The Australian education system has been relatively slow in comparison to other countries in recognizing the whole-of-life benefits of learning a second language. While High School students have had access to second language education for many years, it is only in recent times that this has extended into primary school. Unfortunately, one of the main issues in the lack of resources made available to second language studies is the perception that this part of a child’s education is dispensable in an already crowded curriculum. This is not backed up by the research which shows that a child’s understanding of their own language is enhanced by learning a foreign one.
The situation in the European Union is quite the opposite. European education policies advocate the learning of at least two foreign languages early in a child’s education. Grace Simpkins Personal Tutors understand this and make available foreign language studies in their tutoring programs for parents who supplement their children’s education with regular tutoring.
The European experience where there are multiple cultures and languages requires English to be taught, along with the native language, and one other which varies from country to country. It recognises that by learning languages other than the native tongue, students are exposed to other cultures from an early age through immersion in their customs, festivals, beliefs and values which happen naturally as a result of the study of the language.
Learning a second language also gives the young student a greater understanding and appreciation of their own language through making comparisons with another language and culture. Of course, learning a second language is not simply all about cultural understanding. Studies have shown that it also enhances the intellectual and educational development of students, including such essentials to success as reading readiness.
Technological developments in the last fifty years have created a “global village”, with increased interactions between countries and cultures that have previously been impossible to achieve.
The future economic health of the country will be increasingly dependent on a workforce with a broad range of skills, including the ability to speak a second language, allowing industry and commerce to keep up with developments in the rest of the world. For parents who wish to give their young children a head start, engaging a personal tutor to assist in the development of linguistic abilities is a positive step.
As governments begin to recognise the importance of maintaining second language studies as a compulsory part of the curriculum, more resources will be made available to schools and teachers. The future workforce needs this exposure to other languages to keep us competitive with the rest of the world.