In 2009 myself and a friend decided that we wanted to reduce the stress and hardship faced by our young learners as they faced the hardest transition they may ever face. They are expected to leave behind their family and friends, places that they know, and fit into a society that is very different. Very often they are walked into a school and left, with little or no explanation, or no apparent concern for their feelings. They stand alone, scared, waiting for a glimpse of normality or a recognition of something familiar like a language. A teacher or teaching assistant walks them to a large room and points to a chair, they sit down and then the world erupts, 30 children all bubbling with enthusiasm and excitement. Wanting to tell their friends all about the previous evening or something that they have seen on their way to school. But, there’s a character that is missing all of this, they sit bemused by this new world.
This begs the question. What could we have done differently?
Children don’t learn by being ignored, they need to be engaged in activities, conversation and with people. But how do we speak to them if they don’t speak English and teachers don’t speak their language.
This is where we came in, we wanted to create a familiarity, with language, with images and with text. My background was education and I had taught in London schools and been part of school improvement teams. My partner is the techy, his knowledge and understanding leaves most standing. He created a state of the art website that used the latest development to act as a desktop. I started creating resources that would sit well in my class if I was a teacher. We created a library of bilingual resources. People criticised me for using two languages, they accused me of helping maintain the learners home language. I knew from past experiences that learning was about understanding not just repeating. Using two languages meant that learners used them as bridges to gain greater understanding, swapping back and forth when needed. The first school that really took the concept on used this for a term and reported that their learners were over a year ahead of learners that didnt use it. but many people still criticised us, never asking to meet and decide for themselves or asking the schools that were succeeding.
We then wanted to do more and speak to every child in their home language. This was very much a dream, but having a great group of backroom boys they set to work. And within months they created a school friendly talking translator. Unique to the world it used the best there was and produced very accurate translations.
That’s where we started and now we want to continue with the support exept that now we can translate and speak in 25 languages and translate written letters in 50 languages and have over 200 languages of bilingual resources in the library. But why is it still needed?
The recent census information shows us that there are 138,000 people that do not speak English at all and over 750,000 that do not speak English well. That’s almost 1 million people that can benefit from practical help.
To find out more go to our website www.emasuk.com and see what else we can do to change the world.