Saturday, July 2, 2016

Young Interpreters and Roma Children

Followers of this blog are familiar with the Young Interpreters movement in UK schools. If you aren't, enter emtas in the Search box on the right. EMTAS channels the abilities of school children to act as language brokers for immigrant fellow pupils. The June issue of the YI Newsletter brings the usual cheery reports of success and expansion. Pupils at Hylands School in Chelmsford, which has just joined, express their feelings:
"I feel happy that I am a Young Interpreter as I can help out people who are struggling with English and who look lost around the school. - Paige, year 11.
"I think being a Young Interpreter is about putting the EAL student first and not myself. I am very excited about joining the Young Interpreters because I will meet new people and help them to understand what it is like to be at Hylands. Also I am a little nervous because I have never done this before. My mum says I would be excellent for this because I am a natural carer for others and will help in any way possible. - Mia, year 7.
And so on. Notice that these children see themselves as more than just language conduits, and such empathy is perhaps typical of Natural Interpreters. Our Followers are familiar with such sentiments. However, this issue of the newsletter also contains what for me anyway was a surprise, and I urge you to look at it via the link provided or by clicking here. It is that among the dozens of nationalities in Hampshire schools there are now Roma children. Do you know who the Roma are? EMTAS answers the question, insisting that they are not Gypsies.
"Most Roma families prefer to identify themselves by their country of origin, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania being the most common ones. They do this because of their fear of discrimination and prejudice.
"The linking of 'Gypsy' and 'Roma' in adscription documents is an unhelpful pairing as many Roma do not want to be allied with Gypsies. Their adscription as 'White Other' (WOTH) or 'Any Other Ethnic Group' (OOTH) means that Roma children in Hampshire schools do not receive support for their Roma background and all the cultural barriers to learning…. We need to be aware that many of these children will have no formal experience of schooling or a very interrupted education. Many find it difficult to settle in one area and are at risk of becoming 'lost in the system' because of their relatively high mobility. We should also be aware that our Roma communities are themselves diverse in terms of language, culture and religion (they may be Roman Catholic or Muslim, quite different from our indigenous Traveller groups)…
"Roma do not regard themselves as Gypsies and do not like to be classified as Gypsies although many of their customs are similar. European Roma call their language Romanes and UK Gypsies call theirs Romani. Whilst English Romani and European Romanes have vocabulary in common, the grammatical structures used may vary considerably and the languages are not necessarily mutually intelligible.
"It should be noted that although many of Hampshire's Gypsies and Travellers have a predilection for living in caravans and mobile homes, many Roma… have always lived in housing,"

Roma community development worker Alexandra Bahor who is working with Roma children in the Lodge Lane area of Liverpool on an arts project in a bid to promote cultural cohesion in the neighbourhood.
Source: Liverpool Echo