Tuesday, 15 November 2016

There were "language learning apps"

yesterday. Today there are "inclusive apps". Tomorrow there will probably be something else.
These are for "pre-schoolers". The idea is that those not yet ready to go to school will learn a foreign language and know about racial discrimination.
Hold it right there. 
I have no objection to anyone learning a second language - or a third or a fourth. Learning early is also an excellent thing. I have known pre-school children who cope with two languages. My nephews did this. Their paternal grandmother did not speak a lot of English and she spoke Cypriot-Greek to them. If there had been an "app" around they might actually speak more Greek now. 
It would have been relevant to their circumstances. At school they were required to learn Chinese. The younger of my two nephews actually topped the class - although there was more than one boy in it who spoke Chinese at home. 
My nephew still dropped it at the first opportunity. It was time consuming. It wasn't relevant for him. "I probably would have continued if it had been Greek all the way," he once told me. Yes, he could have spoken Greek to other people.
And yes, there will be children who can speak "Chinese" to other people. I am assuming though that they are being taught standard Mandarin - and not all Chinese speakers here use that. Our neighbours are Chinese and they use Hokkien at home. There is almost no chance to use Japanese - another language which provides a pre-school app. They plan on bringing in Arabic - which variety please? Oh and Spanish - from where?
Then there is the program described today - to make children culturally and racially aware. If pre-school children are aware of cultural or racial differences in a negative way then it is because they have taken on the values of their parents. My experience of a wide range of pre-school children tells me that most children are blissfully unaware of the differences that are causing such things to be developed. My nephews have grown up with friends who are Indian, Chinese, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian and more. Their birthday parties were "United Nations" affairs - and so were those of their friends. Their school didn't consciously teach about cultural or racial differences. It was just expected that everyone would accept each other and get along. As they got older things were sometimes discussed - and then everyone got on with getting along.
We have been emphasising "difference" when perhaps what we need to do is say, "Look really, we are all the same. Sometimes we just say things and do things a little differently."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I live in a country town, and even here there are 20 to 30 nationalities represented in the school yard. We have close friends who were born Italian, Chinese and Filipino. Which language to we learn? The Latin I studied in high school helps me understand how languages work, but is no practical use to me, though for short periods of time I could have used all the above languages, along with German, Polish, Fijian ... so even if that Latin had been a more modern Italian, it would have been of limited use for just a handful of people.

We seem to cope with English, explaining some words to them, and they in turn try to translate from their native tongue into something we understand. We have had a lot of fun teaching one of them the intricacies of Aussie English!