The SMH and the Courier Mail are both discussing the teaching of language in the National Curriculum.

There are three issues that seem to be important in these articles:

– When should children start learning foreign languages?

– How long should they be spending on them?

– Which languages should they be learning?

Certainly the last of these is something that almost anyone will have an opinion on. The National Curriculum suggests Chinese and Italian as the languages to be developed first with a national curriculum (rather than the independent ones already taught).

Notably, neither Auslan nor indigenous languages have been signaled as a priority.

As far as when and how much? Studies suggest that you can’t start too early, but there’s probably a practical limit within a school environment. In many foreign countries they start learning English at about the third year of schooling.

How much? As much as I would like to emphasise language teaching in classrooms, I’m biased. Left up to me, children would learn four languages for 5 hours a day. Obviously, I’m wrong.

One of our resident indigenous language specialists will have his(her) own opinion on the role of indigenous language teaching in the National Curriculum.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey