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The University of Ulster has launched a new initiative with Barnardo’s NI to help migrant and refugee children in Belfast to integrate into their new communities.

Languages Made Fun is a play based language programme that supports children whose first language is not English.

It aims to develop the children’s English whilst respecting their cultural identity by encouraging them to also value their native language.

Three children from the Sudan, now living in South Belfast, are the first to take part in the initiative. They are working with staff and students from the Ulster Centre on Multilingualism (UCoM), based at the University’s Jordanstown Campus.

Dr Christina Sevdali, from the University of Ulster’s School of Communication, said: “This is a very exciting opportunity for our BSc Honours Language and Linguistics students to use their expertise and knowledge to help local communities.

“The first children to take part in the scheme speak Arabic as their first language so our students, under the expert guidance of staff from UCoM, are applying current research on Arabic English bilinguals to tailor the programme for them.

“Working as Barnardo’s volunteers, the students are also visiting the children at home and assessing their current levels of language skills through play. They will then use specialist linguistic tools to help the children become more confident in using English at school."

Joan McGovern, Children Services Manager, Barnardo's NI, said: “With increasing numbers of ethnic minority migrant families living in Northern Ireland, Barnardo’s NI wanted to ensure that children from these families could integrate quickly and easily into their new communities.

“Learning English is central to that aim so I am delighted with the commitment of the University of Ulster and the language expertise that these children can now access.”

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