Activities, News

Learning about Syria – and Arabic – in Falmouth

A valuable morning at Falmouth Primary School in west Cornwall this morning (10 November 2022) with the wonderful Rawda Alater, who spoke about her life in Syria and her subsequent experience living in the UK in Truro. She answered children’s questions – and even taught a bit of Arabic.

In at least two classes there were Arabic speakers. One in particular spoke no English at all and was delighted to be able to chat with Rawda. As the rest of us listened, we realised what it must feel like to be ‘the one’ who doesn’t understand. It’s a strange and disconcerting experience – and one that non-English speaking children must often come up against when they first arrive here.

Rawda spoke about the difference between schools in this country and in Syria. In Syria, children don’t have hot dinners at school. The opposite – they take a packed lunch of flat bread and maybe cheese. Houses don’t have curtains and carpets. It’s hot. Life is different.

Rawda explained how she felt when she arrived as a refugee in Truro from Lebanon, where she’d been living for five years since she left the war in Syria in 2010.

She was afraid to open the door, she said, because she didn’t understand a word of English.

Together this morning we learned how to say hello, how are you! And with the help of Arabic speaking pupils, wrote a few words in Arabic on the flipchart.

Update: we returned the following day 11/11/22 for a further assembly and classroom workshops in Arabic with Rawda. There are several native Arabic speakers at the school and they helped today.  Here is a student in Year 6 having a conversation with a classmate from Syria –  usinga few easy phrases that the native English speaker learned in minutes.


We had our Arabic language postcards to hand out – and we realised that some children had been practising overnight with siblings we had worked with the previous day.

It was wonderful to see the children’s enthusiasm – and eagerness to learn.

This is part of I PACKED THIS MYSELF, our project funded by Cornwall Council, which is working to break down prejudice and increase understanding of people from different backgrounds – from overseas – who have come to Cornwall to live and work.