next year but he did really well at it and we think he should continue with it."
I can see an argument brewing here. I was talking to the father of the boy who lives opposite the Whirlwind and her father - or rather, he was talking to me.
His son is moving into the last two years of secondary schooling next year. He is a "nice kid" and has, so far, worked hard and well at school. He is always at or near the top of his year. He quite likes maths but likes English and French more. He does not like Chinese.
Up until the end of this year Chinese has been compulsory. Last year there were just eight boys in the year ahead of him who continued with Chinese - and five of them came from Chinese families. My nephews, who attended another school where Chinese was compulsory, also dropped it as soon as possible - although my youngest nephew was consistently top of the class.
He saw no point in continuing. After ten years he could not hold a simple conversation with the parents of his Chinese "best" friend. I think they spoke Hokkien but even if they had spoken standard Mandarin there would, he says, have been a problem.
This morning, oddly enough, there was a report in the paper about the low numbers continuing with an Asian language to the end of secondary school. It does not surprise me. Languages are time intensive to learn and languages like Chinese and Japanese tend to be even more time intensive.
Australian schools do not make provision for that. The expectation is that classroom time needs to be no more than it is for any other language - or maths or science. The teaching is often far from expert - and rarely from a native speaker of the language. All of those things have a negative impact.
There are also few opportunities to hear things like Japanese or Mandarin Chinese spoken in the community - and even less opportunity to attempt to engage in conversation. For all we are being told that Asian languages are important to our future the opportunities to use them while learning are very limited. It must make them appear irrelevant to young students.
I would like to see all students have the opportunity to learn a second language but I also believe that compelling them to learn one language over another is not necessarily going to bring about the desired outcomes.
In this case the boy in question wants to continue with French rather than Chinese. I hope his parents and his school allow him to do so.