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Multilingual and Multimedia Resources

Earlham Primary School

Language of the Month

A project based in Newbury Park Primary School, Redbridge: winner of the European Award for Languages in 2005, an exciting free programme with interactive video clips of children teaching 30 languages.

Language of the month – Winner of the European Award for Languages in 2005 and very highly recommended by anyone who has seen the programme in action! Joe Debono, an EMAG teacher at Newbury Park School, developed an exciting and innovative awareness of languages programme that has inspired many teachers in multilingual schools. Recordings, quizzes, booklets of classroom activities in 61 languages can all be downloaded free here

In May 2003, Joe hosted a meeting of the UEL School of Education Action Research Group at Newbury Park School and explained how his new project came about.

Around 80% of children in Newbury Park School are bilingual, with Tamil as the main language. Joe noted that little account was taken of the children’s languages and that teachers did not know any words from these languages. He originally planned to develop a computer programme to teach a few words in each of the languages used in school.

Joe prepared a pack of resources for each language that includes information, photographs, key words, a world map, and sentences and ideas for games. Every teacher was given a pack and all teachers displayed the resources on a panel in their classroom. In addition there was a large display in the school hall and a smaller one in the entrance to the school.

Working with children in the school, their parents, any other informants available and the internet, Joe prepared a recording of key phrases in each language using adult speakers. This was designed to support teachers in pronouncing the words.

The Programme

Working with children and parents Joe prepared a programme, using Flash, which is networked in the school’s ICT suite. This shows where in the world the language is spoken, photographs and websites for further information. One of the most attractive features of the programme is the section in which one can click on a word or phrase, or number and see a child from the school demonstrating the pronunciation. A different language is introduced each month. The language on show when the group visited was German. Other languages produced or in production are Tamil, Urdu, Punjabi, Albanian, Swahili, Hebrew, Spanish, Polish, French and Creole Maurisyen. The programme is now available on the school’s website.

As well as demonstrating the programme, Joe took us on a tour of the school and we were impressed by the extent of the take up of the project by classroom teachers.Joe gave everyone present a pack of the German resources and a booklet with ideas for 65 games and further suggestions. On an earlier visit in school time Raymonde Sneddon had witnessed the enthusiasm with which children played games using Albanian, which was the language of the month at that time. Several colleagues in the group were inspired to use his ideas and adapt them to their own setting. The resources are widely used across the country and teachers have adapted the project to suit their own setting.


The original Talking Pen developed by Mantra was extensively trialled with a range of multilingual resources by members of the UEL-based Action Research Group in 2009, working with children aged 5 to 8. What children referred to as the “magic pen” worked in conjunction with dual language books. Sound files could be down loaded for specific books in the chosen language (always with English) and children could point the pen at soundspots on a page and hear the text. The pen was easy to use by young children and provided an independent and very targeted reading experience. The pen can also be used with a wide range of multilingual teaching resources published by Mantra. The pen works as a microphone to record original material to make personalised books and resources in conjunction with stick-on soundspots. 

A review written in 2009 commented:

The ease of use of the pen means that young children can use it to record their own “reading” of books, telling the story in their own way as they turn the pages, sharing it with a friend. In a Gujarati retelling, a child decided that the text was too formal. He was able to use the pen to tell the story his own way, using his own dialect and the occasional switch into English.

However the recording spots are the really innovative aspect as they enable any resource, book or otherwise (or the door of the fridge) to carry recorded sound. As someone who encourages young children to write and illustrate their own dual language books, the spots offer a very easy way to provide a sound track that can be played over and over to friends.” 

PENpal, the successor to the Talking Pen offers a range of multimedia features and comes with software to enable the creation of talking books and posters and a link to 1000 free audio files in dual language to match all Mantra published dual language books.

Dual Language Poems

An inspirational collection of bilingual poems for the classroom

An exciting set of 45 posters with poems in two languages was made available free from Rogan Wolf in 2007 under the title Poems in Praise of Diversity. The poems were in 28 languages. They were part of a programme of Poems for the Waiting Room which Rogan was keen to make available to schools. 

There was an enthusiastic response from schools. Here are some reactions: “Thank you, the poems are wonderful… I think your collection will inspire staff and students alike…” C.N. Lewisham. “They are lovely, a great mix. I was working with an Albanian child when I opened them and she pounced on the Dog poem and was thrilled to read it in Albanian and English.” V.S. London E12. The poems have been extensively used to inspire young people to write.  

A new website dedicated to the poems was launched by Andrew Motion, then the Poet Laureate, at the Nehru Centre in London on 22nd April 2008. 

Further collections have been launched and dual language poems are now available in 50 languages including less commonly available ones such as Belarusian, Bulgarian, Estonian, Ewe, Igbo, Tigrinya, Afrikaans and Xam. 

