Posts Tagged ‘Bilingual Schools’

Australia gets set to launch bilingual schools

November 15, 2009

In what I believe is a fantastic initiative from the government, four schools in New South Wales have been set to launch a new bilingual program. Starting initially in kindergarten and grade one, with hopes to spread across all year levels, young students will be exposed to Mandarin Chinese at a very early age. It is believed that the earlier a child is exposed to another language, the greater chance they have of soaking it in and truly becoming bilingual.

The students will initially be taught Chinese for an hour and a half per day, and along with English, will also coincide with other subjects such as history and art. The project is estimated at costing around $2.25 million dollars, and in my opinion, is a great step forward.

Too few Australians are fluent in a second language. If you look at your average European, they can know anything from 2+ additional languages. I guess it’s the result of living on the other side of the planet from approximately everywhere else, but it really is no excuse. Australians are one of the most traveled cultures out there, and having access to a second language would be nothing short of beneficial.

I myself have been struggling to learn Mandarin. Grammatically it is a simple language with far fewer actual words and a vastly more simplistic structure, though the tonal nature and almost inverted* (*compared to English) sentence structure makes it incredibly hard to understand. I have a real desire and interest to become fluent in Mandarin, but whether that actually happens or not is yet to be seen – made all the more difficult that over here I feel silly using even basic Chinese in Chinese run restaurants for fear of looking stupid. At least in China it was used out of necessity – which makes me think that you truly do need to live in a country for a certain amount of time to really master its language.

While I studied French for over 3 years in school, I can barely remember any of it, and it was started in my later student years. I would have liked nothing more than to have been exposed to another language from such an early age that the whole process didn’t feel so difficult to initiate as it now does. Though a French friend of a friend we were recently speaking to at a party got me thinking when he said that anyone has the capacity to learn another language, they just need to commit themselves – himself being a speaker of a good handful of languages themselves.

I often look at Chinese toddlers as they prattle away in Mandarin and think, hell, if that little kid can speak it, how can I not learn at least that much?!

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