A Weekend on Kangaroo Island, South Australia

By   February 1, 2013

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island and definitely worth a visit for the beautiful beaches and adorable wildlife. Although I’ve been to many beaches in Australia already, every new one I see is just as gorgeous as the last one. KI did not disappoint.

Pennington Bay

Pennington Bay

The first view upon getting off the ferry in Penneshaw:

Clear water

Clear water

Sadly, I did not see any (live) kangaroos on the island, but I did see plenty of sea lions, wallabies, echidnas, goannas and koalas.


Sleepy sea lion at Seal Bay

My friend and I drove down for the weekend (it’s only a 1.5 hour drive from Adelaide, plus a 45 minute ferry) so we weren’t able to visit all of the towns and attractions. We mostly did the southern coast along the highway (the only paved road) since riding in my little car probably wouldn’t have been too comfortable in the north, where almost all of the roads are gravel. The major tourist attractions are mostly along the southern coast too.

Remarkable Rocks

Remarkable Rocks

Weirs Cove

Weirs Cove

You can also fly to Kingscote from Adelaide and rent a car (there are no taxis or public transportation on the island) instead of driving. There are some bus tours that depart from Adelaide but the one day tour sounds extremely exhausting, so I would highly recommend driving and staying for a few nights. Just try not to drive after dark when the animals come out!

Watch out for wildlife on the roads

Watch out for wildlife on the roads

Check out the Kangaroo Island album in the Gallery for more photos.

Making audio on ielanguages.com iPad and tablet-friendly

By   January 17, 2013

I am currently updating the mp3 players on the many, many pages across ielanguages.com so that they will work on Apple products or any other tablets that do not support flash. Hopefully most browsers will be able to play the audio files from now on as I am using the HTML5 audio tag with both mp3 and ogg files in addition to the original flash player.


If you use an iPad or other tablet to view ielanguages.com and to listen to the mp3s, please let me know which pages you need updated first. I have already updated the French Listening Resources pages (listen & read plus cloze exercises) as well as the French Phonetics pages, including the Hot Potatoes interactive exercises, thanks to user requests. As there are hundreds of pages across the site that use the flash player, it will take some time for me to replace the coding and ensure that everything is working correctly.

Amazon or Similar Stores with International Shipping for Foreign Language DVDs

By   January 8, 2013

If you’re looking for DVDs of movies or TV shows in European languages with the subtitles in that language, you’ll most likely have to look to European stores. Even though you  can often buy foreign movies from Amazon.com or Fishpond.com.au, the subtitles will usually be in English only or there will be a weird combination of dubbing and subtitles in mismatched languages (e.g. a French movie dubbed in Spanish with subtitles in English and German, why???) Not all foreign DVDs include subtitles unfortunately, but a lot of countries are starting to be kinder to the deaf population and are making an effort to include them. Just make sure to check the DVD specs before you buy.

Amazon currently has French, German, Italian and Spanish stores based in Europe that offer international shipping; however, the DVDs are region 2 so you’ll need a region-free DVD player. Luckily most DVD players in Australia are region-free (even my cheap $29 one I got at Kmart), but it’s still not a standard feature on American DVD players. There is also a Dutch store called bol.com that sells books and DVDs though there is a rumor that Amazon might open a store based in the Netherlands soon.  If you’re in America and do not have a region-free player, you can still take advantage of the large Spanish-language DVD selection on Amazon.com and get French Canadian DVDs from Amazon.ca. For those in Australia who would like Mexican Spanish-language DVDs, Amazon.com ships to Australia for $5 per shipment + $5 per book or $1 per DVD with delivery taking anywhere between 18 and 32 business days.



Canadian French: Amazon.ca

to US: $8 per shipment + $2 per book or $8 per shipment + $2 per DVD (8 to 16 business days)

to Australia: $11 per shipment + $7 per book or $5 per shipment + $3 per DVD ( a whopping 10 to 12 WEEKS)


European French: Amazon.fr

to US: 7€ per shipment + 1,50€ per item (10 to 12 days)

to Australia: 10€ per shipment + 1,50€ per item (12 to 15 days)


German: Amazon.de

to US: 3€ per shipment + 3€ per kilo (8 to 12 business days)

to Australia: 9€ per shipment + 4€ per kilo (7 to 19 business days)


Dutch: Bol.com

to US: 17,35€ per shipment

to Australia: 19,80€ per shipment


Italian: Amazon.it

to US: 10€ per shipment + 5€ per kilo (10 to 15 days)

to Australia: 14€ per shipment + 5€ per kilo (12 to 15 days)


European Spanish: Amazon.es

to US: 10€ + 7€ per kilo (10 to 12 days)

to Australia: 20€ + 10€ per kilo (12 to 15 days)


There is also a Brazilian Kindle store if you want to read Portuguese. No word yet if this store will eventually sell actual books and DVDs.


Anyone know of other stores to add to the list?


All prices are for standard shipping. Expedited and priority are often available if you want to pay more.

Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language Learning

By   January 2, 2013

The Telenovela Method, as explained by Andrew, is a great way to learn languages quickly, which a recent study suggests actually helps your brain grow. The main reason I like this method is the authenticity of language and culture which is usually lacking from language learning resources. Finding subtitles to go along with the movies or TV series can be a problem though, especially with telenovelas.

Ugly Betty Adaptations in Spanish

The most famous telenovela and the original Ugly Betty, Yo soy Betty, la fea, was made in Colombia and you can watch all of the episodes (many with subtitles in Spanish and English) at viki.com. The European Spanish version, Yo soy Bea, also has a quite a few episodes on viki.com though not all have Spanish subtitles yet.

The Mexican version, La Fea Más Bella, is available on DVD through Amazon.com as a shortened/edited version with English subtitles only.

Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language Learning Mexican version of Ugly Betty

Mexican Telenovelas

If you are interested in using Mexican telenovelas to learn Spanish, I highly recommend Las Tontas No Van al Cielo. It is actually better than La Fea Más Bella, even funnier and much more addictive. The DVD available on Amazon.com is, of course, a shortened version of just over 15 hours but the editing was actually done quite well. There was only one storyline that I don’t remember seeing the end to, but everything else made sense.

Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language Learning Best telenovela ever.

The male lead is Jaime Camil, who was also the male lead in La Fea Más Bella. The female lead is Jacqueline Bracamontes… who also had a small role in La Fea Más Bella. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that the theme song, Esto es lo que soy, is sung by Jesse y Joy, my favorite Mexican band.

Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language LearningThis dude is hilarious.

If you prefer to have actual DVDs so you’re not stuck in front of a computer all the time, there are a lot of Mexican televenovelas sold on Amazon.com for less than $10 each. They will be the edited versions because the full versions that aired on TV are more than 100 hours long and that is a LOT of DVDs. They tend to only have English subtitles but their price is rather cheap for how many hours of Spanish you’ll get to hear. If you don’t mind using the computer, Andrew also has lists of sites for watching Spanish-language TV online as well as Spanish videos with Spanish subtitles.

Ugly Betty Adaptations in Languages Other than Spanish

For Portuguese, Brazil has Bela, a Feia and many clips can also be found on Youtube. There are no French or Italian versions, but Germany has Verliebt in Berlin and you can get the (many) DVDs which include every single episode on Amazon.de from third-party sellers (region 2 only though!).

There are two versions in Dutch, Sara from Flemish-speaking Belgium and Lotte from the Netherlands. A few clips from Sara can be found on VTM’s site and LotteTVChannel is still uploading all of the episodes of Lotte to Youtube. Plus Lars Oostveen is the male lead. You should recognize him as Sam Scott, a.k.a the American, from the Extr@ series. Now you get to hear him speak his native language.

Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language Learning

And he’s instantly ten times cuter when he speaks Dutch.

A few other adaptations of Ugly Betty exist in languages such as Greek, Croatian, Polish, Russian, Tagalog, Mandarin, etc. but I don’t think they’re available on DVD. Some clips may be available online though.

Update: Learn Spanish by Watching Telenovelas (with recommendations for more telenovelas to watch)

Quotes from The Loom of Language on Classroom Learning and the Direct Method

By   December 26, 2012

I started re-reading The Loom of Language by Frederick Bodmer while travelling around Australia a few weeks ago. I only made it through the Introduction when I realized I had already added nearly 20 bookmarks and notes on my Kindle. I love this book so much. Even though it was published in the 1940’s, it is still highly relevant to the state of foreign language education in Anglophone countries and it remains the best book for gaining comprehension of the major Romance and Germanic languages.



Here are some choice quotes on why this is my favorite book. Bodmer tears apart classroom language learning, grammarians and the direct method. I wish I could marry this man. (Interesting fact: Bodmer taught languages and linguistics at MIT when they were developing their Department of Modern Languages. Noam Chomsky was his replacement when he retired in 1955.)

“After two generations of experiment, educationists are not convinced that the results of school-teaching [of modern languages] justify the time devoted to them in English-speaking countries. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the prevailing attitude among American educationists is one of alarm at the poverty of return for effort put into the task. Subsidized by the Carnegie Corporation, the American Council of Education has undertaken a survey of methods and results in order to review the current situation in American schools. The published report is an honest admission of dismal failure.” p. 12 (This quote is actually in the editor’s foreword, by Lancelot Hogben.)

“…many would study [foreign languages], if they were not discouraged by the very poor results which years of study at school or in college produce.” p. 19

“The greatest impediment, common to most branches of school and university education, is the dead hand of Plato. We have not yet got away from education designed for the sons of gentlemen. Educational Platonism sacrifices realizable proficiency by encouraging the pursuit of unattainable perfection… Most of us could learn languages more easily is we could learn to forgive our own linguistic trespasses.” p. 19

“No one who wants to speak a foreign language like a native can rely upon this book or on any other.” p. 20

“It is a common belief that learning two languages calls for twice as much effort as learning one. This may be roughly true, if the two languages are not more alike than French and German, and if the beginner’s aim is to speak either like a native. If they belong to the same family, and if the beginner has a more modest end in view, it is not true. Many people will find that the effort spent on building up a small, workmanlike vocabulary and getting a grasp of essential grammatical peculiarities of four closely related languages is not much greater than the effort spent on getting an equivalent knowledge of one alone. The reason for this is obvious is we approach learning languages as a problem of applied biology. The ease with which we remember things depends on being able to associate one thing with another.” p. 21

“There is no reason why interesting facts about the way in which languages grow, the way in which people use them, the diseases from which they suffer, and the way in which other social habits and human relationships shape them, should not be accessible to use. There is no reason why we should not use knowledge of this sort to lighten the drudgery of assimilating disconnected information by sheer effort of memory and tedious repetition.” p 24

“Any one appalled by the amount of drudgery which learning a language supposedly entails can get some encouragement from two sources. One is that no expenditure on tuition can supply the stimulus you can get from spontaneous intercourse with a correspondent, if the latter is interested in what you have to say, and has something interesting to contribute to a discussion. The other is that unavoidable memory work is much less than most of us suppose; and it need not be dull, if we fortify our efforts by scientific curiosity about the relative defects and merits of the language we are studying, about its relation to other languages which people speak, and about the social agencies which have affected its growth or about circumstances which have moulded its character in the course of history.” p. 24

“One great obstacle to language-learning is that usual methods of instruction take no account of the fact that learning any language involves at least three kinds of skill as different as arithmetic, algebra and geometry. One if learning to read easily. One is learning to express oneself in speech or in writing. The third is being able to follow the course of ordinary conversation among people who use a language habitually… Whether it is best to concentrate on one to the exclusion of others in the initial stages of learning depends partly on the temperament of the beginner, and partly on the social circumstances which control opportunities for study or use.” p. 25

“Our knowledge of the words we use in expressing ourselves is not prompted by the situation, as our recognition of words on a printed page is helped by the context. Though the number of words and expressions we need is far fewer, we need to know them so thoroughly, that we can recall them without prompting.” p. 28

“The statistical method used in compiling word-lists given in the most modern text-books for teaching foreign languages evades the essence of our problem. If we want to get a speaking or writing equipment with the minimum of effort, fuss and bother, we need to know how to pick the assortment of words which suffice to convey the meaning of any plain statement.” p. 30

“The rules embodied in [Latin and Greek] conjugations and declensions tell you much you need to know in order to translate classical authors with the help of a dictionary. Grammarians who had spent their lives in learning them, and using them, carried over the same trick into the teaching of languages of a different type. They ransacked the literature of living languages to find examples of similarities which they could also arrange in systems of declensions and conjugations, and they did so without regard to whether we really need know them, or if so, in what circumstances… The effect of this was to burden the memory with an immense story of unnecessary luggage without furnishing rules which make the task of learning easier.” p. 37-8

“When sensible people began to see the absurdity of this system, still preserved in many grammar-books, there was a swing of the pendulum from the perfectionist to the nudist (or DIRECT) method of teaching a language by conversation and pictures, without any rules. The alleged justification for this is that children first learn to speak without any rules, and acquire grammar rules governing the home language, if at all, when they are word-perfect. This argument is based on several misconceptions… Since The Loom of Language is not a children’s book, there is no need to dwell on the ludicrous excesses of educational theorists who advocated the direct method* and fooled some teachers into taking it up. The most apparent reason for its vogue is that it exempts the teacher from having any intelligent understanding of the language which he or she is teaching.” p. 38 (Can I just say BURN!?!)

* The silliness of the direct method when tried out on adults was pointed out by Henry Sweet in 1899.

‘The fundamental objection, then, to the natural method is that it puts the adult into the position of an infant, which he is no longer capable of utilizing, and, at the same time, does not allow him to make use of his own special advantages. These advantages are, as we have seen, the power of analysis and generalization – in short, the power of using a grammar and a dictionary.’

The popular myth that it is more difficult for an adult than for a child to learn languages has been disproved by experimental research carried out by modern educationists. Much of the effort put into early education is defeated by the limitations of the child’s experience and interests. The ease with which we remember things depends largely on the ease with which we can link them up to things we know already. Since the adult’s experience of life and the adult’s vocabulary are necessarily more varied than those of the child, the mental equipment of the adult provides a far broader basis of association for fresh facts… Children learn their own language and a foreign one pari passu. The adult can capitalize the knowledge of his or her own language as a basis for learning a new one related to it.” p. 42

So… nothing has changed in seventy years. Learning languages in the traditional classroom with grammar books didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. People still believe the myth that children learn languages better than adults and that banning the native language will magically make students fluent in another language. It’s so frustrating as a linguist and language teacher to have to explain to people all. the. time. that neither one is true.

I’ve previously written about the use of the first language in the classroom and why I am also against the direct method. It is not supported by research in any way, which should be a good enough reason to not use it, but I still come across teachers who insist on banning the first language of the students. Research clearly shows that students need to use their first language in learning a second or third language, and in fact, that they cannot NOT use it. Helping students go between their native and second language and discovering the similarities and differences that can improve and increase the rate of acquisition is a much better “method.”

Also check out Language Learning Quotes from other resources if you’re interested in linguistic research on second language acquisition.

And can we bring back saying nudist method instead of direct method??

Australian Vacation / Holiday 2012

By   December 19, 2012

I recently returned from two weeks of travelling around Australia. A friend from Arizona, Michelle, came to Australia for the first time and we decided to visit all of the major tourist attractions. We went to Sydney and Melbourne, drove along the Great Ocean Road, enjoyed a few days at the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach, and finished at Ayers Rock Resort. Michelle also came back to Adelaide with me and we went to Cleland Wildlife Park so she could hold a koala (one of the few places in Australia where you can do that) and up to the Barossa Valley for a wine tour. Because of the large distances between all of these places, we had to fly everywhere but since flying in Australia is the opposite of flying in the US (i.e. it is actually a pleasant experience), we had no problems with our flights or baggage.

I met Michelle in Melbourne where I had rented a car so we (ok, I since Michelle had never driven on the left before) could drive along the Great Ocean Road. We actually did it in one day, which turned out to be nine hours of driving for me, but we made so many stops along the way that I was not tired at all. Plus the drive is incredibly beautiful and I was so excited to finally be doing it.



We also wandered around Melbourne in 100° heat (38°C) and watched the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. Then it was off to Airlie Beach where we did the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach tours with Cruise Whitsundays. I managed to not get sick on the boats, but even if you are prone to motion sickness, they are totally worth it!



Next we flew down to Sydney and luckily it was not as hot as in Melbourne. I don’t really like big cities but the big cities in Australia are different than those in Europe or the US. I can’t really explain it but they are just somehow better (like everything in Australia!)


The last destination was, of course, Ayers Rock – or Uluru, as it is called by the traditional owners of the land, the Anangu people. There are also other rocks in the national park, called The Olgas or Kata Tjuta, which are just as beautiful. A three day pass to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park only costs $25, but getting there and the price of accommodation can be a bit high.


We flew to the Ayers Rock airport instead of Alice Springs (“only” a five hour drive away) because we were staying at the Ayers Rock Resort next to the national park, which is the only place to stay since there is no camping inside the park. It is essentially its own little town, with a gas station, grocery store, post office, police station, etc. but what I loved most was hearing so many languages. Since Ayers Rock is the biggest tourist destination after Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef, there are more foreign tourists there than Australians. Australia is very multilingual and I often hear several languages in the big cities and even when I’m out shopping in the suburbs of Adelaide, but languages were everywhere at Ayers Rock! In addition to the wonderful dry heat of the desert (anything less than 95°F / 35° C and I’m chilly), it was paradise for me.


