Newbury Park Primary School in Redbridge, north-east London, has acquired a reputation of sorts. Here, its 850 pupils reportedly learn phrases in 40 languages by the time they transfer to secondary school.
According to The Independent, the school has adopted a policy of teaching each language spoken by the 40 ethnic groups among its pupils. Joe Debono, who runs the "language of the month" programme, was quoted by the paper as saying that this scheme has tangible benefits, as it can help children who may be refugees to overcome the sense of alienation they might feel in a new school.
It may also encourage pupils to study in more depth one of the languages they have encountered at Newbury Park when they transfer to secondary school, where language learning is compulsory for 11 to 14-year-olds, he added.
Debono says he selects a child every month to present lessons in their native tongue. He researches the language with their parents and films a video of the child talking their own language that can then be used in every class in the school.
In introducing the new language of the month, every class starts by greeting each other in the language to be learnt. In consultation with the pupils, Debono draws up a list of a dozen or so phrases they feel it would be useful to learn in each language.
The pupils then go on to recite them. The pupils go on to play games to further their knowledge of the language, with teachers placing cards with words on their heads. They have to guess what the words are by asking their pupils questions. The pupils then shout out "yes” or “no” in the language of the month.