Leona joined EISP in Year 4 in September 2012. She spoke no English and felt just a little bit scared. Last week it was announced that she was one of the finalists in the Global Classroom Story Competition, which saw more than 1500 entries from students in 24 Nord Anglia schools around the world. We asked Leona about her experience of learning English and how she feels about being finalist.
How do you feel about being a finalist in the Global Classroom Story Competition?
Really happy! I feel like my mum and dad are really proud of me because last year I just started English and now I can speak and write really comfortably.
What is your story about?
My story is about how a legend became true. Two boys live on an island and their grandpa tells them lots of stories – one is a legend about treasure. One day the boys go sailing and they hit a storm which takes them to an island where the treasure is hidden.
Where did you get your inspiration?
When my dad was small, his grandpa told him a lot of stories. Every summer my dad and his family would go to Brac, an island in Croatia and they had sailing competitions or played games in which you had to find treasure. When I started thinking about pirates, my dad told me a lot more information about them and I got lots of good ideas. We still go to Brac every year and the sea is really beautiful and clean there. Because it’s so clean there are a lot of sea urchins, so we have to be careful!
When you joined English in Year 4 you didn’t speak English. How has your experience of learning English been?
The first day when I came to school, I was really, really shy. I didn’t know any English - I just knew how to say, “Hi!” When I first walked into the classroom, I had no idea what to do! I didn’t know how to spell ONE word in English. My teachers and other students helped me a lot and I started to get more and more confident. I feel really good when I go back to Croatia. My friends ask me to help them with answers to their English work and I speak more clearly because I learnt English from native speakers.
How did you improve your English writing?
I learnt to speak English through copying how people talk – by listening to them and seeing what their strategy was. It was similar with writing. I used some other people’s work as a model and tried out some different ideas (in my own words of course). I also try to read two books a week. I like adventure stories with lots of action – anything that’s not boring and describes something fun.
What advice would you give to new EAL students starting school with no English?
You should listen to other children and your teacher and try and speak with them as much as possible. I use my own vocabulary book to write down new words I hear in class. My mum helps me learn the words at home. At first it’s hard to learn English, but then it gets easier and easier...and it’s worth it!