The Linguist

The Linguist 57,3 – June/July 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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18 The Linguist Vol/57 No/3 2018 FEATURES Fiona Rintoul visits a multilingual school putting pupils' native language skills at the heart of their education F or Maria, a pupil at St Albert's Primary School in Glasgow who can speak Hungarian, German, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Urdu and English, the Scottish government's 1+2 language learning policy may seem unambitious. The policy aims to ensure every child in Scotland learns two languages in addition to their mother tongue, but St Albert's faces a different challenge. Maria, who has a Pakistani father and a Hungarian mother, may be unusual in commanding seven languages, but most of the children at this Roman Catholic primary, south of the River Clyde, speak at least two languages. "More than 85% of our children have English as an additional language and more than 98% are from a British minority ethnic group," says Head Teacher Clare Harker. The most common home languages are Urdu and Punjabi, followed by Arabic; and many of the Urdu- and Punjabi-speaking pupils also know Classical Arabic from reciting the Koran. "75% of the children read the Koran at home," says Harker. The pupils' home language skills are celebrated. St Albert's has mother-tongue storytelling, and its website features Urdu and Arabic translations of the school newsletter. "We are moving away from describing the children as having English as an additional language (EAL) to calling them bilingual," says Jonathan Orr, one of two EAL teachers at the school. "All the research shows that being bilingual is a benefit." The school celebrates the children's heritage as well as their mother tongues. Parents have been invited in to speak about their experiences of migration, for example; and Harker recalls a mother asking to shake her hand because she had allowed her daughter to pray in school. The school's philosophy is one of non- judgemental inclusion. This inclusive approach accords with the Scottish government's previous policy of Learning in 2(+) Languages, 1 published in 2005, which Orr says forms a more suitable model for language learning at St Albert's than the more recent 1+2 policy. The 2(+) policy emphasises the need for inclusion, race equality, cultural diversity and bilingualism at all educational establishments, regardless of their ethnic composition, and makes it clear that developing competence in English should not come at the expense of pupils' home languages. "The home language is vitally important," it states. "The school needs to provide the parents/carers with every encouragement to maintain and develop it." A risky approach? This does not mean that learning a foreign language is forgotten. St Albert's pupils are taught French, which some of them, such as Zahraa and Zainab from Lebanon, know already, and have learnt Gaelic songs from teacher Laura Hewitt, who comes from the Isle of Harris. Harker, who joined as Head Teacher five years ago, approaches teaching in this multilingual environment in what she describes as a "creative and risky way". She admits to being "very nervous" before an inspection by Education Scotland last year. In a profession where appraisals and performance management have taken centre stage, her decision to keep paperwork to a minimum, so that teachers can spend time on "necessary stuff", sounds daring. "We invest in leadership," she says. "Staff are free to discover their own ways of teaching. That's when the magic happens." Fortunately, the inspection brought vindication: the school was rated 'excellent' for leadership and 'very good' in the three other categories. This has allowed the school to continue to pursue creative policies whose benefits, in terms of academic achievement, may not be immediately visible. "We play the long game," explains Orr. Harker's core belief is that education is not a gift to be given to pupils only if they learn English. "Children should not be seen as 'behind' if they don't have English," she says. "We look at how we can ensure The all inclusive classroom VALUING CULTURE Celebrating pupils' home cultures at St Albert's Primary

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