01 November 2012

Let the Negativity Begin!

It didn’t take long for the Moaning Minnies to pop up and say the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper will never work.
Opinions in the media are easy to find.
Here is a sample of  a collection of very dodgy language myths and falsehoods;
“..anyone over the age of 12, the intonations, grammar, sentence structures and colloquialisms of another language seem like an Everest to master.”
Many students really enjoy the challenge of learning another language. Learning a foreign language allows the development of higher order thinking skills.
Bilingualism and second language learning can be acquired at anytime in life. It has much more to do with motivation and perseverance rather than when you start learning.
Have a listen to this.  Your Fabulous Bilingual Brain! Radio National – All in the mind
“In the past, for English speakers, it's been relatively easy to learn a foreign language.”
There is no ‘easy’ way to learn a foreign language.  Otherwise those “Learn Language X in 10 minutes a day” books and audio would really work. Learning any foreign language has ‘swings and roundabouts’ in the cycle of learning.

“Business people who travel from Shanghai to Singapore, or from Tokyo to Taipei will tell you time and again that unless you're on the pointy end of trade, people in Asia won't want you to practise your dodgy local language skills on them: they want to practise their YouTube versions of English on you.”
So you are saying our “Business People” only speak dodgy foreign languages? I am sure they would be delighted to hear this.  Perhaps that is why a White Paper has been published so that we can educate our future “Business People” so that they can learn better than dodgy language skills.
Also explain why is it ok for an Asian business person to practice their English (apparently they only use YouTube to learn English) on our Business people? Yet we can not practice our foreign language skills with them.
“But Chinese and Japanese both use different alphabets and very subtle juxtaposition of symbols to create nuances in their written languages.”
  1. Chinese and Japanese both have a non-alphabetic scripts
  2. Chinese word order is quite strict (there is less flexibility with word order compared to English).
  3. Nuances in written language is not peculiar to Chinese and Japanese.  All languages have this.
“This subtlety also extends to the tonal nature of their pronunciation and vocabulary, where it's much easier to make mistakes than in the European languages.”
  • Japanese is not a tonal language.School
  • Hindi is not a tonal language.School
  • Indonesian is not a tonal language.School
  • Yes Chinese is a tonal language.Light bulb
So three out of four of the languages in the White Paper are not tonal languages.
“That is why high school students drop out of Asian languages - if offered - at a high rate. They're just too hard. ”
Too hard for you perhaps!
However, in my humble opinion the drop out rate has more to do with how the language is delivered or presented to out Ozzie students.  “If you build it they will come”, give our students an attractive, exciting and rich learning experiences in the language classroom and they succeed in language learning.

So now that I have dispelled all the farcical nonsense from this (in my humble opinion) very poorly written article. Which is full of broad language learning  generalisations and lacking in factual details.
Lost in translation - why Gillard's plan won't work
It would be nice if there was not such bias against a new idea (learn an Asian language in school) and that at least we could try it. Better than clinging to (and publishing) old out-dated myths about language learning.

I now have a crusade to go and find more of these badly written and false pieces of writing about LOTE and set the Ozzie world right.

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