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Young poets’ multilingual talents celebrated

22 March 2016 (SCILT)

The multilingual talents of budding young poets from across Scotland were celebrated at a prestigious award ceremony in Glasgow.

Primary and secondary students from Aberdeenshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, West Lothian and George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh used their language skills to create and share poetry for this year’s Mother Tongue Other Tongue multilingual poetry competition. Winners received their prizes on the main Piazza stage at the SECC on Saturday 12 March 2016 as part of the wider Languages Show Live Scotland event. Their work is published in an anthology.

Mother Tongue Other Tongue is an exciting project which celebrates linguistic and cultural diversity through creative writing and showcases the many languages used by children and young people across Scotland, in school and at home. The competition is organised by SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, based at University of Strathclyde. This year over 400 pupils from across Scotland took part in the competition.

Ruth Cunningham, EAL teacher from Renfrewshire, said of the competition: “Being part of the Mother Tongue Other Tongue project has been a privilege. I have heard the ‘other voices’ of my bilingual pupils, witnessed them careful craft their poems, laugh about the differences in language and, above all, feel valued and respected for their ability to speak with another voice. This event has opened my eyes to the importance of supporting children to continue to learn in their mother tongue and of engaging with my pupils’ voices, in whatever language that may be.”

One of the young competitors commented: “I had a great time writing the poem and getting my prize was exciting. It makes me more eager to learn and write in different languages.”

Fhiona Fisher, Director of SCILT, added: “Mother Tongue Other Tongue is a celebration of the many languages that are spoken and learned by children and young people across Scotland. The collection of their poems weaves a rich tapestry of voices that honours cultural diversity and pays testament to the wealth of Scotland’s many languages and cultures. We were delighted to see such a high calibre of entries this year, submitted in 36 different languages. Our congratulations go to the winners and to all who took part in the competition.”

Mother Tongue invites children who do not speak English as a first language to share a lullaby, poem, rap or song from their mother tongue and to write about why this piece is important to them. Other Tongue encourages children learning another language in school to use that language creatively with an original poem, rap or song in that other tongue. Prizes are awarded in both categories.

Mother Tongue Other Tongue supports the Scottish Government initiative, “Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 approach” by allowing pupils to apply their language learning in a creative way. The competition provides children who do not have English as their first language with an opportunity to celebrate their mother tongue. This year saw over 150 entries submitted from primary and secondary pupils across the country. The competition was supported by the University Council for Modern Languages Scotland and creative writer Juliette Lee. Prizes were presented at the ceremony by actor Atta Yaqub and Juliette Lee.

Full details of the winners and further information on the competition can be found on the SCILT website.


University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages