Talking Tutor computer translator for every child in school where 60 percent don’t speak English

July 7, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A primary school where more than half of pupils are non-English speaking became the first in Britain to give every child – a computerised TRANSLATOR.

Around 60 per cent of the 384 pupils at Manor Park Primary School in Aston, Birmingham, now communicate with teachers using the software.

Pupils type in questions into the computer using their native language which is then translated verbally into English for the teacher.

Teachers can type instructions for pupils which are then translated back into 25 different languages.

The primary school is the first in Britain to give the ‘Talking Tutor’ computer software to every pupil.

English-speaking students also use the translator in order to communicate with their foreign classmates.

Headteacher Jason Smith said the technology was ”invaluable”.

He said: ”This is a tool. It is not a replacement.

”It is the sort of tool that we can use to engage with children who have recently arrived in the country and have very little spoken English.

”It can vary, but at any one time we have 30 plus languages being spoken at the school, so this is invaluable to us.

”Last week we enrolled a pupils from Gambia who could only speak a tribal language, so we checked online to see if we had something that closely matched it.

”We found the closest match and both the child and their parent could understand us.”

The school pays £700-a-year for the software which comes with on-screen avatars based on the ethnic background of the pupils.

The avatars includes an Asian man, a white Eastern European and a black African man.

Plans are also in the pipeline to include a Chinese woman avatar and there are even proposals to develop a Burka-wearing Muslim.

The software, developed by Lincoln-based firm EMAS Uk cost more than £2.5 million to produce.

It verbally translates English into 25 languages including Polish, Urdu, Pakistani and Chinese.

A further 200 languages can be translated on-screen for pupils to read.

Chris Pickles, director of EMAS UK, said: ”The technology enables non-English speaking pupils to feel more understood and to understand more.

”Manor Park Primary School is a centre of excellence for using this tool and is the first in Britain to have Talking Tutor in every class.”

To avoid embarrassing misunderstandings, the computer programme comes with a contexual engine which translates the meaning of the message rather than a word-for-word translation.

The school started using the translator – which is 95 per cent accurate – in every classroom two weeks ago.

Mr Smith said: ”Just because English isn’t a pupil’s first language, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t academically gifted, so this allows us to assess them in their own language while helping them with their English at the same time.”

The latest figures from the Department for Education show 905,610 children in the UK do not speak English as their first language – a rise of 42,750 since last year.

In Tower Hamlets, east London, 78 per cent of children are non-English speakers – the highest area in the UK.

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