translator: emily jane grant
In 2013 Gayhurst Community School in Hackney signed up to Translation Nation to provide encouragement to EAL children and explore the many cultures of its pupils.
KS2 found themselves transported to the heart of Paris as French speaking facilitator Emily enacted the legendary tale of ‘La sourcière de la Rue Mouffetard’ – ‘The witch of Mouffetard Street’. With the help of a beret, a witch’s hat, a flat cap, a baseball cap and a tornado of energy Emily became four very different French characters who charmed the children and engaged them in call-and –response with simple French phrases and words. The audience ‘oohed’, ‘ahhed’ and enjoyed speaking French! They were surprised that hearing a story in another language was so much fun.
Initially the children in the hub group were reluctant to share their own languages. However games and imaginative exercises slowly built up their confidence and on Day 2 of the project they told and listened to stories in Italian, Dutch, French, Somali, Portuguese, Georgian and Turkish. Working on their own versions of these tales then enabled the group to realise that each language is special, and being able to translate them is an important and useful skill.
The lead teacher for the project, Annie, was very supportive, and commented that “oral communication was improved as the groups were required to spend a lot of time talking in groups as well as to an audience. Two Somalian children would not even admit that they spoke a language other than English until during the project. By the end they were correcting people and directing people in speaking their language which was great for them and also for the rest of the class.”
With the aid of Emily and the Eastside volunteers, the children developed their stories and loved dressing up in costumes and performing to the school on the final day. The vote for the winning story went to ‘The Man of the Bag’, which had been translated from Portuguese.
Year 5 teacher Annie had attended a teachers INSET in the lower Eastside studio in the spring term to learn more about the project and experience some of the activities at first hand as a participant, so she had high expectations for the summer term. She was delighted that the project delivered on its aims and successfully raised the profile of languages within the school, and felt that Emily’s enthusiasm and dramatic approach was exactly what the children needed to inspire them with their storytelling and writing. Commenting on the legacy of the project Annie said “My class will carry with them a respect for other languages and people’s ability to speak them”.