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.

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