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Guten Tag to German at age four

"GUTEN TAG," said four-year-old Joshua Taylor-Mannion, who knows his colours and numbers in German too. He is one of 24 pupils at Wybourn nursery in Sheffield who are taking part in an initiative to have every young person in the city speaking two languages by 2004.

The idea is part of the inner-city nursery curriculum and all children in their final term are entitled to be taught German. It is only a taste of the language, said teacher Lindsay Barron, but she has been overwhelmed by the children's enthusiasm.

Some parents too are attending German classes to keep up with their children. "I say 'Guten Tag' to my mum and kid her on and she asks me if what I say is right," said Joshua.

By the end of the term, most children should be able to locate Germany on a map or a globe, know how to say "I am calledI," "I live in Sheffield" and "I am four"; be able to count to 10, know the parts of the body and names of colours and say "Ich trage" (I am wearingI) and ask someone "How are you?". They learn how to reply appropriately as well as to sing "Happy Birthday" and other songs.

"Excellent," was the verdict of an inspection by the Office for Standards in Education at Wybourn earlier this year. It added that pupils who were about to move on were well-prepared for their primary education and had developed a lot.

The idea is part of Sheffield's Multilingual City Initiative which started in 1994 with the aim of encouraging every young person to be fluent in at least two languages within 10 years.

Nearly 60 languages are spoken in Sheffield schools and a council spokesperson said: "We hope to build on the experiences of our existing bilingual communities to promote bilingualism for all."

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