translator: alia alzougbi
In Newham Sir John Heron Primary School welcomed the Translation Nation team in summer 2013 to spend three days with its Year 5 class.
Eastside facilitator Alia made an impact right from the get-go, introducing herself in Arabic to the whole school in their assembly. It seemed that this strange lady had lots to say, and even a story to tell, but that she couldn’t speak a word of English! They were drawn into an Arabic story which was conveyed through gestures, sound effects and a large sprinkling of comedy which had pupils crying with laughter. Slowly Alia gave away her secret and the children realised that she could speak English but also that they could understand a story that was delivered in a foreign language. They were all eager to try on Alia’s special animal masks and act alongside her as the story was told for a second time but this time in English.
In the classroom, Year 5 were keen to learn more words in Arabic and after Alia had taught them an Arabic song two pupils volunteered to teach the group songs in their own languages: Polish and Creole. The class ended up singing all three songs over the course of the three days.
Stories were shared by pupils and visiting parents in Urdu, Polish, Arabic and Turkish and participants commented on how nice it was to hear their friends speaking in their mother tongues. They worked in five groups to produce imaginative English versions of the tales, and became very passionate about their respective stories. The confidence of all the children grew, but particularly noticeable was the development of a Turkish speaker and a Polish speaker. Both of these pupils’ parents had brought in stories on the second morning, and giving these stories prominence was a wonderful way to encourage them.
The Year 5 teacher remarked that the children absolutely loved the project, and it concluded with excellent performances and the Arabic story of ‘The Well of ZamZam’ taking the Translation Nation crown.