Monday, July 9, 2012

Asian Languages are Lessons for the Future

Asian languages are lessons for the future.

PARENTS are pressuring their children to study European languages at school, despite the need for Asian literacy in the modern workplace.

Australian Secondary Principals Association president Sheree Vertigan said parents were pushing traditional languages such as French and German because of our European heritage.

However, Australia's future lay with Asia and the nation needed more students studying Asian and Arabic-based languages at school, she said.

"There is a strong parental influence because French and German are traditional languages and were a way of showing we were connected to Europe, whereas most people in business realise that is no longer the case," she said.

Australia's multiculturalism stands out at Auburn West Public School, where 99 per cent of students speak English as a second language. Between them, they speak 28 languages.

Relieving principal Harry Vassila said the school had various specialist teachers to help students such as 11-year-old Jasmine Elsayedahmed who, with a Lebanese father and a mother from the Czech Republic, spoke three languages at home.

"The students appreciate, respect and recognise the different cultures and languages that we have," he said.

Across the state, 224,794 public school students - about 29.6 per cent - speak a language other than English at home, Department of Education and Communities data shows.

Chinese, with 39,593 students in 2011, has been the most common foreign-language background in public schools since 1997, followed by Arabic with 29,402 students.

Foreign languages are not compulsory in primary school but in high school students have to learn one for at least a year between Years 7 and 10.

French is the most popular, with 1688 students across three subjects in the 2011 HSC, followed by Japanese, Chinese, Italian and German.

The most popular individual subject is for Chinese-background speakers, with 963 enrolled students.

Ms Vertigan said many students did not want to compete against native speakers because it could affect their ATAR score and university choices.

A national curriculum is being drafted to include Asian topics.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said "we have to look at ways of making Asian languages more attractive" and accessible for all students, not just those with an Asian background.


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