Too many lingos and not a word to understand

October 2nd, 2008 - 2:37 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 2 (IANS) What does a teacher do in a class which does not speak English and the students between them speak 24 foreign languages? Communicate through signs, as does the head teacher of a primary school in Brighton.Damian Jordan took up the job recently at Fairlight primary school and his first words to the 55 students elicited only silence from the students. It took him a couple of minutes to realise they weren’t understanding him. And neither could he understand them.

Between them, they spoke in Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Mandarin, Polish, and many more. They were all children of mature international students or academics who had moved to the city to study or teach in the universities of Brighton and Sussex.

Jordan now uses a signing system called Makaton - a version of sign language which is used specifically in schools - to speak to the youngsters. He said the major advantage in using Makaton was that it helped children be more readily understood while they grasp English.

“I have been training in Makaton, which has been designed for use in schools. It means that at times when children might get frustrated that they can’t make themselves understood, you can still communicate with them.”

Jordan - who at 36 is among Brighton’s youngest head teachers - is also learning the basics in several other languages so he can communicate better.

Isn’t the entire exercise frustrating? “We think the international nature of the school and the languages are something to celebrate.”

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