Monday 8 February 2010

The Tower of Babel

The town where pupils speak 150 different languages

By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 6:56 AM on 08th February 2010

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Schools in just one town are having to cope with pupils who speak 150 different languages, a survey has found.

They range from the Ghanaian dialect of Akan, through the African language of Chichewa and the ancient Aztec tongue of Nahuatl to the Indian language of Telugu.

This is as well as the more common foreign languages of Urdu, Punjabi and Polish.

Mixed: Schoolchildren in Reading use 150 different languages. (Posed by models)

The survey in Reading, Berkshire, shows how schools are being put under mounting pressure by the rising levels of pupils who do not speak English as their first language.

In a bid to ease the burden, Reading Borough Council, is offering discounted English lessons for both children and adults.

The aim is to get children, whose command of English is often much better, to help their families learn it.

Lesley Reilly, head of adult learning at the authority, said: ‘Our aim is to involve stakeholders in community groups across the town to encourage people to join the English classes.

'Our target is to reach more men, unemployed people, learners recently arrived in Reading and parents of primary pupils.’

The classes are being run as part of English for Speakers of Other Languages, a government initiative to encourage people to integrate in the community.

The Government described the number of languages and dialects spoken by pupils in Reading as 'extraordinary' and conceded that it would place schools under extra pressure.

The figures suggest that language barriers are making it increasingly difficult for teachers to communicate with their pupils.

It was revealed in 2005 that pupils at Woodside High School in Tottenham, north London, spoke as many as 58 languages, with many arriving at the comprehensive unable to speak any English.

Pupils at a primary school in the West Midlands were found to speak 33 different languages in 2003.

Conservative MP Philip Davies said: 'It's very worrying and Labour's lax immigration policies are a huge factor in this.

'It is also a result of political correctness. We haven't really made people integrate properly into British society.’

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