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Why English and Other or Foreign Language Learning is Good for Australia

‘English is quite something, even if it’s not enoughCHAMPIONS of language education will be more convincing if they admit the advantages that English brings as a global lingua franca, says scholar Kent Anderson.

He said there was “a cadre of elite trans-Asian operators” – captains of industry, vice-chancellors or sportspeople – who got by perfectly well in English.

“(It’s true that) English is an important and powerful language, and that Australians as predominantly native speakers are better positioned than those who have no English ability.”

Professor Anderson, who used to be head of Asian languages at the Australian National University, said that he like other language academics was inclined to “roll his eyes” in disbelief when hearing the mono linguist argument that global English made language learning redundant.

This was a familiar critique of the government’s Asian Century white paper, with one newspaper columnist producing the trump card that “even in the Eurovision contest, English songs have overwhelmingly turned out the winner”.’

Would agree other languages are not just ignored but disparaged in Australia, even if one does not learn to speak another language fluently e.g. low pre intermediate level, the advantages include ability to communicate outside of your comfort zone, improves understanding of one’s own native language e.g. grammar, cross cultural communication and increased lateral or creative thinking.

Since the Howard years there has been an ideological battle going on whereby non traditional (non Anglo, Celtic or white?) Australian phenomena have had negative connotations attached through concerted efforts of mainstream media, society and politicians.  

This includes emphasis upon English language skills (as opposed to “foreign” or “Asian” languages) from those who have expertise in neither linguistics nor communication such as Dr. Bob Birrell of Monash University’s CPUR.  

This is no surprise as through his links to John Tanton (The Social Contract Press) in the USA, “English” is used to campaign politically.  Tanton founded one of his many anti immigration organisations on the basis of English language skills, U.S. English (to discourage other languages and bilingual education, especially Spanish).

If Australians need to convinced of the advantages of other languages you need only see younger EU generations who have taken languages on board to take advantage of education and work mobility in the EU.

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