You can’t learn English without talking to English people

I had a letter in the BEP today, in response to a Conservative Councillor’s suggestion that a separate academy should be set up to teach children who don’t have English as a first language, so that other children don’t get held back by them.

The letter is self-explanatory but Councillor Abraham clearly has no idea how quickly young children pick up English. I had an friend at school, whose parents only spoke Italian at home. She started school not knowing more than a few words of English, but very quickly became bilingual. Ditto my nephews and nieces who lived in Spain for five years, picking up not just Spanish but Valencian too. And I’ve dropped in on an additional language class being held at one of the local secondary schools for pupils who have just arrived in England; I think there was one Somali pupil and the other four or five were from the EU accession countries. One little girl in particular, who’d been in the UK all of three months, was incredibly fluent in English already. OK, such pupils need a bit of extra attention and a bit of extra support, but it’s not the children’s lack of English we should be worrying about; it’s their parents. But that’s a topic for another day….

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