Mind the immigrants' language gap

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Seventeen-year-old Goralp Under may be forced to give up his dreams of going to university after struggling throughout his school years because the German education system failed to provide language tuition to keep him near the top of the class.

Goralp, who was born in Germany to Turkish immigrants, managed to make it to a grammar school, or Gymnasium, at 10 - a feat that not many children of foreign families achieve. But he had to change to the lower-academic-level Lina-Morgenstern comprehensive after just two years when he received no support from teachers to further his German language skills.

He said: "My mother tongue is Turkish, which I speak at home with my family and friends. I'd not been given any extra German lessons at primary school, but I managed to keep up there. It was a different matter though when I got to the grammar school as you're expected to learn a lot more subjects more quickly.

"I couldn't understand anything, particularly when we were set comprehension tasks with long texts, and was given bad marks . This was disappointing because I worked hard and I'm not stupid, even though I was made to feel that way in the class.

"There was one history teacher who was especially bad. She made a point of speaking to me and other Turkish children in a different manner to German kids. She was sarcastic and would lose her temper quickly and mock us."

Goralp added that even though he complained to the headmaster he was not offered any extra help or support. "The only way I could try to improve my German was to speak to my friends outside the classroom, but most of them are of Turkish origin too, so we didn't know if we were making mistakes or not," he said. After two years he moved to a Gesamtschule, or comprehensive school, where he was finally offered intensive language tuition. But according to Turgut Huener, Goralp's advisor at the Turkish Parents'

Association, it was too late. "Goralp is a bright lad, but will most likely not be able to follow his dream of going to university because the system failed him at an earlier age. It is only now that the authorities are taking seriously the gap that separates foreign and German children," he said.

Goralp is now striving to complete his final year for a second time, which will give him the chance to go to university, but according to Mr Huener, the outlook is bleak.

He said: "Despite his hard work, he is still lacking the language level needed to get the grades for university. I fear Goralp is just one more student whose potential has been cut short by the German education system."

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