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Australia Makes Asian Language Learning a Priority

timothy posted about a year ago | from the but-latin-builds-character dept.

Australia 230

An anonymous reader writes "The Australian government came a step closer to formalising its plans to make Asian language study compulsory for schools this week. It has released a draft curriculum for public consultation which reveals plans to include Indonesian, Korean and french language in the curriculum. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard publicly stated in September 2012 that in response to the "staggering growth" in the region, the government would be instigating 25 key measures to strengthen and exploit links with Asia. The plan includes the requirement that one third of civil servants and company directors have a "deep knowledge," thousands of scholarships for Asian students, and the opportunity for every schoolchild to learn one of four "priority" languages- Chinese, Hindi, Japanese or Indonesian."

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230 comments

Won't do much good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780489)

The Australian government came a step closer to formalising its plans to make Asian language study compulsory for schools this week.

This week? You can't learn a new language in one week!

Re:Won't do much good (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43780729)

Well it is a step in the right direction. If you look at a globe Australia south of Far East Asia.
Sure they can do business with the Yanks and the Brits, but they are missing their closest neighbors.

Re:Won't do much good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780895)

Whoosh!

Indonesian, Korean and french (5, Funny)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#43780513)

French is an asian language now?

(And why no capital for the poor old frogs?)

I was thinking the same thing (1)

langelgjm (860756) | about a year ago | (#43780531)

Sure, French used to be an official language in colonial Indochina, but it hardly seems to make sense to consider on par with the other languages listed.

Re:I was thinking the same thing (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#43780703)

If you read the article you find that one of the languages they're working on adding next is Italian.

As far as I can tell French Polynesia is the nearest French speaking place to Australia. Maybe they want people to have a better time on holiday in Tahiti?

Re:I was thinking the same thing (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year ago | (#43781751)

If you read the article you find that one of the languages they're working on adding next is Italian.

Italian kind of makes sense. Several east African nations were originally Italian colonies(such as Somalia). If people from this area wanted to go to a Western nation, Australia would be a logical choice. A good pairing with French, which is/was spoken by a lot of Africa. It seems to me that Australia is expecting either an increased African immigration, or is looking to expand its presence in Africa.

Re:I was thinking the same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43782235)

No French Polynesia is not the nearest french territory, New Caledonia is next to Australia....

Re:I was thinking the same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780807)

Sure, French used to be an official language in colonial Indochina, but it hardly seems to make sense to consider on par with the other languages listed.

Maybe so, but let's put a bit of perspective:
Looking at just Vietnamese french [wikipedia.org] - spoken by about 5% of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia - which means 5% x 108.438 mil = 5.42 mil. Now, this is 24% of Australia's population... and probably greater than the number of Australians that can use any language other than English.

Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780743)

And why no capital for the poor old frogs?

The capital is in Berlin.

Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#43780805)

New Caledonia is just off the coast of Australia. And it is still maybe more widely spoken than English in parts of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780845)

If you look due east of Australia you'll see a lump of nickel know as New Caledonia where people speak French. While not very big it does contain 10-25% of the worlds reserves of Nickel.

Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780857)

Yes, it's widely spoken in SE Asia and the S. Pacific Islands, has been for well over a century. - Ignorance can be cured but sadly your sig implies you're incurable.

Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (3, Informative)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#43781045)

I was very surprised when I ran into French speakers while working in a supermarket in Surfers Paradise. There are quite a few French speakers around the Pacific Rim, and French isn't as useless as one would be lead to think.

Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (2)

wmac1 (2478314) | about a year ago | (#43780981)

and Why not the most common language of the region (i.e. Chinese) is included as an option. I am aware that there are many different dialects but Mandarin could possibly being used by a very large number of Asian (hundreds of millions or even near to a billion?).

Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43781131)

I really wanted to learn Mandarin Chinese back in school here in the U.S. But almost no school, secondary or college, offers it. Everyone just offers the same old Spanish/French/German--as opposed to Chinese, which would actually be REALLY useful in this modern world.

Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (1)

LordNimon (85072) | about a year ago | (#43781707)

Chinese, which would actually be REALLY useful in this modern world.

No, it wouldn't. It would take a massive effort to be proficient enough in Mandarin to be able to use it, and you would still not be accepted by native Chinese, because you're not one of them. You won't be able to use your rudimentary Mandarin to make any kind of business deals in China. If anything, you'd just be forced by your employer to travel to Beijing frequently and breathe in the toxic air. No thanks.

Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (5, Interesting)

GerryHattrick (1037764) | about a year ago | (#43781857)

My work colleague had rudimentary Mandarin. Whenever we had an official Chinese delegation in London, she would help me in the Boardroom. They were hugely delighted with her greetings, and the meetings became much more sociable. I was amazed that Chinese/Brit subtle humour had much in common, too. Of course we had a professional interpreter also on the team, but do NOT underrate the value of effort to learn some sounds in Mandarin, and (never mind the business) to laugh along with your ancient-world counterparts.

Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (1)

GerryHattrick (1037764) | about a year ago | (#43782217)

Additionally - we Brits lost the mid-'American' landmass through unwise laws and a bit of a Revolution. Now, we sad Brits are enmeshed in EU Socialism and their 'Political Correctness'. But at least the escaped Aussies ("No Worries") are fully engaged with the future.

Exactly Backwards (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780537)

Australia should be making English a priority, since it is an English speaking country. The modern world conducts business in English anyway. What really is the point of learning Indonesian or Hindi?? Even India demands English speakers of its own people. Australia should be doing the same, especially since more and more immigrants are coming here.

Re:Exactly Backwards (2, Informative)

Camembert (2891457) | about a year ago | (#43780559)

Of course English is the primary language in Australia. But your comment is in fact what is backwards. The modern world conducts more and more business in Chinese. It is a good idea to have knowledge of Chinese.

Re:Exactly Backwards (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43780603)

The biggest markets are all English speaking or use English as a trade language though. The seller needs to learn the language of the buyer, not the other way round. Who knows, that may change in the future if China opens its markets to foreign companies, but for the foreseeable future English will remain the language of business.

It is a great idea for Australia to integrate more with the surrounding nations however, to better position itself for the future. It's essentially an English/Irish colony state but it can't go on pretending it's not deep in the middle of Southeast Asia.

Re:Exactly Backwards (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#43780873)

The seller needs to learn the language of the buyer

You might want to look at what Australia exports and where to. They are not just a nation of consumers, you know.

Re:Exactly Backwards (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#43780623)

English is used worldwide when conducting business between two people with otherwise dissimilar language, but Chinese is still mostly limited to conducting business with China. It just seems a lot bigger than it is because China has become an economic powerhouse, but if you have an Arab meeting with a German, and neither speaks the other's native language, then they're still much more likely to use English than Chinese. The British empire spread English to almost every continent and the American-driven world economy kept it there long enough for kids to grow up speaking English as a second (or first) language without having to formally learn it in a classroom.

Re:Exactly Backwards (4, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#43781881)

English is used worldwide when conducting business between two people with otherwise dissimilar language, but Chinese is still mostly limited to conducting business with China.

This. Before, people were mostly concerned with learning the language of the bordering countries because that's what was most useful. Today people have the Internet and want/need a global language of communication. While this graphic is also in many ways biased, English in the World [blogspot.com] shows most of the world has English as their first foreign language. That trend is only going to grow stronger because there are huge network effects at play here. While the US may be seeing a big influx of Spanish, here in Europe the trend is opposite - few people learn Spanish and the Spaniards learn more and more English. And I don't think it has any traction in Africa, Asia or Oceania.

Re:Exactly Backwards (1)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | about a year ago | (#43780663)

Not sure how this "news for nerds", but anyway....

I speak two of the languages on that list fluently, but by and large Chinese is the one that should take priority, if for no other reason than that their influence is huge, and the chances of running into native speakers of the language is really good in Australia compared to the speakers of, say Indonesian or Japanese.
The thing is that a good deal of business in Indonesia is run by Chinese anyway, and you don't see that many Japanese tourists in Australia any more.
Most of the Indian speakers speak English anyway, mainly because Hindi isn't the be-all end-all of Indian linguistic diversity,

Not diminishing the usefulness of knowing any language really,... but agreed that locally Chinese is more dominant, and lots of them are moving to Oz and investing heavily.

Language Fads (1)

qazsedcft (911254) | about a year ago | (#43780691)

Chinese (Mandarin to be precise) is the current language fad. I remember when about a decade ago everyone was into Japanese and before that there was Russian. There are many good reasons to learn foreign languages from an early age but frankly the whole "economic relationships" argument is BS. The truth is that the current world lingua franca for business is English and it's going to stay that way for a while.

Re:Language Fads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780935)

I'm a cornfed laowai who learned mandarin, and have an awesome paying job, a hot asian wife and property in australia and china. :-)

You're correct English will be the lingua franca for business for a while yet. But speaking that isn't going to differentiate you amongst the other million people seeking an awesome paying job, hot asian wife and property in australia and china.

I guess you remember the language fad, but don't remember any of your classes.

mmmm hot russian wife.

Re:Exactly Backwards (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#43780829)

The modern world conducts more and more business in Chinese. It is a good idea to have knowledge of Chinese.

Ummm... which of the Mandarin or Cantonese would you suggest?

Re: Exactly Backwards (1)

unix_core (943019) | about a year ago | (#43781115)

For almost everyone the answer would be standard Mandarin as it's nearly universally (at least) understood in China including Cantonese speaking areas.

Re:Exactly Backwards (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year ago | (#43780917)

China may be the biggest Asian country, but what about the others. Maybe they should be learning one of the Official languages of India (the second largest asian country) that is also widely spoken in other asian countries.

Re:Exactly Backwards (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#43781875)

Maybe they should be learning one of the Official languages of India (the second largest asian country) that is also widely spoken in other asian countries.

That would be English, then? Or are you including official languages of the various states of India (rather than the nation as a whole), in which case Tamil, Bengali, Urdu and Punjabi would also qualify?

Re:Exactly Backwards (1)

jez9999 (618189) | about a year ago | (#43781217)

Possibly, but there are a hell of a lot of technical people around the world that aren't ever going to learn Chinese, so it can't muscle its way in as an international lingua franca. Not in the next 100 years anyway.

Re:Exactly Backwards (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#43780585)

The same point as why we had French in my high school... there isn't one. Sure, we *might* go to France or Quebec someday, but odds are A) we won't and B) even if we do, we can get by fine without being fluent (assuming a vacation, not a residency). Spanish makes a modicum more sense (in NY... in the southern US, Spanish makes a lot of sense). German works a little because there's a lot of communities with heavy German ties in NY. You can argue that it's to expose kids to other cultures, but then why spend such a disproportionately large amount of time on just the language, and why limit kids to one culture (IE: three years of French rather than a semester each of a different culture)?

Re:Exactly Backwards (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781095)

Because the only way to get a real insight into another culture is to learn its language(s). I recall having trouble understanding how people could read anything but my native tongue without mentally translating it; okay, I was 14, but it still kinda chills me... Really, without the language, exposition to a culture is at best intellectual tourism; not that it's worthless, far from it, but it cant measure up to the real cultural immersion linguistic knowledge provides.

Re:Exactly Backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781161)

I don't know. Teaching Australians proper English would be a pretty tall order.

Re:Exactly Backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781227)

You know that they already speak English, right?

Re:Exactly Backwards (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781267)

Fuck you, you arrogant egomaniacal asshole!

You're the type who goes to the deepest African jungle, finds a village of 150 people, and *seriously* expects *them* to all speak *your* language every time you are in the general area!

Meanwhile you feel so "superior" that you think you don't have to learn any other languages *at all*.

Listen to me closely: The ONLY reason English looks "dominating" in the places you soiled with your presence, is because unlike you, we're *not* such arrogant egocentric fucks and were forthcoming to the ignorant stranger who's too fuckin' *stupid* to learn a language, let alone understand any of the culture. Instead you bring McDonalds and Copyright with you, piss all over our culture, and think you're entitled to getting Hitler-saluted for your overblown grandeur.

Meanwhile Spanish beats English in number of speakers and Mandarin kicks both their *asses*!
And Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian and Japanese are just as valid world languages.

English... world language... my ASS!

YOU are what makes people from your country look bad. Stop it!

Re:Exactly Backwards (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about a year ago | (#43781597)

English is the first language. The whole article was about secondary languages. Your comment smacks of someone who doesn't get outside of English speaking countries very often. While you can find English in other countries, Australia, being closer to Asia geographically, it makes sense for them to learn Asian languages. In European countries, students normally learn a second language most likely another European language. Like the Dutch who learn up to four languages as they live in the middle of four countries.

Re:Exactly Backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781727)

Sure, international business is almost always conducted in English but making a business trip is fucking difficult in some Asian countries if you can't talk to locals. Not even cab drivers or waitresses that serve foreigners speak English in some countries - let alone locals you might need to ask for directions. And if you're a seller, being able to have a basic conversation in your customer's language and understanding their customs makes you seem a lot more pleasant.

Learning is great (3, Interesting)

Uber Banker (655221) | about a year ago | (#43780569)

the opportunity for every schoolchild to learn one of four "priority" languages- Chinese, Hindi, Japanese or Indonesian.

Learning is surely great in all forms. But I am confused why Hindi is a 'priority language'. Every corporate senior person I've met from India - Director type level - not only speaks several Indian languages, but also has flawless English in terms of grammar and vocabulary mixed with a somewhat local accent depending on where they're from in India, unless, as an in-joke among Indian colleagues goes, they're walked past the US Embassy and are suddenly embroiled with a thick US accent.

Chinese, for dealing with anyone outside the BPO / ITO / major trade companies: government, state owned and specialists yes.

Japanese, things in Japan tend to happen in Japanese despite the speaker's English ability, whatever the industry, so yes.

Indonesian, honestly have no experience.

But Hindi. Seems odd to be a priority.

Re:Learning is great (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43780587)

Every corporate senior person I've met from India - Director type level - not only speaks several Indian languages, but also has flawless English in terms of grammar and vocabulary

If you were dealing with workers on a factory floor, even skilled ones, your experience would be different

Re:Learning is great (1)

slash.jit (2893213) | about a year ago | (#43780629)

Why would Australians have to deal with factory workers in India? Besides Since English is becoming mainstream in India there are more chances that people in India would learn English than Australians learning Hindi.

Re:Learning is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780781)

Perhaps Australians would have to deal with Indians or other Asians who are not CEOs? Look at a map someday.

Re:Learning is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43782123)

Because there are business opportunities other than I.T. and finance that you're kicking away if you limit yourself to not dealing directly with "the plebes." India has an amazing untapped workforce, and there are a few advantages to not having to have a local middleman to manage all your crew in terms of overhead and accountability. (This is true of working in *any* country.)

Re:Learning is great (2)

fazig (2909523) | about a year ago | (#43780865)

Perhaps. But English already is an official, although not primary, language in India. You can assume that more and more people will most likely learn to speak English rather than to expect the rest of the world to learn their over 20 different native languages. Indians also shouldn't have a hard time to grasp English since their languages are still part of the Indo-European languages and share similarities.

In general: It will be a sad day for international communication when Chinese languages becomes the language of trade, English is fairly easy to learn and doesn't require a large vocabulary of speaker and listener to get their points across. The Chinese language on the other hand ... well, lets say it rises the barrier for communication on an entirely different level.

Re:Learning is great (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43780933)

Indians also shouldn't have a hard time to grasp English since their languages are still part of the Indo-European languages and share similarities.

Generally true of Northern Indian languages, though the Dravidian languages spoken in the South are more different to Hindi than Hindi is to English. Also some areas in the Himalayas speak languages closer to the languages of Tibet and Mayamar, which are completely different again.

Re:Learning is great (1)

fazig (2909523) | about a year ago | (#43781337)

Yes, they have like 22 native languages in India in total, not counting dialects, if I remember correctly. Having a common and easy to learn language does make sense.

From a technical viewpoint: In information technology we don't use the most complicated 'languages' to transmit messages, where errors are more likely to happen. For human communication Esperanto never gained enough popularity, so English is currently the best choice.

Re:Learning is great (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43781533)

Yes, they have like 22 native languages in India in total, not counting dialects, if I remember correctly. Having a common and easy to learn language does make sense. From a technical viewpoint: In information technology we don't use the most complicated 'languages' to transmit messages, where errors are more likely to happen. For human communication Esperanto never gained enough popularity, so English is currently the best choice.

I agree that English is currently the best choice because of popularity, but it certainly is not the simplest. Discounting invented languages like esperanto and creols like Tok Pisin, Afrikaans is probably the simplest language

Re:Learning is great (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43782027)

Discounting invented languages like esperanto and creols like Tok Pisin, Afrikaans is probably the simplest language

Huh, haven't you forgotten Riau Indonesian?

Re:Learning is great (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#43781973)

Yes, they have like 22 native languages in India in total, not counting dialects, if I remember correctly.

They have hundreds of languages in India. 22 is the number of them that are given a special status as historically and culturally important languages in the India constitution. But the others are as much dialects as English is a dialect of German.

Re:Learning is great (4, Informative)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#43780641)

Learning is surely great in all forms.

. . . plus by learning the language . . . you also learn the culture. And be able to understand it better. That makes real business sense.

Re:Learning is great (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#43780835)

You also learn what the client or supplier is discussing amongst themselves when they think you can't understand them. Often very useful in a business context.

Re:Learning is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780765)

I never got that myself, either.
Sure as a secondary priority language that people could take up, but as a primary, it seems a bit of an odd one.

Equally I am not sure on Indonesian myself. Wait, isn't that where a lot of electronics happen? Or am I thinking of somewhere else?

