Monday, 23 June 2014

The headline read something like

"all children should learn at least one language". I should hope so. If taken literally it would surely mean that all children learned to speak their mother tongue. I suspect, not having read the article, that it meant all children should learn at least one more language at school.
There has been an on going discussion about this in Australia. It cannot really be called a debate because the powers-that-be in successive governments - and thus Departments of Education - seem to have made up their collective minds that Asian languages will be taught. Not just any Asian languages of course but mostly Chinese and Japanese.
The argument is that we do business with China and Japan and we need people who can speak these languages. There may be some merit in this argument but I doubt it. Business is usually conducted in English because it will often involve people from more than two countries. English will be the common language. There is of course another argument - the one about good manners and not making the assumption that business will be conducted in English.
The problem with all of this is that it offers an excuse to ignore other languages, other Asian languages and other languages spoken in the community. It offers an excuse to ignore Spanish - spoken by many, many people. I would rather see children learn such languages than no second language at all.
I would also like to see children actually learn their first language. There was another piece in this morning's paper about a different language issue. It was quoting research which suggests some very young children have speech and language problems because they, even before they start school, have too much "screen time". Parents use electronic devices as baby-sitters and child-minders. Children get "hooked" from an early age. Recently the Senior Cat read an article about the amount of screen time some children in America have outside school hours. It was frightening when you consider that it is time which could have been spent in active play, face to face socialisation, creating things and reading books.
Do we need to change our attitudes towards screen time?

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