Translators helped my migrant pupils
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.