One thing I wonder about is why they don't create a general Languages class or curriculum that teaches multiple languages over a period.
Not just teaching the language itself, but teaching the theory and structures behind it in-depth and comparing multiple languages together to make learning other and similar languages just easier in general. A lot of languages share similar features, words, and general structures, especially ones geographically close to each other.
From what I can remember when I was learning French (horribly) in primary school, it started off as a branch from English, rather than teaching the methods behind it. Not sure if that was just because the terrible education system or if that is a common method, but it seems a bit backwards.
It is like teaching an equation without explaining it. It annoyed the hell out of me in maths and physics, and more so when "expanded" versions of equations got added in. Teach the damn full equation first and THEN do cases where you can remove some variables that aren't required. Probably never helped that I was years ahead of my physics class because I read up on it myself outside of school. I passed the class before I even entered the thing.

Re:Learning is great (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | about a year ago | (#43781089)

Indonesia is, militarily, of interest to Australia, has been for decades though I've never really understood why. I would imagine this to be a pretty big win for some of the 3 letter agencies if it and Chinese were to be made compulsory.

Re:Learning is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780797)

Please do the needful, and learn Hindi.

Re:Learning is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781701)

In 'Business English' would that not be 'execute the needful'?

Re:Learning is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780803)

I'm confused about why Chinese is a language. I assume they mean mandarin as thats most common, but "Chinese" is no more a language than "European".

Re:Learning is great (4, Informative)

Millennium (2451) | about a year ago | (#43781419)

Abram de Swaan identified a list of twelve "supercentral languages" that he believed serve as extremely common bridges among speakers of different languages in their native dialects. If one considers the region that people in English-speaking countries typically think of as "Asia," four of the supercentral languages are native to that region: Chinese (specifically Mandarin), Hindi, Malay (of which Indonesian is a dialect), and Japanese. This list was probably a strong factor when they were deciding which languages to use.

Geographically speaking, there are actually two other languages on the list that are native to the Asian continent: Arabic and Russian. I doubt, however, that the people drawing up these lists considered the regions these languages are from to be "real Asia." Make of that what you will.

(Incidentally, the other six languages are English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili).

Languages (1)

phorm (591458) | about a year ago | (#43781931)

While many of the Chinese business-people speak English, those in the internal labour market may not (at least not fluently). Eliminating the language barrier won't help too much though unless some of the walls against foreign ownership/participation in the Chinese market are dropped. Currently it's often still quite hard to interact without a middle-man.

Indonesian is apparently the biggest economy on SE-Asia, or at least according to wikipedia [wikipedia.org], so that may make sense as well. It's also fairly close to Australia.

Japanese. Well they're not the tech poster-child anymore but I wouldn't count them out yet.

Korean. Supplanting Japan in many of the tech areas, with companies such as LG, Samsung, etc.

Hindi seems to be the dominant language [wikipedia.org] in India (again according to WP), so maybe it's a similar case to China where knowing the language may allow one to bypass the middle-man. I'd say in those cases that knowing the culture is probably just as important as the language, however.

Re:Learning is great (0)

ultranova (717540) | about a year ago | (#43781959)

Learning is surely great in all forms.

Which is why no one should leave school without being able to solve quantum mechanical wave functions. They are, after all, about as useful to an average person as a language they never really learned and thus won't use. And no more of a nightmare being force-fed than languages are to not linquistically oriented.

Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot: it's no shame being bad at math but being bad at languages is due to laziness.

Chinese, for dealing with anyone outside the BPO / ITO / major trade companies: government, state owned and specialists yes.

And this is another thing: it's simply foolish to conduct business on you business partner's native language if it's foreign to you, since it puts you at a disadvantage. Use an interpreter rather than risk the distraction.

Re:Learning is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43782303)

things in Japan tend to happen in Japanese despite the speaker's English ability

This is an interesting use of "despite" - Japanese, as a rule, speak abysmal English. See e.g. page 6 of 2012 TOEFL scores [ets.org]

A good idea (2)

Camembert (2891457) | about a year ago | (#43780583)

I currently live in South East Asia (born European), and the economic dynamism is remarkable. It is a good idea to prepare young people to "the century of Asia". I wish that I had started learning Mandarin and Japanese earlier in life.

Re:A good idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780747)

I currently live in South East Asia (born European), and the economic dynamism is remarkable. It is a good idea to prepare young people to "the century of Asia". I wish that I had started learning Mandarin and Japanese earlier in life.

Things can change fast. Back in the 80s, Japan looked unstoppable and we NEEDED to learn Japanese - and here they are now.

South America may get their shit together in terms of World trade and their own economic dynamism - Brazil is on its way, IMHO. Their all not down there protesting, fighting, producing drugs, etc .... And if they do, we'll be seeing this rush to learn Spanish.

