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Altogether now, say 'Szcz'

Surging Polish immigration has made some school registers in England read like tongue-twisters. Teachers are as likely to find a Wojciechowski or a Kwiatkowska in their class as a pupil called Smith. But help is at hand. A Polish tutor in Grantham, Lincolnshire, is running courses aimed at improving the pronunciation skills of staff.

"I started out doing courses for Lincolnshire police and county council, but I am increasingly being contacted by schools," said Caroline Dul, who is half-Polish and speaks the language fluently.

She runs a three-hour course designed to help staff get over their fears of consecutive consonants, by finding similarities in English.

The aim is for staff to be able to pronounce pupils' names, and use greetings and phrases of encouragement such as, "well done".

They also learn how to form the diminutive forms of names, turning Aleksander into Olek for example.

"Combinations such as szcz usually sends English people running for the hills, but if you listen to the sound you make between the words `rash choice', it's exactly the same," said Caroline, who runs the courses through the EM Centre for Learning. "I am not a native speaker myself, and learnt Polish while working in a casino in Warsaw, so I understand where the problems for English speakers are."

Once teachers have got to grips with the regular spelling, pronunciation and stress patterns, they are given a list of phrases to learn.

"We don't go into too much detail of the grammar, as it has seven cases, but people are free to ask questions," she said. The courses have taken off in Lincolnshire, where schools have taken in around 2,000 Polish pupils. Eastern European families, also including many Lithuanians and Latvians, have flocked to the area to work in agriculture and food processing.

Amanda Young, a teaching assistant at the National Junior School in Grantham, specialising in English as an additional language, took part in the course.

"Learning a bit of their language really helps to settle them in, and if you use a few phrases it gives them something to latch on to," she said.

"We have many nationalities and I've always believed a smile means the same thing in every language, but I think this is a step further."

John Gibbs, the headteacher, said he hoped to put more teachers on the course soon. "We don't want pupils' level of English to be a barrier to learning, he said.


Polish: Meaning Phonetic pronunciation

Dzien? dobry Hello,Good day jen dobri

Do widzenia Goodbye dov-ee-dzenya

Czesc HiBye (informal) cheshch

Prosze Please prosheh

Dziekuje Thank you jen-ku-yeh

Tak Yes tak

Nie No nyeh.

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