Month: September 2018

You must come for dinner – reporting to EAL parents

“You must come for dinner”. I doubt this phrase will be used during the parents’ evening, but let’s face it – it is not a real invitation, it’s just being polite.


Much has been said in papers and online about the British and their use of language and euphemisms. It is quite funny, as it also suggests what other people understand.

When it comes to understanding, we all know there are some differences between people/cultures/ languages.

“I want to see the director now!”

People from other countries may sometimes sound blunt, rude or aggressive. They may not use “please” or “thank you” as much as it is used in the UK. A Polish father came to our school saying very directly :”I want to see the director now”. He was not irate or impolite, he has just not mastered the whole “I know he is busy, but would it be at all possible to see the Principal now, please”.

Language barrier is one of the most common problems faced by Central and East European parents  as identified by the “Consultation Work with Families from the A8 Accession Nations (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia) living in Cambridgeshire – final report”.

Also, one of their key findings is the problem of reporting to parents:

“Some parents are initially misled by the way schools deliver information on their children’s progress. Where there is an emphasis on communicating positive achievements of students (even if minor) instead of focusing on shortages in knowledge and areas that require improvement and failures (which would be an approach parents were more used to in their home countries), they get the impression that their children are doing very well at school and do not need any additional support. They are subsequently often blind to emerging problems with the performance of their children, and they do not motivate their children to study more or react on time when the first symptoms of problems occur.”

I have so many Polish parents asking me:

“Please can you tell me the truth about how my child is doing  in school. They say s/he is doing fine, but I do not think so.”

So, next time you speak to an EAL parent, choose your words carefully, please, or you might get a parent at your doorstep expecting a full dinner!


Consultation Work with Families from the A8 Accession Nations (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia) living in
Cambridgeshire – final report

48 Things British People Say And What They Actually Mean

48 Things British People Say And What They Actually Mean Published 24/02/2014 by angmohdan

Kacper still does not talk to us

"Kacper still does not talk to us", a worried nursery worker said to me. "Could you talk to him in Polish, maybe he will feel better then".
I took  pictures of  some well-known Polish bedtime cartoons. When Kacper saw the little black mole, his eyes lit up. "Krecik, krecik" (mole, mole), he pointed excitedly to the picture. Things took off rapidly. Kacper pointed to the animals, named them in Polish and his key worker gave him the English words for them.
Just a simple example of how a familiar context can alleviate anxiety.
Cartoon bedtime stories were on Polish national TV Channel One  till 2013. Every evening, for around10-20 minutes, depending on the day of the week, generations of Polish children watched the adventures of Bolek i Lolek, Maja the little bee, Teddy Floppy- Ear, Reksio the dog and many others. Cartoons were also from Russia, France, Germany or the Czech Republic.
Now Polish children watch Bob the Builder, Peppa Pig or Fireman Sam on Polish TV. But some of their parents might show them the old bedtime cartoons on other media.
Krtek, the Czech mole cartoon character, is known to generations of Central and East European children
Still from "Bolek and Lolek", photo: Studio Filmów Rysunkowych Bielsko-Biała - SFR

Useful Resources:

An Introduction to Polish Cartoon Characters

Time-Honoured Polish Bedtime Cartoons

Can visual notes be an aid to EAL Learners?

I cannot draw. My spaceship looks like a fish. This can be a hindrance if you work with the EAL (English as an Additional Language) learners. But, I am a big supporter of presenting information in a visual way, as it allows children to understand and process new information. It also allows them to express their knowledge without having to use words.  I have met many talented children with EAL, who quickly drew me some beautiful and very clear pictures whilst trying to explain the process of osmosis, that they have already learnt in their Polish school.
So I recently attended a workshop  on Visual Notes by Anne-Marie Miller of CarbonOrange at the CamCreative Meetup in the Eagle Labs Incubator, Barclays Bank, Cambridge.
She gave various examples how to capture ideas using text, images and graphic elements. And  Anne-Marie showed us how you can draw things using just 12 basic shapes.

It was an engaging evening, I have learnt a lot and people even recognized what I drew! Now my spaceship looks more like a spaceship than the fish!
I will have a look at the resources Anne-Marie recommended and further explore how “visual notes” can be used with EAL learners. If you have any ideas please email me or tweet me @lingosia
Resources to further explore visual notes: