A while back I was invited to participate in an event organised through Inspiring the Future. Today was the day and so, armed with Harry Potter, Pokemon and Disney’s Let it go, I headed to a junior school in the inner city of Derby.
Going in, I knew that this particular school had a high volume of children with Asian and Eastern European backgrounds. What I recognise from this is the language skill base these children have to offer. I’ve often heard people say that “X child doesn’t speak English at home.” I’d like to challenge that perception and ask “well what do they speak?”
I spent my time circulating around three Year 5 classes (9/10 year olds) and the linguistic spread was astounding. Asking what languages the children spoke, we discovered Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Romanian, Polish, Greek, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Kurdish, Latvian, Swedish, Italian – what a mix!
We talked about what jobs we could do with language skills, discussing languages in a business setting. We looked at book translation, dubbing and subtitling – they particularly enjoyed Let it go in 25 languages. We also talked about interpreting in schools and hospitals, settings where some of the children already have experience of meeting interpreters, or indeed sometimes acting as interpreters themselves. A Google search had revealed that in Derby, the “in demand” languages were many that were sitting on the floor in front of me.
I hope that if nothing else, the children from today’s sessions leave knowing that their language skills are an asset to them. For the rest of the world, multilingual is normal. Here in the UK, language take-up in schools is dropping (another article about this was published just today). These children are our future linguists and should be cherished and encouraged. It’s not “just” a language they speak at home.
To volunteer your time to inspire the future, please register with Inspiring the Future.Follow @ClaireStorey16