Why learn a second language? Doesn’t everyone speak English anyway? The fact is, with the world becoming increasingly interconnected proficiency in other languages is more important than ever!
At Wesley College we have a real passion for language. Our Languages Centre, known as the Wandjoo Miya, is world-class. Opened in 2017, it is housed in a space designed from scratch to foster collaboration and cultural intelligence. Here, Head of Languages and French teacher, Mrs Claire Leong, talks about the importance of learning a second language.
Why do children need to learn a language?
The speed and spread of the coronavirus has certainly made everyone aware of how much we are globally connected. This crisis has highlighted again to us as a school community how important it is for our students to develop the language and intercultural skills to be able to communicate well across cultures in an efficient and timely way and to access reliable information worldwide when they need it. We need to harness the power of our diverse teams in Australia and support the development of these skills in our students so they can then contribute to these teams. Crises such as this pandemic remind us that, in the end, it is humans and their capacity to work together that is what counts the most.
Is speaking a second language useful?
Our Wesley languages students are, we hope, the students who will go out into the world and will have the skills to live and work alongside others from other cultures to solve the biggest global issues of our time. They will be the ones, we hope, who will connect us when groups and individuals seek to create disintegration. They are the ones, we hope, who know that respectful relationships are what matter most. It is one of the reasons why we teach languages through Primary and Middle school in Australia and that Intercultural understanding is one of the General Capabilities in The Australian Curriculum. Whether it’s solving global problems, working abroad or the simple pleasure of being on holiday and showing a love of the local dialect, knowing a second language is useful in myriad ways.
Which language should my child learn?
Every person needs the skills and attributes of Intercultural Understanding and from my perspective, it doesn’t matter which language a student learns at school. There are wonderful reasons for learning any language and the magic of learning more about your own identity and what makes others tick, happens through the process of learning any language. Parents understandably often feel disappointed when their child can’t study a particular language but it might be useful for parents and caregivers to keep this bigger outcome in mind. Students can choose to study another language at university. I started beginners French at university and obviously loved it!
Talk to your son or daughter about what they are learning right now and why they are learning that topic. Are they learning about Global media and current events in French and Indonesian class? Are they learning about spending time being mindful when things are tough through listening to French yoga podcasts? Are they learning about the transmission of coronavirus in Chinese lessons?
Our language team’s capacity to read and view material from different media sources from around the world in the language in which they were produced gave us an advantage in the last months. We could cross-check information and quickly debunk false news, which is incredibly important particularly during a health crisis. It also reminded us of how important it is to be respectful of other governments and the choices they make. Our Chinese teacher Bon kept us informed through his media connections in China with the outbreak in China long before news outlets in Australia were reporting on COVID-19. We knew what was happening through Chinese media and Bon learnt how to teach online through his Chinese teacher network. This was valuable information for the team when we all went online.
This week is National Reconciliation Week 2020. The theme for this year is In This Together. What a perfect theme that summarises the connection between us and the importance of supporting one another.
At Wesley, we hope you know that we do feel that we are in this together and that we are very optimistic about how our languages students will contribute to the world.
Want to know more? Take a video tour of our Languages Centre!
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