Local student wins prestigious national languages competition

Stratford Girl’s Grammar School student Kirsty Duncan has won the national Mother Tongue Other Tongue KS5 French competition for 2020.

Mother Tongue Other Tongue is a national multilingual poetry competition that celebrates cultural diversity and the many languages currently spoken in schools across the UK. The competition aims to celebrate languages, culture and language-learning, allowing secondary school students to practice and improve their foreign language skills and appreciate their heritage using poetry.

The competition was originally developed by the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at Manchester Metropolitan University and Routes into Languages North West. It has since rolled out across the country and become a nationally recognised award, with students from all over the UK competing for the annual prize. Mother Tongue Other Tongue is officially endorsed by Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner and education activist.

This year, ‘other tongue’ entries required an original poem written in a language that is not the first language spoken by the student writing it. Entries could be provided in Spanish, German, Italian, or French.

Kirsty initially entered the competition during the height of the coronavirus pandemic that saw schools close and students study from home, attending all of their classes virtually. The competition was suggested to Kirsty by her French teacher at Stratford Girls’ Grammar School as an extra way to apply herself with language learning during this time.

Kirsty said, “I enjoy linguistic challenges like these as they are always a bit like a puzzle. I wasn’t expecting to finish the poem at first,  because I thought it would be too difficult to get it to rhyme or to keep a coherent theme throughout. But after writing each verse, I discovered I really enjoyed constructing each line. In the end, I created something that I was proud of, regardless of the competition results. When I found out that I had been named the winner, I was really over the moon. It was definitely a confidence boost before taking my mock French exam the next day!”

In addition to being named this years KS5 French winner, Kirsty also received an Amazon gift voucher. Stephanie Wood is Head of Modern Foreign Language studies at Stratford Girls’ Grammar School, she said,

“We are very proud of what Kirsty has achieved with her fantastic poem and ongoing commitment to learning. Competitions like Mother Tongue Other Tongue are incredibly welcomed by our school as they help broaden students understanding beyond the classroom, which is especially important after the unexpected lockdown situation earlier this year. Students have now returned to our school, but we are still encouraging them to enter more competitions, such as those celebrating the European Day of Languages this month. Congratulations once again to Kirsty for her well-deserved win and prize.”

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