I think the opportunities for Western foreigners in Asia are gone. The opportunities were in the late 90s early 00s.

Then again, who really knows what the future will bring.

Re:A good idea (0)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#43780911)

YM Portuguese?

(Not saying that Spanish isn't useful; there seem to be Spanish-speakers everywhere, and it's still growing. Better yet, it's a good starting point for learning any Romance language (including French and Portuguese), and it's one of the easiest languages to learn for native English speakers).

This is an American site, so maybe a lot of Americans think "wetbacks and coolie labor" when thinking Spanish and are prejudiced accordingly.

Uh oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780621)

This is going to break the hearts of all the American talk radio listeners who have threatened to pull up and move to Austrailia to get away from "big government".

I can tell you they don't want to learn friggin' Chinese! (not "Chinese", "friggin Chinese").

Re:Uh oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780771)

I doubt it, Mr. Bigot.

The Chinese school my daughter attends is full of "American talk radio listeners." And Jim Rogers, who did move to Singapore to "get away from big government" constantly tells everyone to teach their kids Mandarin.

Re:Uh oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780987)

Because Mandarin is the language of small, enlightened government?

Re:Uh oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781431)

The government of Singapore (where Jim Rogers lives) is *RELATIVELY* small and enlightened. Note the emphasis on RELATIVELY.

Re:Uh oh (0, Flamebait)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#43780943)

All the libertoons I know think Australia is a police state. And spending any length of time in the UK or the US will convince you of that.

Libertoons are a whiny, irrational lot anyway. Moving from the US to Australia to escape "teh gubmint" is like jumping out of the frypan and into the fire. Something your typical rightwing libertoon fuckknuckle would be too stupid not to do.

Political correctness... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780665)

...strikes again!

Takes a long time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780687)

Language learning is hard. I have enthusiastically studied quite many languages for many years but managed to reach a fluency only in one or two foreign languages. For example, I studied Swedish in school almost daily for 6 1/2 years and can't follow a TV program that is in Swedish.

If you make language learning a priority, understand that you will need 10 years of active study to reach a usable level even when you have the inclination.

(Yes, English is one of those foreign languages.)

Nice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780695)

Kinda like how we good european citizens were busy learning German in 1943 as a result of the 'staggering growth' in the region, right?

Re:Nice. (2)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#43780995)

Agreed. The language du jour is just that -- a fad.

When I was going through school in Australia (and experiencing it's utterly stupid and incoherent foreign-language system), the fad went from French and German, to Japanese, to Indonesian to Chinese. Education types have just as many dumb, pointless industry fads as IT.

Pick one useful language and stick with it. And try and have the system reformed to support that.

Meanwhile in Quebec... (1)

Predathar (658076) | about a year ago | (#43780785)

The government is trying to eradicate everything English and have everyone just talk French. The optimist in me says Quebec should learn from this, but the realist in me knows they won't. Pretty bad when children can't use any language but French during recess and during their lunch breaks, we have language cops going around offices making sure microwave buttons are in French and that Italian pasta names are in French, can't have people ordering RIGATONI now can we....

Re:Meanwhile in Quebec... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781079)

eradicate everything English

Which is why the government also wants to introduce english courses to french kids from kindergarden and up. English destruction? Please. Get your facts corrrect, stop reading the Gazette, and have a look on the other side. It might change you.

Re:Meanwhile in Quebec... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781265)

you must be laying it a bit thick, but...

The funny thing is that it's quite difficult - and sometimes altogether impossible - to communicate in French with Canadians.

I recall a great moment of solitude in Montreal when, after introducing myself to a hotel manager and asking for my reservation, he answered. I didnt catch a word, was awfully embarassed, cause I did not dare ask him to switch to English and was quite sure I would not understand much more if he repeated in what he thought was French.

One of the languages isn't a language. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780877)

Of the 4 priority languages Chinese, Hindi, Japanese and Indonesian only 3 are actual languages.

"Chinese" does not exist as a language. Many languages are spoken within China*, the big two being Mandarin and Cantonese, with a host of smaller languages appearing in different areas. Now I assume they mean mandarin as that is the most common language within china, especially the richer areas, but saying "Chinese" is a priority makes no more sense than saying we should teach our kids "European".

*While there are many spoken languages interestingly the majority share the same written language. It's not uncommon for people from different area's to be able to pass notes to each other but not talk.

Re:One of the languages isn't a language. (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#43782169)

While you're being pedantic, you could say the same about Indonesian. Clearly they mean the North Sumatra dialect of Malay that is the official language of Indonesia, rather than one of the 700 or so other languages that are spoken in Indonesia.

