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Indian Beggars Become Multilingual

Are you more likely to give money to someone who asks you for it in your native language? According to this article from The Sun, beggars and street performers in New Delhi are becoming multilingual, hoping to increase their haul from foreign tourists during the Commonwealth Games next year. Although most of the tourists expected for the games will probably speak English, beggars are adding languages like French and Spanish to their repertoire as well.

Many of the beggars are children who were born into families of beggars. Although most of these children will never receive formal schooling, the beggars of New Delhi have set up “language schools” of their own.

Classes usually take place at night, and consist of learning helpful phrases in other languages, such as “I am an orphan.” Beggars are also trained to recognize foreign currency and determine its value.

Begging is actually an organized occupation in New Delhi, with an estimated 100,000 beggars in the city. Beggars are assigned specific places and times to beg, and move around so that no one beggar is in the same place for too long.

The entire enterprise of begging is targeted to achieve the maximum amount of profit possible. Why learn to beg in more than one language? According to a beggar quoted in the Sun article, it adds a “personal touch” to begging. As businesses are learning the world over, it pays to speak to your customer in his or her native language!

Teaching Deaf Children

There is a long-standing debate in the deaf community over the best way to educate deaf children. Should they be taught with other deaf children, in classes that emphasize sign language? Or should they be “main-streamed” into classrooms with hearing children, taught spoken language as much as possible and encouraged to take advantage of new technologies like cochlear implants?

Now, some sign language advocates in Indiana fear that budget shortfalls will determine the answer to that question. For example, Naomi S. Horton, executive director of Hear Indiana, which supports educating deaf children in mainstream classrooms, told the New York Times that:

“Kids in the mainstream save society, taxpayers, a significant amount of money in the short-term and in the long-term when it comes to being integrated into the hearing world,” though she added “There is a financial benefit, but at the end of the day it has to be a parent’s choice.”

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Young Interpreters

Today teachers in Britain have to cope with young children who have very little or no grasp of the English language. It is understandably difficult for the children who often misbehave due to the language barriers they face.

A school in Devon may have the answer. They have encouraged a small group of their students, many of whom came to England from foreign countries, to act as interpreters helping the new students to fit in.

Students in the group like Newsround Press Packer Angela have learnt basic language skills to help those with limited English in their class. Using a range of tools like picture cards, hand gestures and a basic language prompt sheets they are able to help the new student to fit in, learn English and therefore help improve their overall education.

It is so nice to read about young people being positive about language and helping each other to learn new skills, developing those skills for the future.

Learning languages in the United Kingdom is no longer very popular. Perhaps this is because to learn to read, write and speak a new language is very difficult and everyone speaks English so why should they bother. The latter is a common misconception believed by many adults and children.

The key to getting kids into languages seems to be to start teaching them at a young age, right when they begin learning in their first year at school. After all our first 3-4 years at school are probably the most progressive after that we are building on knowledge we already have. Children learn so quickly at that age reading, writing, basic maths and science skills why not teach them basic language skills as well.

With advances in technology most schools are now equipped with computers which could also be used to aid learning. In previous years children were often encouraged to write to a foreign pen pal. With access to the internet children could now talk to students in a foreign country via a web cam. Multimedia tools make the experience of learning a language much more fun.

Let them try out different languages, they might find one more interesting or fun to learn, which may retain their attention into adult life. Learning a language could make them stand out from the crowd when they start working.

In today’s multicultural business environment the ability to speak a foreign language is a huge advantage. It would be great to see more schools across the United Kingdom using students to help foreigners learn English developing each child for the better.

Indian Children's Story Translation Project Unites Communities

India is an immense country, and its borders encompass many different cultures. According to Ethnologue, 452 individual languages are spoken there, which means that many communities are divided by language barriers. Now, a new translation project is using children’s stories to build bridges between the different language communities in the Northeast portion of the country.

According to the Indian Express, the project involves translating traditional children’s stories from six different languages:

  • Assamese, the official language of Assam.
  • Bodo, the language of Assam’s Bodo people.
  • Khasi , the language of the Khasi people, who live in the state of  Meghlaya, Assam and in Bangladesh.
  • Garo, spoken by the Garo tribe in Meghalaya.
  • Manipuri, the primary language spoken in the state of Manipur.
  • Mizo, the  language of the Mizo people of the state of Mizoram.

The project involves taking six stories from each of these languages,  translating them into English and then translating them into each of the other languages.  Then, published editions of the stories will be made available in each language so that children from the different regions can read each other’s stories. It’s a fun way to connect neighboring communities with different cultures.

Professor A C Bhagabati, the regional head of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, which underwrote the project, told the Indian Express that the project “is a massive initiative to promote inter-cultural and literary exchanges among the six languages. An effort of such a magnitude has never taken place in the country.”

Arup Kumar Dutta, a popular Indian children’s author who assisted with the project, called the project “a rediscovery of the colourful multi-ethnic heritage of the Northeastern region….And once these books are brought out in English (which is not included in the current project), the rest of the world will also get an interesting insight into the world of children literature in the region.”

We can’t wait to see the results!

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