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Australia Education

Australia Makes Asian Language Learning a Priority 230

Posted by timothy
from the but-latin-builds-character dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Australian government came a step closer to formalising its plans to make Asian language study compulsory for schools this week. It has released a draft curriculum for public consultation which reveals plans to include Indonesian, Korean and french language in the curriculum. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard publicly stated in September 2012 that in response to the "staggering growth" in the region, the government would be instigating 25 key measures to strengthen and exploit links with Asia. The plan includes the requirement that one third of civil servants and company directors have a "deep knowledge," thousands of scholarships for Asian students, and the opportunity for every schoolchild to learn one of four "priority" languages- Chinese, Hindi, Japanese or Indonesian."
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Australia Makes Asian Language Learning a Priority

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  • by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @09:06AM (#43780587)

    Every corporate senior person I've met from India - Director type level - not only speaks several Indian languages, but also has flawless English in terms of grammar and vocabulary

    If you were dealing with workers on a factory floor, even skilled ones, your experience would be different

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @09:20AM (#43780729)

    Well it is a step in the right direction. If you look at a globe Australia south of Far East Asia.
    Sure they can do business with the Yanks and the Brits, but they are missing their closest neighbors.

  • English... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @09:45AM (#43780951)

    Interestingly, throughout Asia English is taught in schools. In Taiwan it's become a mandatory part of the curriculum, and that may also be the case elsewhere. When it's not, many parents go out of their ways to get their kids to learn the language.

    In the US, however, a second language seems to be selected based on whatever the prevailing language spoken by the dominant ethnic group in the area. And that's assuming they offer a second language at all. More often than not the language ends up being Spanish, which all too frequently becomes more of a service to ESL students than value to anyone else.

    I find that to be a persistent problem with the American educational system, there's no goal and thinking is often too insular. The difference between systems is that overseas they're trying to make people competitive internationally but still expecting their citizens speak the official language. Meanwhile, Americans, instead of stressing the importance of English for success keep making accommodations for non-speakers.

    I suppose someday the US might become a Spanish speaking nation, and that's totally fine. But we're far from that reality and currently Asian nations are economically dominant and on the rise. Of course, it's not feasible to keep switching languages every time some new nation rises in influence, which is why we've got English as the standard and why everyone continues to learn that.

  • Re:English... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @10:34AM (#43781567) Journal
    And that's assuming they offer a second language at all. More often than not the language ends up being Spanish, which all too frequently becomes more of a service to ESL students than value to anyone else.

    First - I appreciate the value of knowing a second language. I don't mean this as a "speak English or die" rant...

    But learning a second language while living in the US counts as a complete and utter waste of time. If you don't use a language, you lose it, simple as that - Personally, I took seven years of French in school, starting from a young age (2nd grade), and I can just barely read it, painfully slow. Despite having wasted somewhere on the order of thousands of hours of instructional time cramming that language into my head, I have very nearly no ability whatsoever to carry on a conversation with someone who only speaks French.

    Now, if you live in an area (even in the US) that has a large Spanish-speaking population - Perhaps you can use it enough that it will "stick". If you live in Europe, where they have multiple languages spoken regularly, a second or even third language makes functional sense. If you live somewhere that doesn't speak English (and again, I don't mean this as a pro-English screed), it makes sense to learn English as a second language, as the lingua Franca of international business (and yes, I appreciate the irony of that phrase).

    Australia will have the exact same problem we have in the US. They can mandate kids pass a proficiency test, but three years after highschool, it will have made no difference in the number of languages known.
  • Re:English... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @11:02AM (#43781901) Homepage Journal

    They can mandate kids pass a proficiency test, but three years after highschool, it will have made no difference

    So, it is just like biology and physics and math beyond first year algebra.

    The point is it does make a difference, for they are better for having learned it, because basic concepts aren't forgotten and they will be that much less ignorant (and provincial), and some of the kids will make use of what they learn, thus advancing their country's interests in international trade.

  • by smash (1351) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @11:47AM (#43782547) Homepage Journal

    Have you ever been in a business meeting with people who speak another language? Have you seen them confer amongst themselves, in your presence in said language? I haven't, but my ex has - and they didn't know that one of the english speakers actually knew French. The conversation that they thought was private was quite revealing, to say the least.

    Knowledge is power. That very much includes knowing how to communicate.

    Remaining wilfully ignorant of the language spoken by those you trade or otherwise conduct business with is pretty fucking foolish, irrespective of whatever "standard" language there may be.

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