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Languages games

A primary school languages competition is back for its second year. Carolyn O'Grady reports

Learn Zulu, or at least the basics. That is the task that awaits the finalists of the Junior Language Challenge, a three round knock-out competition for primary school children, which is supported by CILT, the National Centre for Languages, and The TES.

Along the way they will also have a crack at Italian and Russian. The top prize is a trip to South Africa, including Zululand.

Last year 4,500 children entered the competition; this year it is hoped to attract at least 5,000. The goal is to motivate children to learn languages and also to raise pound;10,000 for charity.

Schools taking part will receive a free Talk Now! Learn Italian CD-Rom pack from Eurotalk, a publisher of language-learning software, which teaches them key words in that language.

They can use the packs at home or in school and their scores are recorded on the school's computers. Those with the highest scores will acquire a Russian pack and are tested on this at regional semi-finals, and the winning three in each regional heat will receive a Zulu CD-Rom pack and a place at the grand final in November.

There will be a competition entrance fee of pound;2 per child, which will go to a charity called the Thare Machi Starfish. The charity provides purpose-built interactive audiovisual learning material on DVD for women and children in deprived areas in the world. This method proves to be particularly effective with people who have missed out on schooling and cannot read or write, says Eurotalk.

Julie Soper, of Holy Trinity CE Junior school in Stockton-on-Tees, entered her entire Year 5 class into last year's competition as part of the Spanish curriculum, although semi-finalists and finalists worked mainly at home.

One of her pupils was the overall competition winner, earning a trip to Lapland for a brilliant score in Saami, the language of that region.

"It really motivates them and sparks enthusiasm in languages in a fun way," she says. "All abilities can take part: our special needs children really enjoyed it, and because it's a computer game it appeals to boys."

The school has continued using the Spanish disc in lessons with a range of classes, sometimes using it with the interactive whiteboard.

This year the competition will be organised as a lunch-time club at which governors will be recruited to help. "Practically everyone eligible has volunteered to enter," she said.

Carol Paten of Parnwell Primary School in Peterborough used last year's competition as an enrichment activity for a gifted and talented group during school hours. Three reached the final. Next year she will widen it to include anyone who wants to join in, pulling pupils out of their classes one or two at a time so they can use the school computer.

"It gives them a lot of confidence and some more knowledge of other countries, plus a flavour of what they will be doing at secondary school.

We had some Spanish visitors recently, and pupils really enjoying using their Spanish," she said.

For further information or to request an application formTel: 020 7371 7711 Thare Machi Starfish charity:

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