One of the biggest challenges facing school-teachers today is having to overcome language barriers in the classroom. The UK school system has a steadily growing number of pupils for whom English is not their native language. Fortunately, as the UK becomes more and more multicultural, steps have been taken to try and ensure that all students - regardless of nationality or language - receive the same level of education. It's not always an easy task, but advances are being made.
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Statistics in the school
It's important to note why, exactly, there is an ever-expanding requirement on the part of the UK Government's Department for Education to further the teaching process for pupils who fall under the category of what is termed EAL, or English as an Additional Language. As of 2012, the number of schools in the UK where English is the minority language is in excess of 1,500. In terms of numbers of pupils, this amounts to more than one million. Urdu, Polish, and Punjabi are among the languages that are on the rise and, in some schools, more prevalent than English.
Why both languages count
With an expanding level of multiculturalism in UK schools, what steps are being taken to ensure that those children for whom English is a second language don't get left behind? It might be assumed by many that trying to teach students to embrace the English language, and leave their native-tongue behind, would be the best approach. It is not. Studies undertaken by the Centre of Economic Research and Teaching have demonstrated that when pupils are encouraged by their teachers to use both languages, they invariably grasps the new language at a faster pace.
Software becomes a success
Technology is playing a major role in helping teachers to overcome language barriers in the classroom, too. As an example, a Nottingham-based company, Resource Education, provides a piece of educational software called Talk-2-Talk which is designed to help EAL students obtain a greater grasp of English. It is not a program that teaches language as such. Rather, Talk-2-Talk gives the user the opportunity to install both English and second-language software of their choice onto a computer and increase their knowledge of a new language in easy fashion. And the second-languages that Resource Education offers are many, including Gujarati, Urdu, and Polish.
Literal language translation technology is also a growing presence in the UK classroom. It's also making the job of the teacher easier. There are numerous programs today, such as Translate Personal, Ace Translator, and Babylon, that provide the user with the ability to translate online-text to a highly significant degree. And, given that computers play a major role in classrooms today, the ability of an EAL student to be able to convert web-content, an email, or a Word document from first-language to second-language, and vice-versa, is of paramount importance. Of course, language translation programs should not be viewed as the be-all and end-all when it comes to EAL issues. But, they can assist the user in attaining a quicker grasp of a new language.
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