Mother Tongue Other Tongue North West Celebration Event

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Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy with Mother Tongue Other Tongue winners
Words by Amillah Javed.

Drum roll please! The moment finally arrived to award prizes to the students who won the Mother Tongue Other Tongue (MTOT) Competition, 2013. 

Mother Tongue Other Tongue launched last year to celebrate the range of languages found in schools across the UK today, and this year it became known, nationwide, as a Laureate Education Project. Led by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, the competition was split into two categories: Mother Tongue – where the entrant’s first language is not English, and Other Tongue – in which the entrants had studied and written in a language other than their native English. Thus, it challenged a number of students to write poetry in a creative way.

The Poet Laureate came to present MTOT certificates and prizes to a number of students here at Manchester Metropolitan University. The winners were chosen from over 1000 entries entered this year from schools all over the North West. Dean of MMU’s Humanities, Languages and Social Science (HLSS) Faculty, and Director of Routes Into Languages North West, Dr Sharon Handley, introduced the event;

“We are passionate about creating opportunities for pupils around the North West. As Director of Routes into Languages North West I am also passionate about promoting languages and encouraging pupils to learn languages. But what is very special about the Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition is that we are valuing all languages. Not only the Other Tongue–the languages which pupils are learning at school, but also the Mother Tongue–the heritage–the languages some of you speak at home. Those languages which are now part of the Manchester heritage as a vibrant, multicultural, multilingual community”.

“This is part of the Laureate Education Project and I would like to thank Carol Ann Duffy for engaging, embracing, and for leading this project with her creative leadership and making it something very, very special”.

Claudia Conerney, the Schools’ Liaison at MMU, swiftly introduced the Poet Laureate, who took to the stage reading some of her poetry pieces, while her faithful stage companion, the musician John Sampson, performed and entertained the audience. There was also an outgoing pair of musicians, Lis Murphy and Emmanuela Yogolelo, from the organisation Musicians Without Borders, who delivered a workshop by singing in different languages and in different styles. Lis told us;

“We are going to be doing some singing, percussion, and teaching songs in different languages that we have learnt from kids and different people we have been working with around the world”.

This allowed those who could sing–and those who couldn’t–to do so at the top of their voices, which was both fun and engaging for the all that were present.

One of the overall North West winners, Khaibar Sarwari from Xaverian College, performed his poem soon after he received his award. He told me that he was really happy about winning the competition, adding: “Everyone is so proud of me”. Marianne Daniels, who is part of the Learning Support in Xaverian College, said: “We are really proud of Khaibar at Xaverian and we hope this is the beginning of many”.
Veronika Sukhareva from Loreto college, another North West winner, said;
“My poem is a semi-biographical piece and it looks at the roots of moving from a different country. It reflects on living here, but then you eventually go back and meet the people from your own country again”. 
The head teacher of Standish Community High School in Wigan, Lynne Fox, told me:

“Our head of languages heard about this competition last year and encouraged our Year 9 students to take part, and they did. We had a huge number of entries and two of them who wrote their poem in French and Spanish have been selected as winners today”. This competition has given the students a great opportunity to write poetry in foreign languages”. 
Pam Roberts, assistant head teacher at Manchester High School for Girls, who also teaches French, explained:
“We are delighted our students were enthusiastic participants in the competition and we are even more delighted that some of them are receiving awards today. We like the fact that this competition encourages creativity in a foreign language and allows pupils to express their own ideas in a structured and free way than they normally do in an examination syllabus”.

Jonathan Power, head teacher of Chapel Street Primary School in Levenshulme, which is a highly multilingual school where over 40 languages are spoken, said:
“This project has been fantastic. It’s mostly been Romanian and Pakistani children who have entered from our school and we have 9 with us today. It’s great for students to write in their mother tongue and we have lots of students in their early stage of English at the school”.  
The winning students will have their poems published in an anthology and will be given a copy to keep. 

Amillah Javed is currently studying English and Film at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is passionate about journalism and teaching and hopes to pursue a career in one of these fields. Amillah also has an interest in writing creatively and having work published. Follow her on Twitter @a_amillah 

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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