Speak English: Language ignorance in schools

Reading these articles made me realise how ignorant many Australians are about the purpose of learning a language. The “2020 Languages” article in the Australian pointed out that only 13% of Australian students take on a LOTE subject in Year 12. Across the world it is predicted that 50%-90% of languages will be lost in the next century. This is an astronomical amount! English is seen as the favoured language across the globe despite the fact that there has been a rise in the use languages such as Chinese and Spanish.

This makes me question why it is that in Australia we do not seem to see language learning as important. After reading the arcticle in the Herald Sun talking about how bilingualism delays the onset of Alzheimers and reading the comments I realised that there are a great number of Australians who, like myself, regret not learning a second language at school. Yet is it all our own fault that we have not learnt another language?

I argue that it’s not. Why would a student learn another language when the culture of the school is that it is not important. Most Victorian schools devote a measly 30 minutes per week to language studies. This is the fact despite studies showing that immersion is the best way to learn a language. 30 minutes per week is just not enough time to learn a language. We spend 10 hours per week on English Literacy instruction and 5 hours per week on Mathematics. So why do we not devote the same time to languages?

Benefits of LOTE (Languages Other Than English) in schools are poorly realised.

A sad fact of the “English is better” school of thought in Australia is that it means that the Indigenous languages are being lost. In 2009 the NT government mandated that NT schools have to teach the first four hours of the day in English. In the past many of these schools had run immersion programs and now they were unable to. This was done to improve NAPLAN results yet what did happen was that NAPLAN results fell, and continue to fall, across Indigenous schools.

I am going to open a can of worms here, but it has to be done. As educators we let other people tell us how to do our jobs, and by those other people I mean the Australian Government. They are not educators. Why do we let them tell us how to best do our job?

I am going to be spending the first two weeks of next term trying to rush my children up to speed of the whole grade 3 curriculum so that they will do well in the NAPLAN. I wonder what will suffer?

Source: My First Uni Rant by Laura Mansour

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Categories: Multiculturalism, Politics, Law

Author:Andrew Beato

CEO, Chief Editor and founder of Intentious. Passionate comment enthusiast, amateur philosopher, Quora contributor, audiobook and general knowledge addict.

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3 Comments on “Speak English: Language ignorance in schools”

  1. Jen
    February 9, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    I agree with you! To be completely honest though, many Australians don’t seem to know their own language very well: the sheer number of mistakes they make in spelling, punctuation and grammar is deplorable. Perhaps learning another language, other than the obvious benefits, can also help Australians appreciate English more?

  2. February 13, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Children in Victoria, I assume the other States are the same, don’t learn English as a second language. Hence they’re ignorant about grammar, punctuation or why MS Word keeps saying “fragment” for every “sentence” that they write. I once had a PhD candidate ask me what is the difference between an adjective and a verb. That folks is a level of ignorance that makes me want to take someone’s graduation certificate and tear it up in front of them.

    Personally, I think the education department avoids teaching children proper English for the same reason we avoid teaching children history: it denies them a strong sense of identity and that makes them easier to manipulate. If you don’t have a good understanding of English, then politicians and journalists are going to make you swallow shit for breakfast and then thank them for it afterwards.

  3. February 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    Jen, I wholeheartedly agree. English skill is deplorable in this country from my fellow Generation-Ys in particular. The number of people I know who honestly can’t recognise the grammatical difference between they’re, their and there, you’re and your, its and it’s, is alarming. Surely it’s an embarrassing failure on a national scale to our teachers? Is it that the latest breed of teachers themselves don’t know or police these grammatical rules? If I were a teacher of *any* subject, I would be docking marks based on failing basic English rules as a priority while marking absolutely anything. The fact that people responsible for feats like THIS: http://www.thepunch.com.au/images/uploads/caption-comp-myer-2.jpg can get a job is ridiculous!

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