Trans­la­tors helped my mi­grant pupils

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - FEEDBACK - Lynne Askey

I’ve just read a Tes re­port re­gard­ing the speedy progress of mi­grant pri­mary-aged chil­dren; I’m not at all sur­prised (“Pupils who learn in sec­ond lan­guage ‘catch up on lis­ten­ing skills within a year’, bit.ly/sec­ond­lang). I’ve taught English (and, yes, aren’t we all teach­ers of English?) in a sec­ondary school and, a cou­ple of years ago, I was asked to be­come the English as an ad­di­tional lan­guage (EAL) co­or­di­na­tor. I have a TEFL cer­tifi­cate and in or­der to qual­ify for this I spent some time in a school of English for EAL stu­dents; the ex­pe­ri­ence taught me that I don’t know enough about my mother tongue. I recall one ques­tion that I took from an Asian stu­dent: why doesn’t English have a fu­ture tense?

A few weeks ago in Tes there was an ar­ti­cle re­gard­ing EAL stu­dents, and I was sur­prised not to read any­thing about the work of EMTAS (the Eth­nic Mi­nor­ity and Trav­eller Achieve­ment Ser­vice). I worked in a school in An­dover, Hamp­shire, and found the folk that worked at EMTAS so help­ful. I am only able to com­mu­ni­cate flu­ently in English (this may be a moot point), but trans­la­tors from EMTAS were able to com­mu­ni­cate with “my” stu­dents who came from all around the world and, just as im­por­tantly, speak to the par­ent/car­ers. Be­ing able to speak with par­ents/car­ers in their home lan­guage aided the kids at school im­mensely, and high­lighted the pos­i­tives in be­com­ing bilin­gual (Hamp­shire had a fan­tas­tic “young in­ter­preters” scheme, for ex­am­ple). In some cases, it helped poorer stu­dents’ par­ents to ac­cess help, such as free school meals.

I learned as much about ways in which I could help EAL stu­dents from the team at Hamp­shire EMTAS as I did in the uni­ver­si­ty­based TEFL course.

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