[lg policy] Learning a language opens young minds

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 25 14:37:10 UTC 2011

Learning a language opens young minds
November 25, 2011


Barrie Brown's attitude to foreign languages (Letters, November 24)
reminds me of the 19th century attitude to teaching girls to read and
write: why bother when they'll never use it?

Clearly for Barrie, learning isn't to be undertaken for its own sake,
to open closed minds to other worlds and cultures. This attitude is
the best advertisement for including teaching languages at a younger
age than is currently offered by the NSW government.

As for the ''overcrowded curriculum'', Chatswood Public already finds
room for Mandarin lessons for all students, as well as fitting in 30
minutes of individual music tutorial each week.
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The education value of teaching languages isn't determined simply by
including it in the curriculum. Effective teaching requires commitment
and skill. A supported teacher can work wonders with few resources,
but no amount of funding will enthuse kids where the program isn't
valued or the teacher isn't good.

When my kids were at primary school in rural France, the other kids
spoke terrible English, despite years of lessons. Why? The English
teacher actively avoided my kids, so she didn't have to speak English.
She didn't see two native speakers as a resource, but as an
inconvenience who highlighted her poor skills.

In 2011, the lowest-ever number of HSC language candidates was
recorded. Let us reverse this trend, properly engage with the world
and acknowledge that learning another language doesn't diminish our
own language but increases our skills, knowledge and humanity.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/letters/learning-a-language-opens-young-minds-20111124-1nx3x.html#ixzz1ejCFxrKB

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