The dialect has undergone a revival in recent decades. That’s in large part thanks to initiatives such as Shetland Forwirds, and it has also helped that the BBC’s local station has supported its use. Mary Blance, working at the newly-founded Radio Shetland in 1978, was the first to use dialect on air, but explains that there were complaints – some people just didn’t want to hear it and thought its use should be confined to the home. As Mary explains in the video, “English was the language of power, and they did try, many many times, to eradicate the dialect, simply by getting bairns to speak English in school; and that was for centuries. But we still have a Shetland dialect.” Words are in daily use for weather, crofting, food, birds and much else; and - as Mary recalls with amusement - “what we think about folk”.
It was no wonder that Jakobsen took such a close interest in Shetland dialect, because it takes in so many Old Norse words, and Old Norse is the foundation of modern Faroese and Icelandic. Shetland bird-watchers will refer to an oystercatcher as a shalder; their Faroese counterparts call it a tjaldur, and the words sound almost exactly the same.
Orkney, too, has its dialect, and there are both similarities and differences between it and the Shetland one. For example, Orcadians will refer to something small as peedie, whereas in Shetland the word is peerie. In the Western Isles, Gaelic is very much alive, and it’s actively promoted through Gaelic-language broadcasting, including the television channel, BBC Alba and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal