A Newcastle pupil at a school where more than 25 languages are spoken won a commendation in a prestigious, national poetry translation competition.
Now at St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School, pupil Adrian Beedassy was in Year 6 at St Michael’s RC Primary School in Elswick, Newcastle when he entered the Stephen Spender Prize at the encouragement of his teachers. The annual competition, which has categories for adults as well as under-18s, under-16s and under-14s, asks entrants to translate poems into English from any other language.
Adrian, whose family comes from Poland, chose three Polish poems to translate, and won a commendation from the judges, who were ‘very impressed’ with his work.
His choices included Szmaragdolorki, or ‘Parakeet’, by Krystyna Dabrowska, Przeciwne Wiatry (‘Opposing Minds’) by Tomasz Rozycki, and Sofia Beszczynska’s Podroze (‘Travels’).
Ten children in Years 5 and 6 at St Michael’s entered the competition, which was founded in 2004 to ‘celebrate multilingualism and literary translation’ and is named after activist poet Stephen Spender.
Both St Michael’s and St Cuthbert’s are members of the Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust.
St Michael’s headteacher Ciara Yeoman said, “St Michael’s is a School of Sanctuary, and we have many children who have English as an additional language. There are 25 different main languages spoken in school, and it is important to give children the opportunity to share their home language, so that the aspect of being bi- or trilingual is celebrated and promoted.”
She continued, “Entering the Stephen Spender Prize was in addition to our curriculum, but very much rooted in our ethos of inclusivity. We had children choose to translate poems from Portuguese, Urdu, Chinese and French, as well as other languages, and they could translate just one poem or to do up to three, like Adrian.
“It was lovely to encourage bi and trilingualism and we want children to know that their home language is beautiful, and to be proud of speaking more than one language. We have a language of the month at St Michael’s, and encourage families to come into school and speak about their culture, as Adrian’s family did before about Poland. It’s important to raise awareness of different languages, and important to be proud of your home language, we really value that at St Michael’s.”