“Mr Abbott's goals for Australia's linguistic future can be achieved only with the express support of state leaders, who must mandate the study of at least one language other than English for all students from Year 4/5 to Year 10.” And “The Leader of the Opposition's proposal to have 40% of Year 12 students learning a foreign language within a decade is seriously intelligent policy.” Fiona Mueller
More seriously unintelligent thinking from Tony Abbot?
Our children’s study time is limited. What they learn before they move out of the education system and into the rest of their lives is crucial. The most successful people are those who are comfortable with their own existence. We have a responsibility to shape the minds of the young when it is most plastic in a way which will enhance their chances of being at ease with their own existence. In other words, we must ensure that they have the necessary life-philosophy.
In the matter of language, John McCrone, author of The Ape that Spoke,has something of far more substance to say than has Tony Abbot:
We arrive in the world with the naked brain of an animal and through the moulding power of speech, we become equipped with the thought habits which make us human.
What makes us human! Contemplations at that level are seriously intelligent thinking.
Tony Abbot has studied Latin and Ancient Greek. An interesting and probably enjoyable mental exercise, but it did nothing to warn him against making bizarre statements regarding climate change and the national optic fibre rollout.
Besides being scientifically illiterate, why does Abbot place so much importance on acquiring a foreign tongue? It’s the global market place he sees where riches beckon. But the evolution of differing languages was never a barrier to the spread of ideas. In the 21st century, this has never been truer.
Setting the right priorities
In my final two years at school, the question as to what use was a BA majoring in a language going to be to anyone was occasionally asked. The stock answer was that it might lead to a career in the diplomatic service. The clear message was that learning a foreign language was not the means to the making of a living to aim for.
Today the focus is no longer on doing business with Britain. We are on the world stage and, if you can speak Chinese, a company which does business with China could use you.
However, in the bigger picture, I cannot see much urgency in learning Chinese or Japanese when public signage in China and Japan is becoming bilingual - with that second language being our native tongue. English is the first language of India’s middle class. Indonesia is doing what the rest of South East Asia has been doing for years - which is to use English as the language to do business in. So, why not just sit back and wait for the rest of the word to learn to speak the way we already can?
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