languages other than English

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Sun Jan 4 16:13:45 EST 2004


--- Emma Comerford <emmaco at tpg.com.au> wrote:
> Although we also have a lot of people who speak a
> second language courtesy 
> of their immigrant parents - over half of my Italian
> class at high school 
> spoke Italian, much to the dismay of my teacher, who
> wasn't completely 
> fluent! (Actually, this is a scary aspect of
> languages other than English 
> teaching in Australia, you don't have to be fluent
> to teach, as 
> demonstrated by my Italian and Japanese teachers at
> school (although they 
> were good teachers apart from that). And if I had
> done education I could 
> teach Spanish as I majored in it at uni, even though
> I'm not fluent!) 
> Before that long aside, I was going to say that
> Queensland primary schools 
> all teach at least one LOTE, and we've always been
> encouraged to think it 
> polite to learn another language, especially before
> travelling. So maybe 
> it's changing?  

I have one friend who learnt Italian before travelling
to Italy, but English was her second language anyway.
While, in NSW at least, all school children learn
something of a language in primary school, this is not
usually at the hands of a trained language teacher, or
even from someone who speaks the language themself. In
high school again they learn a language in years 7 and
8 from a trained language teacher, which can often be
a different one from that learnt in primary school, or
it may go over the same ground again. This is usually
only for an hour or two a week so only the basics get
covered. Primary schools usually do either Japanese or
Mandarin Chinese while high schools do either these or
French or German (French in case of the school I teach
at). After year 8 it is possible for students to elect
to continue with a language, and when I went to school
this was quite common (probably about half of the
students in my year chose to do a language with
French, German and Indonesian being done - Latin was
offered but there weren't enough takers for there to
be class). These days elective language classes are
rare, which in turn means that schools need fewer
language teachers (one is usually enough to cover the
compulsory classes) which then reduces the number of
languages that can be offered. 

There is new syllabus next year for Aboriginal
languages being introduced in NSW. We have about 30
aboriginal languages in NSW, quite a few of which are
basically lost except for a few words. Most urban
aborigines speak only English and a large coastal city
will have members of many language groups, not simply
people from the original communities of the area.
There are probably no more than a couple of teachers
in the state who can speak any aboriginal language so
I don't know how this is intended to work. I my school
about 8% of the students are aboriginal, which is
enough for viable classes but I doubt if any of them
identify with any specific language, and the two local
languages, Worrimi and Awabakul are both extinct.

Jon


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