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BBC on Australia and language learning

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BBC on Australia and language learning

Postby lemonaid » Thu 08.16.2007 5:33 am

I just listened to a report regarding Australia and language learning on the BBC World Service. The australian government is concerned since less people than ever before appear to be interested in mastering foreign languages, especially mandarin chinese, indonesian and japanese, on a business level.

The number of people graduating with language degrees has declined dramatically and they are afraid it might isolate Australia from the Asian market. One university professor said that an increasing number of people are interested in learning japanese for recreational use because of Japan's popular culture, but not mastering it for business, while mandarin chinese and indonesian are being largely ignored.

What do the australians on this board think? Is it cause for concern? Do you have any opinion as to why people don't care to learn mandarin chinese and indonesian, or graduating in japanese for that matter?
Last edited by lemonaid on Thu 08.16.2007 5:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: BBC on Australia and language learning

Postby Dehitay » Thu 08.16.2007 9:42 am

It's not too much of a surprise to me. Most large business companies in China, India, and Japan tend to learn English. It's become the main language of business. Outside of learning English, I think a majority of foreign language study is recreational.
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RE: BBC on Australia and language learning

Postby Oracle » Thu 08.16.2007 11:43 am

I learned Japanese in high school in the late 80s and then at university after that and the prime minister at the time (Paul Keating) was of the opinion that Australia should fully engaged in Asia, and not be some British colonial outpost stuck on the other side of the world by itself surrounded by asian countries, so government money was actively put into school programs etc. for promoting Japanese and regional languages. I think that same focus isn't there anymore. that plus Japan's general economic downturn since the bubble economy burst has seen it very slowly lose its profile (when I was at Uni, the Japanese department was part of Economics. Now it's in the faculty of Arts ..) Getting kids interested in Chinese is probably always going to be more difficult because Japanese has anime/manga/pop-culture on its side ;)
Last edited by Oracle on Thu 08.16.2007 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: BBC on Australia and language learning

Postby chikara » Thu 08.16.2007 7:53 pm

lemonaid wrote:
I just listened to a report regarding Australia and language learning on the BBC World Service. ... What do the australians on this board think? ....

Dehitay wrote:
It's not too much of a surprise to me. ...

I thought you were from Texas USA not Texas Australia :D

When I was at school no languages were taught at primary school (grade school??) and most high schools only taught Latin and French. I did one year of Italian but it was dropped from the curriculum. One of my friends was lucky enough to go to a high school that taught German.

As Oracle-san has pointed out this changed in the late 80's when the Keating government took the view that Australia's future lay in Asia and not in Europe. A precursor to this was the abolition of the White Australia Policy, which limited Asian imigration, in the mid 70's and the corresponding influx of Vietnamese refugees following the fall of South Vietnam. Keating lost the 1996 election and since then John Howard's conservative government has been in power. Howard is a WASP who sees Australia as being an extention of the "Mother Country" and has moved the focus from Asia back to Europe and in particular the UK (although on more than one occasion it has taken a proctologist to remove him from George Dubya).

In the 90's languages such as Korean, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese were being taught in many primary schools however there is still a strong leaning towards European languages.

There certainly seems to be a focus on teaching Japanese in primary schools in this state at least. I believe this is based on the fact that Japan is our major trading partner and second largest source of inbound tourists after New Zealand. The children of many of my friends are learning Japanese in school yet these children don't have any interest in manga or anime. They are learning it because the school they attend has chosen that as the "additional" language they will teach all their students. One of my nieces has been learning Japanese since grade 2 and as a 10 year old doesn't know what manga or anime are.

I can't speak for language degrees offered at universities as I have no experience of them. I studied Japanese through the school of tourism and certainly when I started there was a good number of 20 somethings that wanted to learn Japanese because it was "so coooool" and they were "really into like anime and manga". Quite a number of these dropped out when they realised that they would not be fluent in six months.
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