By Jacqueline Grima
Students, teachers and poetry lovers from all over the UK gathered at Manchester Metropolitan University this week to celebrate the winners of the Mother Tongue Other Tongue Poetry Competition.
The multilingual competition was launched in 2012 by Routes into Languages North West as part of Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s Laureate Education Project. It aims to celebrate the vast array of languages spoken in the UK, both at home and in schools.
This year, the competition was endorsed by activist and human rights advocate Malala Yousafzai. From a young age, Malala promoted education for girls in her home country of Pakistan. After she was shot by a member of the Taliban in 2012, she came to the UK for medical treatment where she continued to tirelessly campaign, becoming the youngest ever person to receive the Nobel Peace prize.
Malala’s father Ziauddin, himself a human rights campaigner and activist, spoke to the audience at the event about his own multi-lingual background and how he very much identified with the competition’s themes. He said, “If you want to be bigger, if you want to be stronger, if you want to be great, you must believe in multi-culturalism and multi-lingualism.”
He also talked about how it’s important that multi-cultural communities keep their mother tongues alive, saying, “Your mother tongue is the ultimate language in which you express yourself most powerfully. We must be proud of who we are.”
The event began with entertainment from the Punjabi Roots Academy who performed a series of Bollywood style dances with many of the students enjoying joining in. Also performing was dancer Michelle Pender, who taught some of the students some traditional belly-dancing moves.
Then, Director of Routes into Languages North West and Dean of Manchester Met Humanities Languages and Social Science Faculty Dr Sharon Handley welcomed guests. She told the audience, “Today is a national celebration. It is a celebration of all of your achievements, of multi-culturalism and multi-lingualism and I am delighted to be here to host it.”
Dr Handley went on to talk about how there are 200 different languages spoken in Manchester alone and how one in four young people speaks more than one language. She said, “Those languages are all part of the multi-cultural heritage of the United Kingdom.”
Routes into Languages Project Manager Yasmin Hussain added, “Mother Tongue Other Tongue is a fantastic project that enables young people to express themselves and to engage with their own cultural identity and the multi-cultural world around them.”
The Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition is also supported by the British Council. Programme Manager of the British Council Manchester Yogita Patel talked to attendees about the importance of enabling intercultural relationships by promoting language learning. She said, “Learning languages and working with people from different cultures is the way forward.”
The British Council is a UK charity that works in 100 countries worldwide, providing a vast array of educational opportunities for young people to work and study abroad.
British Council Schools Advisor Vicky Gough said, “Languages open many doors for young people – from boosting job prospects to acquiring the ability to understand and better connect with another culture – so we are delighted to be supporting this fantastic opportunity.”
Vicky added, “We hope that this competition will help inspire even more young people to embrace language learning and to understand the many benefits that speaking another language can bring.”
Next, students read from some of the shortlisted poems. Over 20,000 young people from across the UK entered the poetry competition with poems written in over 70 languages. Languages used in the readings included French, German and Spanish.
Finally, Dr Handley announced the winners of the competition, hailing from all parts of the UK.
The winners of the competition were:
From the West Midlands:
Other Tongue French 1st Polly Shorrock Hereford Cathedral School, Other Tongue French 2nd Kinaan Saleem Tudor Grange Academy, Other Tongue French 3rd Catherine Day and Naimh Desangler Shelfield Academy, Other Tongue German 1st Hannah Taylor Tudor Grange Academy, Other Tongue German 2nd Millie Checkley Tudor Grange Academy, Other Tongue German 3rd Mia Eatherington Tudor Grange Academy, Other Tongue Spanish 1st Liam Garrett Shelfield Academy, Other Tongue Spanish 2nd Maariyah Bahar Holyhead School, Other Tongue Spanish 3rd Kira Ward Abbots Bromley School
From the North East Region:
Other Tongue winner Yr 9 Izzie Clowry Whitley Bay High School
From the North West Region:
Other Tongue winner Yr 4, 5, 6 Ibrahim Mohammed Chapel Street Primary School, Other Tongue winner Yr 7, 8, 9 Cara Lewis Cheadle Hulme High School, Other Tongue winner Yr 10, 11 Beth Molyneux Urmston Grammar School, Other Tongue joint winner Yr 12, 13 Daniel Hughes South Sefton College, Other Tongue joint winner Yr 12, 13 Lauren Coady South Sefton College, Mother Tongue winner Yr 4, 5, 6 Natalia Nott-Bower Christ Church CE Primary School, Mother Tongue winner Yr 7, 8, 9 Khadijah Mahmood Manchester Academy, Mother Tongue winner Yr 10, 11 Wagida Khaliq Whalley Range High School
For more information about the Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition visit the website here.