Sunday, March 24, 2013

Young Interpreters (3): Hampshire Young Interpreter Scheme

This is a continuation of the previous posts Young Interpreters (1)  and (2), which should be read first.

Through Pat Richards, I was put in touch with Astrid Gouwy, who is in charge of the whole Young Interpreter (YI) movement. I call it a movement  they themselves call it a scheme because although it was started by and still functions primarily for one UK education agency, the Hampshire County Council Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS)  traveller in this context refers to Roma gypsies, itinerant fairground workers and the like  its influence has already spread beyond. It's recognised by local education authorities across the UK for its innovative approach and it has reached Canada, the USA and Amman, Jordan. In 2010 it won a European Award for Languages. It even holds an annual conference.

A recent EMTAS survey counted 169 YI interpreters speaking 36 different languages, and added, "However, we know that there are many more Young Interpreters out there." That's why I employed the cliché tip of the iceberg when referring to the five at The Emmbrook School in the previous post.

EMTAS issues a YI Newsletter, and it maintains a website which is so full of information that I hardly know where to begin. But first, here are some of the things it says YI pupils can do:
  • Show visitors around the school, particularly English as an Additional Language (EAL) new arrivals
  • Support other EAL learners in the classroom.
  • Regularly monitor that new arrivals are settling into the school and provide updates for the EAL co-ordinator
  • Provide taster lessons in other languages for students and or staff
  • Buddy up with new arrivals during their first few weeks to demonstrate school routines etc.
  • Buddy with new arrivals on the playground and introduce them to other students or show them which clubs/lunchtime activities are available
  • Assist communication with other students/ parents/ carers who are new to English in order to support school staff
  • Interpret pieces of writing for other EAL learners
  • Welcome parents at school events, use bilingual skills to meet and greet, or present information in other languages
Among all the above activities, there are some that can be classed as language brokering and others as incipient liaison interpreting.

I put three crucial questions to Astrid, which she was kind enough to answer. So I'll quote her in extenso.
1. Q: What are the admission criteria. Is there a an aptitude test? A language test? A translation test?
A: "There is no test to take part in the scheme. Pupils can be nominated by staff or volunteer themselves. Pupils may have been new arrivals themselves, have a particular interest in languages or wish to help others. Pupils taking part should be good role models in terms of behaviour but also in terms of their use English. They should be patient, kind, caring, responsible, good listeners and good communicators. Young Interpreters can be bilingual/multilingual but participation from monolingual indigenous pupils is also encouraged, especially when they are interested in other languages or are in fact gifted and talented in languages. This really helps in raising awareness of how pupils with EAL may feel in their new school. It is not essential to be perfectly bilingual because the role involves the element of providing a welcoming environment by being an empathetic friend and through their training, pupils learn to cope in situations where there is no shared language. This means that Young Interpreters can use a variety of strategies to support new arrivals - from use of L1 to use of visuals etc."

2. Q: Assuming there is some training, what form does it take and who gives it?
A: "This leads us to the training part of the scheme. Schools deliver the training themselves using the guidance, lesson plans and materials from the pack. They are pretty self-explanatory, especially with the recent addition of Moodle (a virtual learning platform) so most schools just go ahead and do it. Others get in touch with me when they require more guidance. The training consists of 4 sessions and there is a different scheme for infants, juniors and secondary students. They all have in common an empathy exercise where trainees are spoken to in an unknown language to help them start develop empathy towards new arrivals and to help unpick what helps communication. Finally, a range of role play scenarios allow all pupils to show an ability to help a new arrival - whether in first language or using some of the strategies from the empathy exercise."

3. Q: There's reference in the newspaper report to the new Emmbrook YIs having "qualified". On what basis? Is there a test for it?
A: "There is no test or assessment at the end of the training. Students receive their badge and certificate once they have completed their four training sessions. The students you read about online qualified following their training with their key member of staff. We have developed an accredited course for adults however which we have successfully run on request with college students at level 2 and 3."

The training given, even if it's rudimentary, means that YI graduates are no longer naive Natural Translators.
To be concluded.
References with the Conclusion.

"On Friday July 15th, 2011, nine pupils from George Palmer Primary School at Reading, UK, were presented with their certificates and badges for successfully completing the Young Interpreters Course. The pupils, from years 4 and 5, between them have Chinese, Swahili, Punjabi, Konkani and Nepali as their mother tongues." (Konkani is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by about 2 million people in eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal.)
Source: Mothertongue multi-ethnic counselling and listening services.

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