Maggi Gunn / Academic
We learn to know and understand through language.
28 June 2023
Learning a language other than English is a gateway to another culture and provides opportunity to accept diversity, appreciate the traditions and history of another culture and become aware of place and perspective in a multilingual and globalised world. The Australian Curriculum recognises that learning a language provides a valuable opportunity for students to engage with the linguistic and cultural diversity of the world and has been developed so that learning a language in addition to English is a core component in education for every Australian student.
When St Andrew’s was established 20 years ago, Chinese was selected as the language to be taught from Prep, with the expanded option of Spanish as an elective from Year 7 later included. Over recent years, we have experienced a strong student preference for Spanish in Years 7, 8 and 9, and with a small number of students wanting to continue the study of a second language in the senior years, our capacity to run both Chinese and Spanish from Year 10 has been limited.
Earlier this year we conducted a review of languages to provide insight into the way forward for language at St Andrew’s and made the decision that one language, Spanish, will be offered as part of the timetabled curriculum from Prep from 2024. This move will allow us to deliver a higher quality language program at the College. Spanish is considered to be one of the most widely spoken first-languages in the world and also one of the easier languages to learn as an English speaker. Spanish does not require students to learn a completely new alphabet, has less emphasis on tone than some other languages and is often spelt phonetically which means less time learning different spelling rules and a better chance of achieving correct pronunciation. With the commencement of learning Spanish from Prep and sustained learning sequences through to the Secondary school when Spanish becomes an elective subject, we are hopeful that the consolidation to one language will support student success in mastery of communication in another language. It will also equip students with knowledge and skills for success in the more challenging senior phase of learning and ensure viability of student numbers interested in pursuing study of language in the senior year levels.
The Term 1 parent survey supported the value of studying a language for growing personal capacity, general cognitive benefit and as a component of a broad, liberal education while students indicated their interest in learning a language was largely motivated by developing the ability to communicate in another language and as preparation for world travel. Widely accepted benefits of learning another language include appreciation and understanding of other cultures, increased empathy for others, increase in short and long-term memory and recall capacity, improved problem-solving and decision-making and enhanced capability for divergent and creative thinking.
As our Prep to Year 7 students commence 2024 with an introduction to learning Spanish, we encourage parents to support and embrace the journey with encouragement, regular practice, patience, and celebrations of learning. As everyone can benefit from the neurological changes in the brain arising from learning another language, perhaps even practice and learn alongside your child at home!