There are short striking poems like Prison, in Arabic, Dishevelled Hair in Japanese, Loneliness, in Hindi and Stalactites in Bulgarian. The collection includes poems about identity such as Who I Am by twelve-year old Amrit Dhadwal who wrote it in Punjabi and English. The collection includes poems that explore the concept of ‘frontier’ as Rogan explains “frontiers are not just geographical, lingual, cultural. There are other bars beside language”. The collection also includes Michael Rosen’s poem These are the Hands, written for the 60th anniversary of the NHS and available in Punjabi (both in Gurmukhi and Urdu scripts), Greek, Somali and Turkish. 

The poems are presented as attractively designed posters and free to download after registering here.

The Arvon Foundation's Mother Tongue Project

Funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Mother Tongue project is a creative writing project which provides writing residences for bilingual pupils to develop their creative writing skills in both English and the language of their community. The project is developed in partnership with secondary schools and pupils are supported by professional writers. 

Successful creative writing projects were carried out with 48 pupils of Portuguese and Yoruba speaking heritage which resulted in dual language publications and more were carried out in the academic year 2012/13. A video is available on the website which demonstrates the impact of the project on a group of pupils from Lambeth schools.

Translation Nation

Translation Nation is a London-based project launched in 2010. It aims to inspire children to explore literature in translation, to become involved with their families in the translation of literature from other countries and to widen their experience of artistic and cultural activities. 

The project has worked with parents and children speaking 35 different languages and supported by professional translators experience in working with children in 12 primary schools. 

The Translation Nation website offers full information about the project and the schools involved as well as “ideas to try at home”. 

Multilingual and Multicultural Resources from Espresso Primary

Hidden deep within the Discovery Education/Espresso website are some wonderful multilingual story resources which I originally reviewed when they were available on CD in 2007. I wrote then: 

“I have been watching this CD over and over again with great pleasure. I very much like the stories and all the resources and the way in which they have been developed. The CD contains three stories (including one of my all-time favourites, The Six Blind Men and the Elephant) in Arabic, English, Bengali, Urdu and Somali. They have clear and attractive illustrations, high quality sound and can be printed. They are accompanied by a wide range of resources for related activities.

A story teller is seen engaging a class of young children with “Anansi and Common Sense” and “Two Best Friends” as well as discussing with them what stories are about, how they work and how they relate to writing. 

In a sequence From Story to Play children explain, step by step, how to turn a traditional Somali story in dual language text into a play, culminating in a confident and delightful performance. 

A digital magazine entitled Spotlight on Somalia describes and explains key features of Somali life, interpreted by parents and children. It includes a feature in which children describe the process of producing the magazine. 

The Staffroom section explains the rationale and the content to teachers. The talking dictionary is arranged thematically and covers phrases for both personal and classroom use. An additional section includes a range of resources for use with an interactive whiteboard. 

The resources can be used just as they are to teach literacy and PHSE, to support children who can read or are learning to read in their home language, and to explore and value Somali culture. They can also be used with mixed classes to explore different languages and scripts. Their greatest value to me is the way in which the process of developing the resources is made explicit and explained by the children themselves. This will encourage teachers to use the ideas to make their own books, plays and digital magazines, building on the experience and skills of the children they teach as well as their families and communities.”

The resources were originally developed by Roz Carter and Rehana Ahmed and the stories were translated by Qadan Rageh, Fatine Azzouri, Naseem Khan and Chandra Chatterjee.

The resources are available here under the title Stories from Other Cultures. The rich video resources need to be accessed through the Staffroom link at the top right hand of the page.  

Hounslow Talking Stories Project

Three very popular traditional stories have been produced as talking books in dual language versions using Clicker 4 (from Crick Software). The Man, the Boy and the Donkey, the Hare and the Tortoise and Fox and Crane are written in simple language, with attractive illustrations and good quality sound. Each of the stories is available in the languages shown below in a standard format. 

Each page has an illustration and two boxes with text, the first in English, the second in one of the 11 available languages. There are buttons to click to hear the sound in both languages on the page. The stories can also be printed.

Particularly interesting is the BSL version: at the click of the mouse a television screen appears with a signer who interprets the page of text written in English.

The stories can be used in many different ways with children: projected for use with a whole class, on an individual computer for use by individuals or groups of children, in printed format to read in a book corner or to take home. The texts can help children who are readers in their first language to support learning to read in English. They can also be used by children who read English and are learning the other language. 

The resources offer many opportunities. They are accompanied by a set of pictures that can be used for sequencing activities. As with the Espresso materials reviewed, I particularly appreciate the templates that will encourage children to produce their own stories. These are ideal resources to use in family learning or story making workshops with parents and children. The templates are available in two formats: with completely blank boxes for writing and illustrating new stories and with illustrated versions of the three stories with blank boxes for new text.

The resources are available as CDs here and the site includes other multilingual resources in Polish and Somali and Words for Classroom Topics in a wide range of languages.