His Excellency, Arkady Rzegocki, the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, has visited The University of Manchester to help launch a new project that will work closely with Polish schools in the city.
The Ambassador spoke to staff and students involved in the University’s Multilingual Manchester strategic initiative about their activities to raise awareness and promote support for community languages in the city-region.
In Manchester, Polish ranks fourth among non-English community languages (after Urdu, Chinese, and Arabic), with upwards of 8,000 speakers and more than 50 businesses in the city using Polish as a language of commerce. The University of Manchester itself has an active Polish Students’ Society which offers support to almost 100 Polish students, and its School of Law has an exchange agreement with the University of Warsaw.
The Multilingual Manchester project team carries out research to document the use of community languages in the city, helps assess language needs, and collects data to advise key public service providers such as the NHS, police, schools and the local authority on policy and planning of language provisions.
The Ambassador visited the project to find out more about its new Supplementary School Support Platform, which will help community-based schools teach community languages.
The Platform will involve staff and student engagement in activities designed to enrich the curriculum; it will also organise student placements and provide support for teacher training. Two of Manchester’s leading Polish schools are involved in the initiative.
Professor Yaron Matras, who coordinates Multilingual Manchester, said: “Our research shows that Polish immigrants are generally quick to acquire English and can navigate their contacts with public services independently and without the need for longer-term language support.”
“Children of Polish background report that they use the language at home with both parents and siblings, and are usually able to read and write it, while at the same time attaining complete fluency in English. Their language maintenance is a valuable source of skills for the next generation workforce.
“Our Support Platform is intended to give community-based initiatives, which are run mainly by volunteers, professional support in the design and delivery of their language curriculum. We hope that it will also encourage parents, pupils, and practitioners to recognise the important value of language skills for individuals and for the city as a whole.”
The Ambassador also met with Polish staff and students and with the University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell. She said: “The Polish community is an important part of our diverse city, so it was very pleasing to hear that the Ambassador has been able to learn more about University projects which support it.”
Ambassador Rzegocki added: “Initiatives such as Multilingual Manchester are pivotal in building bridges between Poles and the wider Mancunian community. Collaboration with Polish Saturday Schools will allow the general public in Greater Manchester to learn more about Poles and Poland, and will also enrich the curriculum offered to Polish pupils.”