So Much for the Asian Century: Loss of Language Programs at Australian Universities

The University of Canberra and Curtin University both recently announced that they would be cutting their language programs. At Canberra, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish will disappear while at Curtin, Japanese, Mandarin and a major in Asian Studies may be abandoned. These cuts are very unfortunate since it leaves these universities with no language classes or majors at all. It is also surprising considering the government’s push for a focus on Asian cultures and languages. Indonesian programs have also been closing in Australia, though luckily the programs at La Trobe and University of New South Wales have been saved (for now). The University of Western Sydney is keeping their Chinese and Japanese programs, but doing away with Arabic, Italian and Spanish.

Low enrollment is always the excuse for cutting programs, and universities claim that students can just take the classes at neighboring institutions and that it will actually strengthen those programs. Brisbane Universities Languages Alliance exists for this purpose and students enrolled at any of the three universities in Brisbane can take language classes at another and have the credits count toward their degree. The University of Canberra suggests that students simply take classes cross-institutionally at ANU, while students of Curtin can take language classes at the University of Western Australia. However, this rarely actually happens as David Hill points out and “it is a myth the closure of a language department at one university strengthens those of rivals.” It is much more likely that students will just stop taking language classes altogether. Trying to attend language classes at a different university (which most likely aren’t even required since no Australian university requires a foreign language for a BA) is too much of a hassle when factoring in the time for the commute and conflicting timetables among universities. Even students at my university who are based at the city campuses are less likely to travel 20-30 minutes to the humanities campus to take a foreign language.Open-Universities-Australia-OUA_large

Even though online class enrollments have been increasing, very few Australian universities offer language classes online. The University of New England is “the only [university] in Australia to offer a full programme of French by distance education.” My university offers first year Italian as an online course through Open Universities Australia, but you cannot obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Italian or any other language from OU. Perhaps if Australian universities invested in online education, enrollments would increase in certain subjects? With so many rural students and working students, I’m always surprised that distance education is not more of a priority in Australia.

Australian universities will be hit hard with a $2.8 billion cut next year in the most ridiculous decision ever made on education funding as the money will be used to pay for K-12 school reforms instead. Australian universities could save a lot of money by decreasing the astronomical pay of vice chancellors and putting their money towards academics instead of rugby. VCs should really be paid the same amount as casual staff so they know what it’s like to be overworked and underpaid rather than the opposite. Luckily most Australian universities do not have any involvement in sports teams so academics tends to be the focus, yet most of the money still goes to a few at the top rather than the teaching and research staff who do the most work for the university. Cutting language programs should be a last resort since universities are supposed to provide students with an “international and intercultural educational experience” but I suppose we can do that in English since all seven billion humans speak English natively and belong to the same Anglophone culture, right?

iTunes U Materials and MOOCs Available in Languages Other than English

I recently noticed that iTunes U now lets you browse the courses by language. Finally! Previously you had to go to the list of universities and look for a certain institution, which may or may not have had any real content. Now you can simply select Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Catalan, Portuguese, Korean […]

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South Australia Travel Videos in French

Want to see how beautiful South Australia is and learn some French at the same time? The French-language travel site MonNuage.fr has a few videos of South Australia, including Adelaide, Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island. Here’s the one on Adelaide: South Australia is also called Australie Méridionale but that’s much harder to pronounce, so let’s […]

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New French Listening Resources Videos with Transcripts

The latest French Listening Resources video has been uploaded! This short clip is for beginners talking about family members and their ages. If you need the transcript, check out the Watch & Read page. There are seven more videos from Carole & Fabien on topics such as the house, typical meals, stores & fast food restaurants […]

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Readlang + Podclub = My Latest Language Learning Obsession

Readlang by Steve Ridout is a new site (still in beta) which helps you learn foreign languages by reading and translating words you don’t know. You simply import text from any website, click on words you don’t know in order to translate them into another language, and save these words so you can review them […]

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Upgrades and Updates on ielanguages.com: Let me know what to work on next

First, I apologize if you had trouble accessing ielanguages.com the past week. My hosting company decided to throttle traffic and deny access from several IPs because of heavy usage while I was away last weekend. I have just upgraded to a Virtual Private Server so that hopefully won’t be a problem anymore. Everything should be […]

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Holiday Weekend in Gold Coast, Queensland

I flew up to Gold Coast last Wednesday to meet up with one of my oldest friends from Michigan. Jessica just finished her postdoc in Melbourne and is moving back to the US tomorrow, so this was our last trip together in Australia. Most people head to the GC either for the beaches or the […]

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Free Children’s Books Apps in Foreign Languages (Text + Audio)

There are a lot of free language apps available nowadays but many of them are not very good or extensive. They tend to include some basic words or tourist phrases in flashcard format, but very few offer connected text (such as stories) in addition to pronunciation. Lately I’ve been looking for apps that include both […]

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Conferences for Applied Linguistics, CALL, Language Teaching & Learning and French

If you’re interested in attending or presenting at conferences on applied linguistics, computer-assisted language learning, modern/foreign languages or French studies, here are some upcoming conferences. You still have time to submit abstracts for some of them. I plan on being in Wellington this November for the ALAA/ALANZ conference and Brisbane next August for the AILA […]

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Dora will help you learn half a dozen languages

I often buy DVDs from the European Amazon stores to ensure that I will have a choice of at least one or two other subtitled/dubbed languages besides the original language. I’m not sure how, but I came across Dora the Explorer DVDs at the German Amazon and noticed that they offered FIVE languages, or at […]

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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