Pupils blaze a trail in Thai and Swahili

It's not every Norfolk primary school where pupils learn Latin - and it's fair to say there's only one where star students are also learning Thai and Swahili.

It's not every Norfolk primary school where pupils learn Latin - and it's fair to say there's only one where star students are also learning Thai and Swahili.

But Wicklewood Primary School is not like many others. Despite being nestled away in a tiny village in the heart of Norfolk, its teachers are thinking big - and pupils are learning to be global citizens.

Language lessons start for those as young as 3½ at the associated pre-school, when for 10 minutes a day they put on a special T-shirt and communicate only in French or German.

The school is one of 17 in the UK - and the only one in Norfolk - to have achieved three international language awards from the British Council.

And two star pupils are swotting hard for the forthcoming final of a national language challenge for which they have already conquered German and Thai.

Now 10-year-old Rosie Baines and nine-year-old Jack Long-Martinez will be competing as the eastern representatives against rivals from all over the UK in a battle for who best knows Swahili.

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Yesterday, headteacher Brenda Scade said the school encouraged pupils to comm-unicate in different languages to gain confidence and under-standing of different cultures.

“We've been working on our language project for 10 years,” she said. “They learn so quickly at a young age and we want different languages to become second nature to them, but also the learning to be fun.

“A lot of people are frightened of learning languages, but not at this school. Parents have been incredibly supportive - I think everyone can see what the benefits of learning languages are.”

Latin takes place in a lunchtime club run once a week by Rosie's mother, Jilly, and pupils are also encouraged to answer the register and order their lunch in French or German.

But it is Rosie and Jack who are blazing a trail for modern languages - along with the Thai and Swahili this year, the pair also reached the final last year, for which they learned Russian and Japanese.

Jack said: “The competition takes place on a computer: we have to learn words and phrases in Swahili and then translate them into English. The languages seem hard at first but when you start breaking up the words and seeing patterns, it becomes a lot easier.”

And Rosie added: “I like travelling, and learning lots of languages makes it far easier to talk when I'm abroad. The winner gets a holiday to Africa and has to give a speech there in Swahili - which would be amazing.”

But despite their confidence, their favourite line of Swahili might still be the most approp-riate: 'sema pole pole tapad-hali', which means 'Please can you speak more slowly'.