Why is Australia ahead in language-learning?

VISION! This is so important. And vision doesn’t just happen. Strong leadership is critical. Which is why I’m pretty impressed with what Australia is doing. Our mates held the Australia 2020 Summit over the weekend.

The Summit brought together community leaders, business people and ordinary folk, to talk about the best ideas for building a modern Australia ready for the challenges of the 21st century.

What’s most impressive from a language-learning perspective is that delegates to the national security and future prosperity stream called for a radical ramping up of language skills. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith declared the goal “a most important thing”.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd“We have to make Australia’s understanding of Asian literacy and Asian culture almost second nature to us,” Mr Smith said.

“This is a most important thing we can do, not just from an international relations point of view but also from our young schoolchildren’s point of view.”

I suppose anyone who has heard Kevin Rudd speak in Mandarin would not be surprised at Australia’s stance. I was totally impressed when I first caught a youtube clip of Kevin Rudd’s speech at Beijing University. He even managed a joke in Mandarin.

And for those of you who understand Mandarin, check this out:

Kevin Rudd talking about himself in Mandarin

Australia’s 2020 vision for languages is inspiring. They would like to see every student in Australia learning a foreign language within 12 years. For a group of people with disparate interests to arrive at a goal like this is pretty remarkable: “to ensure that the major languages and cultures of our region are no longer foreign to Australians but are familiar and mainstreamed into Australian society”.

Now, if anyone wants to sign up for a foreign language class, we have classes starting next week!

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About The Author

Kenneth is Director of Euroasia. He is passionate about languages and cultures.

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