Saturday, November 16, 2013

Young Interpreters Wins Guardian Award

Several posts in the course of this fast disappearing year have been devoted to the Young Interpreters. It’s the movement started and developed in the UK by Hampshire County Council's Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (Emtas) and coordinated by Astrid Gouwy and her team. Participating schools at all levels set up programmes to encourage bilingual pupils to interpret for their peers and give them some basic training. To find the posts, enter emtas in the Search box on the right.

Now comes great news. The scheme has been named winner of the Grassroots Excellence category in this year's The Guardian newspaper’s Public Services Awards and overall winner of the Awards. A richly deserved recognition!

The Guardian citation says this:

“A scheme that makes a vital impact on a pressing social issue, yet costs almost nothing, sounds too good to be true. But that is the beauty of the young interpreter programme developed in schools in Hampshire.

“By giving children the role of supporting others whose first language is not English, the groundbreaking scheme is promoting successful integration of migrant youngsters, accelerating their learning and helping the young interpreters become accustomed to responsibility.

“The initiative has been praised by school inspectors and is being picked up by schools elsewhere in the UK and overseas…

“Presenting the award, David Brindle, the Guardian's public services editor, said: ‘Like so many of the best ideas, the Hampshire Young Interpreter Scheme is so stunningly simple that you wonder why it has not been done before. It has negligible costs, yet is fantastically popular with both the children who act as young interpreters and those they befriend, making them welcome and helping them adapt to their new surroundings and language. It is making a priceless contribution to social cohesion.’

“The idea is that training pupils already fluent in English to act as interpreters, will take the pressure off the council's interpretation service and help new arrivals – who often speak no English at all – to settle into their new schools and learn the language at the same time.

"’Our school has got 27 different languages and, with the best will in the world, there's not the money to fund that with bilingual resources,’ says Fairfields [primary school]’s deputy head, Vicky Hopkins. ‘We were looking for a way to support these children using what we already had available.’

"We had a lot of children who had already been through the experience of being a new arrival in our school. They were now advanced bilingual learners; they're very proud of where they come from, and of being able to speak other languages."

Young Interpreters goes some way towards implementing Jill Karlik’s suggestion in the last post, based on her observation of three-year-old language brokers in Africa, that interpreter training for bilingual children should start very young.

Hannah Fearn. Overall and grassroots excellence winner: Hampshire county council. The Guardian Online, 13 November 2013. For the full article, click here.

Astrid Gouwy’s address is

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