bringing it into one of the island’s most well-known visitor attractions.  

“Incorporating the language into our interpretation highlights the importance of our intangible heritage with our built environment, both of which are closely related, and we hope that locals and visitors alike enjoy these new materials, which tell the story of the site through the distinctive words and phrases of Shaetlan."

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. We will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
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For further information, please contact:

Laura Ely
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Mobile: 07221 959 962