Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Australia 2020 Summit - Languages

Download the Australia 2020 Summit - Initial Report. Languages teaching (especially Asian languages) gets a strong endorsement. The whole thing is such a whiff of fresh air in this country which had looked so retro (1950's racist attitudes) for so long. Even the anxieties prompt me to feel there is determination to use the mandate and the public mood to get things done about education and the environment. (That logo though - does it look like a bunch of clothes pegs?)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hamish McDonald Asia-Pacific Editor at SMH has his say

A thought provoking article sent by Greg Poulgrain 04/20/08

The Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Regional thinking: a number of ways to put Australia back in its
by Hamish McDonald Asia-Pacific Editor

STRANGELY, my name seems to have been left off the list of Kevin
Rudd's invitees to the 2020 Summit in Canberra this weekend. But
in case the invite isn't delivered by hand overnight, here is my
list of recommendations for growing Australia's position in its
own region.

*Let's have a concerted effort at reversing the collapse of
Asian language study in Australia, and tackle it at popular and
elite levels. Starting languages at high school or university is
doomed to failure in most cases - the younger children start,
the better. Every primary school student should have the chance.

The language that is strategically useful, most likely to be
usable on cheap nearby holidays, and relatively easy to grasp in
its basics (it has simple pronunciation and structure, and a
phonetic script using the Roman alphabet) is Indonesian.

We don't have enough trained teachers of Indonesian to reach
everyone, especially in primary schools. How about an ambitious
teacher exchange scheme? Indonesian teachers could spend a
couple of years in our schools, teaching Indonesian and
improving their English, and our teachers do the reverse.

The rapid progress that can be made with Indonesian would attune
more of our students to the idea that foreign languages aren't
impossible. More of them might then go on to study the more
difficult ones, such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Hindi/Urdu
and Persian - if available in our senior schools and HSC marks
don't penalise non-native speakers for tackling them instead of
the softer options.

Read the rest at SMH.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Joe Lo Bianco to open online IYL seminar series

Jo Lo Bianco, the doyen of language policy and planning in Australia, the man who authored the National Language Policy of 1987 and who has worked tirelessly for languages all his career has agreed to open our online seminar series to celebrate IYL on 16 April 2008 at 19.30 Australian Eastern Standard time.

We can only host forty log-ons at a time on my university's Adobe Connect system and let's face it, even with that many not everyone can have a say. All sessions will be recorded and available on archive. Please email if you are interested in participating.

If you are interested in offering a presentation (I recommend maximum 30 minutes for the address and 30 minutes for interaction/discussion, use the same email, tell me your proposed topic, send me your favourite portrait photo, and have a peek at to learn how to use the system. Enter as a guest and you will find I often have it set to grant all comers presenter status so you can mess around a bit. You need a headset (preferably) but speakers and microphone will do. Just speakers if you only intend to listen in. You can always use the text chat box to pose questions. Webcam is optional, only adds to bandwidth demand without great gain. Online conferencing will be a massive channel for foreign language learning in this century so it doesn't hurt to learn about it now.

Jo Lo Bianco wrote a forthright article in the Age newspaper on 26 March, A language is a window to another world. It says much more than the title indicates to me. See Joe's profile page at the University of Melbourne.


Sunday, April 13, 2008


I noticed this page, 5 Great Reasons to Learn a Language! [LanguageWorld - 29 February 2008] on my web wanderings and it brought back to mind that conundrum that learning another language undeniably takes commitment and persistence but for many English-spaking students it is inherently boring, hard, not as motivating as sports, media attractions, socialising in their first language, even other school subjects!

It takes motivation to begin a foreign language and motivation to stay with it. Teachers can work hard to make the class experience pleasurable and satisfying, reassure students of the rewards and promote languages to the school community and through the media but ... our retention rates show we fail (with notable exceptions.

I think we need one of the Online Seminars during IYL to be about motivation of Australian students in languages study. Who has ideas? Does anyone among us have some sure-fire methods for motivating? Different for different levels and different children? Or, in a country averse to languages study, are compulsion at school, extra points for uni entry and overseas study scholarships the way to go? Contact me if you would like to speak in a motivation forum.

P.S. A senior academic at my uni said he would not like to see compulsion for any field of study; he does not believe in "re-education camps". Let the market decide; do a good job of selling your subject. I tended to agree with this democratic sentiment at the time but since I have thought, e-duc-ation itself means leadership. It means the current adult generation make their best informed decision about what the rising generation need to learn. And surely there are many many things we want children to learn, and insist they do for their own sake: from crossing the street safely to reading and writing and respectful relations with others. If languages are vital to our society's future, why are we so frightened of making languages study mandatory? Or at least, so thoroughly supported and rewarded, it amounts to society-wide endorsement? Why won't we do this?

webcasting, realtime voice interactions

webcasting, realtime voice interactions - one page primer on giving online presentations and lessons. To the point. I got there from the wonderful LearningTimes Australia site

EXLORING THE USE OF VOICE ONLINE a selection of resources collated for Yahoo Voice Conference on 'Hearing Every Voice'

Friday, April 11, 2008

Languages at school - a public forum

On Line Opinion - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

May Feature - Languages at school

What's the point of language teaching? Is it just economic, or are the biggest benefits intrinsic? What languages should be taught, how should we determine priorities? And what about "dead" and invented languages like Latin and Esperanto?

Email your contributions to Susan Prior

An excellent opportunity for those who care about languages to contribute to public debate.