Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Australia Education

Australia Makes Asian Language Learning a Priority 230

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Australia Makes Asian Language Learning a Priority

Comments Filter:
  • Exactly Backwards (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @08:59AM (#43780537)

    Australia should be making English a priority, since it is an English speaking country. The modern world conducts business in English anyway. What really is the point of learning Indonesian or Hindi?? Even India demands English speakers of its own people. Australia should be doing the same, especially since more and more immigrants are coming here.

  • Learning is great (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Uber Banker ( 655221 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @09:02AM (#43780569)

    the opportunity for every schoolchild to learn one of four "priority" languages- Chinese, Hindi, Japanese or Indonesian.

    Learning is surely great in all forms. But I am confused why Hindi is a 'priority language'. 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 mixed with a somewhat local accent depending on where they're from in India, unless, as an in-joke among Indian colleagues goes, they're walked past the US Embassy and are suddenly embroiled with a thick US accent.

    Chinese, for dealing with anyone outside the BPO / ITO / major trade companies: government, state owned and specialists yes.

    Japanese, things in Japan tend to happen in Japanese despite the speaker's English ability, whatever the industry, so yes.

    Indonesian, honestly have no experience.

    But Hindi. Seems odd to be a priority.

  • by GerryHattrick ( 1037764 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @10:59AM (#43781857)
    My work colleague had rudimentary Mandarin. Whenever we had an official Chinese delegation in London, she would help me in the Boardroom. They were hugely delighted with her greetings, and the meetings became much more sociable. I was amazed that Chinese/Brit subtle humour had much in common, too. Of course we had a professional interpreter also on the team, but do NOT underrate the value of effort to learn some sounds in Mandarin, and (never mind the business) to laugh along with your ancient-world counterparts.
  • Re:Exactly Backwards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @11:01AM (#43781881) Homepage

    English is used worldwide when conducting business between two people with otherwise dissimilar language, but Chinese is still mostly limited to conducting business with China.

    This. Before, people were mostly concerned with learning the language of the bordering countries because that's what was most useful. Today people have the Internet and want/need a global language of communication. While this graphic is also in many ways biased, English in the World [] shows most of the world has English as their first foreign language. That trend is only going to grow stronger because there are huge network effects at play here. While the US may be seeing a big influx of Spanish, here in Europe the trend is opposite - few people learn Spanish and the Spaniards learn more and more English. And I don't think it has any traction in Africa, Asia or Oceania.

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

    by thoth ( 7907 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @11:50AM (#43782577) Journal

    The Japanese language does have tone accents which do distinguish meanings. Although context will sort things out in all but extreme cases, improper tone is one of the primary markers of a non-native speaker. Perhaps Japanese grammar is complicated compared with Chinese or Korean (I wouldn't know) it is certainly far more regular (ie easier) than European languages (like English.) Now the writing system on the other hand...

    All in all, it probably takes the same amount of effort to learn either eg English or Japanese as a second-language.

    No. You need to study/speak a language like Mandarin to really appreciate that tones are fundamentally different that merely pronouncing vowels differently or having an accent or conveying mood (occasionally). English speakers might pronounce 'tomato' differently between the US and UK, might raise their voices at the end when angry or yelling, Japanese might "swallow" a trailing -u, everyone might have a regional accent that pronounces words "funny" compared to elsewhere, but none of that is tonal in the sense that Mandarin is a tonal language.

    In Mandarin, tones are part of the correct pronunciation of a word. Different tone = different word. As in "shi" with a rising tone can mean "10" and "shi" with a falling tone can mean "vision" and "shi" with a neutral tone can mean "poem". Japanese and English are not like this.

    Yes, somebody with a US southern drawl may pronounce ten, the number, close to tan, the color, but that's a regional access a not a tone. Somebody emphasizing a syllable or raising the voice (mad or asking a question) is also not a tone - it is not part of the correct pronunciation of the word.

    Japanese grammar is more complicated that English or Mandarin in a few ways (I don't know about Korean, I never studied that language), but at the same time it is highly regular. One example is verb/adjective conjugation. In English, if a car is red or was red, the adjective "red" stays the same, present or past tense. Similarly, in Mandarin, the chejì would be hóng, same word form. In Japanese, the kuruma would be akai or akakatta (or akakunai or akakunakatta to complete the conjugations). On the other hand, there are basically 2 kinds of adjectives in Japanese (-i and -na) and they follow fairly regular patterns with only a handful of exceptions.

    English is complicated because so many words have multiple meanings, wildly different (spring as coiled metal, a season of the year, jumping) so almost everything requires context to decode, it is highly idiomatic, has a large number of exceptions to almost any grammar rule from conjugations to pluralizing and so on, pronunciation is a crap shoot with general rules about sounds and again as many exceptions as their are rules. One thing about Japanese and Mandarin is the pronunciation is consistent (and you start by studying pinyin or hiragana/katakana) even if it is difficult.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @12:13PM (#43782863)

    you would still not be accepted by native Chinese, because you're not one of them.

    I can speak and read Chinese, and it is indeed a very difficult language. But you are wrong about cultural acceptance. Chinese people are very welcoming, and will be delighted and helpful if you make an effort to speak even a little of their language. China is a multicultural and multilingual country, and even some Chinese people speak Mandarin poorly, so they have flexible expectations about fluency. This is in contrast to Japan, which is like France, where they expect you to speak their language perfectly or not at all, and even then, will never accept you as one of their own.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva