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Bowled over by multilingual skills

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SAY CHEESE: A student of Sri Sayee Vivekananda Vidyalaya, Kodungaiyur, takes a picture of a visiting American student on Tuesday.
SAY CHEESE: A student of Sri Sayee Vivekananda Vidyalaya, Kodungaiyur, takes a picture of a visiting American student on Tuesday.

Staff Reporter

U.S. students visit two schools in north Chennai

CHENNAI: The city’s congeniality and culture are sure to leave a lasting impression on a group of U.S. university students who visited two schools in north Chennai on Tuesday.

The schoolchildren’s knowledge of two or more languages at a young age came as a surprise to the group of 22 students of the ‘Semester at Sea’ programme who visited Sri Sayee Vivekananda Vidyalaya, Kodungaiyur. The U.S. students’ project was on multilingual skills of Indian children.

Candy Keown, a sociology student in the group, said that she was amazed to learn that many children in the city were exposed to more than one language at the age of three. “Most children in the U.S. know only English and they start schooling much later at the age of five,” she said.

Deborah Dubiner, a linguistics professor and group head, said the ‘Semester at Sea’ students from the University of Virginia were on a visit to the city to gain hands on experience on multilingualism. “I find that Indian education provides a conducive environment for the children to learn new languages. ”

School correspondent T.S. Thiyagarajan said the school had about 690 students. “The teachers help the students to learn English or other languages by translating it from Tamil,” he said.

Another group of students, who travelled by M.V.Explorer as part of the Semester at Sea programme, visited the Chennai Corporation High School, Stanley Nagar, in Old Washermenpet, to contribute to the school’s environment in their own small way. A non-governmental organisation based in Adyar, Human Rights Education Movement of India, co-ordinated their trip to the school.

Leah Denman, an international relations student, who was busy painting the walls of the classrooms along with 15 others, was excited about her first visit to Chennai.

“I wanted to leave imprint of my brief visit by contributing to a social cause,” she said.

Cathy Palombi, group leader, said that India was the fifth country that the students were visiting in the last two months.

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