Which languages should children learn?

| June 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

Warren Midgley, associate professor of applied linguistics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, has been investigating which of the world’s 7 009 languages – excluding English – children should be learning to succeed.

Midgley points out that there are several ways to look to at the issue. If parents want their children to be socially comfortable wherever they are in the world, they might consider the three most commonly spoken languages: Mandarin (898 million speakers), Spanish (437 million speakers) and Arabic (295 million speakers).

If parents want their children to get ahead in business, they may want to learn Hindi, Indonesian and/or Malaysian as India, Indonesia and Malaysia are now widely considered to be the top three emerging global economies.

Midgley’s research looks at which languages are being taught in Australian schools. The most commonly studied second language is Japanese, a trend that started in the 1970s. Chinese (Mandarin) and French are popular second or third language choices.

In many cases in Australian schools, school boards and management teams decide on language policies for their institutions. Such decisions are likely to be heavily influenced by parent opinion and immediate access to appropriately trained teachers. In other parts of the country, schools have formed partnerships to collectively recruit elderly migrant language tutors. Such valuable cultural interchanges enjoy great success. Australia has yet to try out the US model of digital (video) peer tutoring: each student is a fluent speaker of the language the other is trying to learn.

 

Category: Winter 2017

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