English... (3, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about a year ago | (#43780951)

Interestingly, throughout Asia English is taught in schools. In Taiwan it's become a mandatory part of the curriculum, and that may also be the case elsewhere. When it's not, many parents go out of their ways to get their kids to learn the language.

In the US, however, a second language seems to be selected based on whatever the prevailing language spoken by the dominant ethnic group in the area. And that's assuming they offer a second language at all. More often than not the language ends up being Spanish, which all too frequently becomes more of a service to ESL students than value to anyone else.

I find that to be a persistent problem with the American educational system, there's no goal and thinking is often too insular. The difference between systems is that overseas they're trying to make people competitive internationally but still expecting their citizens speak the official language. Meanwhile, Americans, instead of stressing the importance of English for success keep making accommodations for non-speakers.

I suppose someday the US might become a Spanish speaking nation, and that's totally fine. But we're far from that reality and currently Asian nations are economically dominant and on the rise. Of course, it's not feasible to keep switching languages every time some new nation rises in influence, which is why we've got English as the standard and why everyone continues to learn that.

Re:English... (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about a year ago | (#43781425)

I suppose someday the US might become a Spanish speaking nation, and that's totally fine.

Become? It has been for over a century and a half. And yet, despite it being "fine", you were just whining about it.

Re:English... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781483)

I find that to be a persistent problem with the American educational system, there's no goal and thinking is often too insular. The difference between systems is that overseas they're trying to make people competitive internationally but still expecting their citizens speak the official language. Meanwhile, Americans, instead of stressing the importance of English for success keep making accommodations for non-speakers.

Knowing other languages does not mean you have to use them as the primary language. Language policies are better for taking care of problems than incompetency.

Re:English... (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#43781567)

And that's assuming they offer a second language at all. More often than not the language ends up being Spanish, which all too frequently becomes more of a service to ESL students than value to anyone else.

First - I appreciate the value of knowing a second language. I don't mean this as a "speak English or die" rant...

But learning a second language while living in the US counts as a complete and utter waste of time. If you don't use a language, you lose it, simple as that - Personally, I took seven years of French in school, starting from a young age (2nd grade), and I can just barely read it, painfully slow. Despite having wasted somewhere on the order of thousands of hours of instructional time cramming that language into my head, I have very nearly no ability whatsoever to carry on a conversation with someone who only speaks French.

Now, if you live in an area (even in the US) that has a large Spanish-speaking population - Perhaps you can use it enough that it will "stick". If you live in Europe, where they have multiple languages spoken regularly, a second or even third language makes functional sense. If you live somewhere that doesn't speak English (and again, I don't mean this as a pro-English screed), it makes sense to learn English as a second language, as the lingua Franca of international business (and yes, I appreciate the irony of that phrase).

Australia will have the exact same problem we have in the US. They can mandate kids pass a proficiency test, but three years after highschool, it will have made no difference in the number of languages known.

Re:English... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781797)

They can mandate kids pass a proficiency test, but three years after highschool, it will have made no difference in the number of languages known.

Neither will anything else, so let's just eliminate all educational requirements except the most minimal.

Re:English... (4, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about a year ago | (#43781901)

They can mandate kids pass a proficiency test, but three years after highschool, it will have made no difference

So, it is just like biology and physics and math beyond first year algebra.

The point is it does make a difference, for they are better for having learned it, because basic concepts aren't forgotten and they will be that much less ignorant (and provincial), and some of the kids will make use of what they learn, thus advancing their country's interests in international trade.

Re:English... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43782213)

I learned Spanish in junior high, and I've used it at work every day since 1999.

Re:English... (2)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about a year ago | (#43781631)

I suppose someday the US might become a Spanish speaking nation, and that's totally fine. But we're far from that reality and currently Asian nations are economically dominant and on the rise. Of course, it's not feasible to keep switching languages every time some new nation rises in influence, which is why we've got English as the standard and why everyone continues to learn that.

One of the really great things going for Spanish is that to native speakers of a Western European language like English, Spanish is very easy to learn. Spelling is phonetic. Grammar is essentially simple with the possible exception of reflexive verbs, but those are easy enough to learn. That's in no way a criticism of Spanish to call it "easy to learn". In fact, I'd argue that it's a great strength. One of the reasons that English became a world language is that while there are complicated aspects (strange spelling, incredible number of verb tenses), on the whole it's a fairly simple language (ie. plurals are usually simple, there's no grammatical gender).

The Asian languages are pretty strange for speakers of European languages. The various Chinese "dialects" (that's how they see them rather than as different languages) are tonal, which creates its own set of problems for speakers who don't speak tonal languages. Chinese grammar is for the most part very simple, although measure words can be difficult for some people and the strange "topic-comment" word order is quite a bit different from English in particular. Japanese and Korean mercifully don't have tones, but they instead have rather complicated grammars, with Japanese being the worse. They also use "topic-comment" word order. My experience is that grammar in all of the English speaking countries is abysmally bad in the educational systems and I just don't know how realistic it is to expect kids who don't even know or understand the grammar of their native language to successfully grasp languages that require complicated grammar rules. Pick your poison - tones or grammar. I don't know anything about Hindi, but as it's an old language I'd expect that very likely it's got quite complicated grammar too. Australian English is rather infamous for its incomprehensible slang (Strine) so I wish them a lot of luck. I'm not going to be surprised at all if this program fails. We can't even graduate Americans with a correct understanding of English (you'd be shocked at how many students seriously believe that "prolly" is a real word) and based on what I'm seeing in posts on the internet in various forums, I don't think the Aussies are doing any better.

Re:English... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781903)

Japanese and Korean mercifully don't have tones, but they instead have rather complicated grammars, with Japanese being the worse.

The Japanese language does have tone accents which do distinguish meanings. Although context will sort things out in all but extreme cases, improper tone is one of the primary markers of a non-native speaker. Perhaps Japanese grammar is complicated compared with Chinese or Korean (I wouldn't know) it is certainly far more regular (ie easier) than European languages (like English.) Now the writing system on the other hand...

All in all, it probably takes the same amount of effort to learn either eg English or Japanese as a second-language.

Opposite experince (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year ago | (#43781847)

In the US, however, a second language seems to be selected based on whatever the prevailing language spoken by the dominant ethnic group in the area. And that's assuming they offer a second language at all. More often than not the language ends up being Spanish, which all too frequently becomes more of a service to ESL students than value to anyone else.

I've noticed the exact opposite during my education. I live in Georgia, and we have a lot of Spanish speakers in my general area. Of course my middle school offered only French and Spanish (I chose French). My high school offered French, Spanish, Latin, and German (I did one year of French and 3 of Latin). I went to college in rural, middle of nowhere North Carolina, and my university offered French, Spanish, Biblical Greek (it was a baptist university) German (which I took for 2 years) and, my senior year, Arabic (which I also took). Did graduate school back in Atlanta where I took more Arabic, and as it was a large, state university they had all manner of languages one could take. I am of the opinion that most students learn Spanish because it is considered the easier of the languages. But, just like with any other subject, the opportunities to learn something new are out there, you just have to want to learn.

This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43780969)

When I was at school, the choices were Japanese or Indonesia.

Indonesian, why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781385)

I knew a few aussies who learnt Indonesian as a second language during high school back in the 90s. It was probably offered because they're a large neighbouring country that we have a good relationship with. That was all the reasons I could think of. Perhaps the government thought there might be future economic prospect, so best to give some students a head start. But I suspect it pales in comparison to Australia's dealings with the wealthier asian countries eg. China/Japan/Korea/Thailand.

We get a fair bit of students from Indonesia studying abroad. From observation they're not as large as a community as say the Chinese/Indians students, and even then quite a lot of them are actually Chinese-Indonesian.

This is the Victoria's state government brochure on why we should learn Indonesian:

http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/teachlearn/student/whylearnindonesian.pdf

Indonesian language skills can open doors to a
wide range of employment opportunities in areas
of government, education, business, tourism, travel,
translating and interpreting, the military, medicine,
law, engineering and journalism.
South-east Asia has undergone enormous change
over the past thirty years and as Australia’s nearest
Asian neighbour Indonesia is a fascinating and
affordable country in which to travel, study or work.
It is interesting to know that Indonesian and
Malaysian are a little easier for English speakers to
learn than some other Asian languages. They use
the Latin script and are non-tonal languages so
English speakers can pick them up quickly.

On top of these advantages
Australia has a growing
Indonesian community,
including more than 35,000
Indonesian and Malaysian students
attending Australian schools and universities.
So students of Indonesian will never have any
difficulty finding someone to practise with.

Pretty generic reasons. They mention Malaysian because they share similiar language.

Real Reason Why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781801)

It's exactly why Spanish is now a major component of US schools and many of our signs and government docs are available in it. While we are getting tons of immigrants from Mexico, they are getting lots by boat from countries that speak those languages.

Asian Language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43781963)

So now they're teaching Urdu and Hindi.

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