News | Monday, 10th July 2017

Bilingual pupils prove poetry prowess in unique writing competition

University's Mother Tongue Other Tongue contest a success

Mother Tongue Other Tongue organisers and winners celebrate
Mother Tongue Other Tongue organisers and winners celebrate

Schoolchildren have picked up awards in a bilingual poetry competition that celebrates the diverse array of languages spoken in modern classrooms.

They were taking part in the national Mother Tongue Other Tongue contest that is co-ordinated by Manchester Metropolitan University.

Pupils from schools across region visited the University on Wednesday for a regional prize-giving and performance ceremony.

The annual competition – now in its fifth year - is just one of the activities of Routes into Languages, a national programme promoting the take-up of languages and student mobility in education.

Unique contest

Yasmin Hussain, Project Manager for Routes into Languages North West based at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Mother Tongue Other Tongue is a fantastic project.

“The competition is unique as it allows pupils to use their bilingualism creatively.

“The project has been instrumental in supporting pupils to explore their multiple identities through culture, poetry and language and sharing this with their peers.

“Being multilingual has many advantages and it is great that pupils learn to value this early on in their lives.

“Each year the project has gone from strength to strength and we have received over 24,000 entries in over 70 languages.”

Significant piece of writing

In the Mother Tongue half of the competition, children who do not have English as a first language or who speak a different language at home shared a lullaby, poem or song from their mother tongue and wrote a short piece in English to explain the poem’s significance to them. 

The winning and highly commended entries were in Spanish, Italian, Polish, Russian, Arabic, Farsi, Bengali and Dhivehi, the language of The Maldives.

In the Other Tongue section, pupils submitted poems in a foreign language they are  being taught at school including French, German, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Urdu and Mandarin.

The awards were handed out by role model Annie Zaidi, the first female Muslim UEFA B coach, who last month collected a British Empire Medal and is a past winner of the Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration at the Sportswomen of the Year Awards.

Passionate about languages

Dr Sharon Handley, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “As the Director of Routes into Languages North West, I am passionate about promoting languages and encouraging pupils to learn new languages.

“I love the Mother Tongue Other Tongue Poetry Competition because it does just that – it celebrates the Mother Tongue, the language that is spoken at home, as well as promoting the Other Tongue, the opportunity to learn new languages at school.

“I have been very impressed with the standard of entries to the competition and would like to thank the young people and their teachers for their enthusiasm and creativity. 

“I was very touched by some of the entries, which engaged with very powerful issues including immigration, war, family and relationships.

“I would very much like to thank the Poet Laureate, Dame Carol Ann Duffy, for her creative leadership of this initiative and Amir Khan, the world champion boxer, for his endorsement of the project.

“The Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition has been inspirational, and has enthused and motivated many young people to value languages and the diverse cultures of their communities.”

Devised in 2012

Mother Tongue Other Tongue was originally devised by staff in the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at Manchester Metropolitan University and Routes into Languages North West. It has been running since 2012.

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