BBC 6 minute English-42 languages

BBC Learning

BBC 6 minute English-42 languages



Transcript of the podcast

NB: This is not a word – for – word transcript

Rob: Hello I’m Rob. Welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m joined today by Finn

Finn: Hello. Or, as we say in Chinese, “你好,我是 Finn”, which means Hello, I’m Finn

Rob: Ah, 你好. Where did you learn to speak Chinese

Finn: At university. Though I must say I’m a bit rusty now

Rob: Rusty? You look OK, but what you really mean is you’re not as fluent as you were before

Finn: That’s right

Rob: Learning, and practising, a language requires effort. But the children of the school in London that we’re going to be hearing about today had no choice. They’re from different countries and no less than 42 languages are spoken in the playground

Finn: It’s incredible! In the playground – that’s the area in the schoolyard where children play during their break between lessons – they speak 42 languages?! Wow

Rob: Yes. Of course they all have to learn English because they live here. But more on that in a moment. First, as the tradition goes, I’m going to challenge you with a question, Finn

Finn: OK. I’m ready or… 我准备好了

Rob: Huh

Finn: I’m ready

Rob: OK. Which country has the most official languages? Is it

a) India

b) Nigeria

c) South Africa

Finn: Good question. I would say India or Nigeria… Let’s say Nigeria

Rob: OK. I will reveal the answer at the end of the programme! So let’s talk about Byron Court, a school with 600 pupils in north-west London. The school gets high marks for integration

Finn: Marks – so here you mean scores in tests or exams. They get high marks for integration – integration means bringing people together – as they have pupils from all over the world

Rob: Yes, they come from places as far apart as Iraq, Somalia, India, Romania and Slovakia. Many are children of immigrants and refugees

Finn: So how difficult is it for these children to learn English

Rob: Well, let’s listen to this pupil from Byron Court. Where did she learn her first words in English

Pupil, Byron Court school, London

When I was two years old I went to nursery and then I learnt a bit of English there. And when I came here I got to learn all my English

Finn: She says she began to learn English at nursery – that’s a place where very young children are looked after while their parents are at work

Rob: Byron Court’s head teacher – the person in charge of a school – believes children feel integrated because she tries to celebrate all the different cultures and avoids suggesting one culture is better than the other

Finn: It all sounds very nice, Rob, but I wonder what happens in the classroom. I mean, many pupils are learning basic words in English while, at the same time, studying things like science and maths also in English. So, quite a challenge

Rob: It is indeed a big problem

Finn: So does this lower educational standards? Those are the knowledge and skills students should have at a particular level

Rob: Yes it does, but not for long, says Martyn Pendergast, educational officer at Brent Council, that’s the area where the school is located. Listen out for the verb he uses which means testing children’s performance

Martyn Pendergast, educational officer at Brent Council

In Brent our children perform just below national averages when they are assessed at seven years old. But by the time they’re 11 they’ve caught up with national standards, and at 16 they’re flying

Finn: He says they are assessed – which means tested and given scores – when they are seven years old. At that time they have worse results than children in other British schools

Rob: But by the time they celebrate their 11th birthday, they’ve caught up – they’ve become equal with pupils of their age elsewhere in the country

Finn: And by 16, he says, “they are flying”, which is a nice way to describe these children’s progress. It’s good for them because they end up as bilingual adults – speaking two languages fluently

Rob: So their effort pays off. At Byron Court the concern is more about pupils who are native speakers of English

Finn Parents worry about their children not learning much

Rob: Maybe the best thing is for everybody to try to learn a second language. Not a bad thing in today’s small world

Finn: Talking about learning languages, I want to know if I got the answer to your question right. The question was about the country with the most official languages

Rob: And the options I put to you were India, Nigeria or South Africa

Finn: And I said Nigeria. But… maybe I think India now. Can I change my mind

Rob: You can if you want because you’d still be wrong

Finn: Oh, no, really

Rob: The country with most official languages is the Republic of South Africa with 11 languages

Finn: Eleven

Rob: Interestingly India has 18 languages that are recognised by its constitution and can be considered as official, however, the difference is that each language is recognised as the official language of a certain area such as Kashmir, for example

Finn: OK. Right. So I was kind of right in a different way

Rob: The overall official language is Hindi

Finn: Fascinating! Well, lots of languages to learn, in any case

Rob: I’ll stick with English for now. It’s time to wrap up

Finn: OK

Rob: So let’s remember some of the words we explained today

Finn: They were

head teacher
educational standards
caught up

Rob: Merci beaucoup. Thank you, Finn. That’s it for today. But please do log on to to find more 6 Minute English. Bye for now

Finn: Bye or, as we say in China, 再见

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