I’ve already uploaded my photos to the Gallery, and I’ll work on typing up some travel trips for anyone who is interested in going to the same places. But I do need to get back to working on that pesky thesis over Christmas break. If only I had the life of a kangaroo…



I’ve uploaded some videos of Ayers Rock, the Great Barrier Reef and Australian animals to my Youtube channel.

Extra Spanish, French and German Videos

By   November 25, 2012

A huge thank you to Andrew at howlearnspanish.com and commenter Robin who led me to the Spanish, French, and German Extra TV series. They were produced by Channel 4 in the UK and are aimed at teenagers learning languages, but any language learner should find them useful. Unlike language textbook videos where the speech is too slow and unrealistic, these Extra Spanish, French and German videos are actually fun to watch!


The characters do speak somewhat slowly but that’s part of the plot since there is an American character who is learning the language.  The 13 episodes and 4 main characters, as well as the actor* who plays the American, are the same for all three languages. The basic story is that two girls, Lola/Sacha/Sascha and Ana/Annie/Anna share an apartment in Barcelona/Paris/Berlin. They have a neighbor called Pablo/Nico/Nic, and an American, Sam, comes to stay with them. The episodes are about 95% in the target language since Sam says a few things in English. The scripts aren’t exact among the versions but they are extremely similar so once you’ve watched one language, it will help you figure out what’s going on in another language.

Personally I find the Spanish version the best, mostly because Pablo is hilarious, but the German version is good too. The French version doesn’t work quite as well, but that could just be because French is my strongest language. The series remind me of a 90’s sitcom, complete with laugh track and abandoned plot points, even though they were filmed between 2002 and 2004. And even when Sam the American says things like flatmate, on holiday, and the washing instead of roommate, on vacation, and the laundry, I find it cute rather than annoying.

bromancePlus the bromance between Pablo and Sam cracks me up.

There is also a version set in London with an Argentinian character learning English (Pablo from the Spanish series) that has 30 episodes. All of the episodes can be found on YouTube and all of the transcripts and exercises/activities can be found either at the channel 4 site or this German site (in .pdf or .doc format). Madame Thomas also has a Wiki with the Spanish videos cut into smaller segments.

 * The American is played by a Dutch actor who is actually fluent in Spanish, Italian and German. And English, obviously.

Open Lectures, Course Materials, MOOCs, iTunes U: The Internet is for Learning

By   November 16, 2012

MOOC (massive open online course) providers such as Coursera, Udacity and edX have been in the news and featured on blogs recently. The free exchange of knowledge and ideas is an exciting concept for those of us who love learning for the sake of learning. However, Udacity and edX don’t seem to have very many courses yet, and even though Coursera has quite a bit more content, none of these MOOC providers offer language courses. The focus always seems to be on technology, math and science – which is great because let’s face it, everybody need more science – but I’m a little sad that no one seems to think language courses are just as vital.

Even other open source educational sites such as Khan Academy or The Saylor Foundation, which  let you go through the material at your own pace rather than enrolling in a course that has a specific start and end date, currently offer no resources for learning languages. MIT OpenCourseWare does provide materials used in their language courses (some of which might be available on edX in the future), though some languages only have PDF files rather than multimedia content. Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative is another great open-source site, except there are only 15 courses available for free. French is the only language offered, but Arabic is in the works.

iTunes U still seems to be the best place to find free linguistics lectures and language learning materials. Hundreds of universities, colleges, and even some secondary schools offer resources. The Open University [iTunes link] is one of my favorites. Another great aspect of iTunes U is that resources from non-Anglophone universities are also available so you can listen to lectures in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Swedish, etc. (Some universities offer podcasts of their courses through their own websites rather than through iTunes, such as UC San Diego.)

If you’re interested in language learning/teaching research, two talks I recommend are:

UCLA, Wisconsin-Madison, Arizona and La Trobe seem to have the most linguistics lectures on a wide range of topics. Besides The Open University, these universities offer language learning materials:

  • Yale (French, German, Mandarin, Brazilian Portuguese) [iTunes link]
  • Glamorgan (French, Spanish, Italian, German, Welsh) [iTunes link]
  • Emory University (lots of lesser taught languages) [iTunes link]

Although it is not available via iTunes U, the Center for Open Education Resources and Language Learning at the University of Texas-Austin has several amazing resources for learning languages, most of which can be downloaded as podcasts via RSS or iTunes. I’m sure I’ve mentioned these before, but they are really well-done and COERLL is adding more languages and resources all the time. Most of these materials are meant to accompany the actual course rather than act as an online course, but independent learners can use them as well. Some of the resources include:

Australia in the Asian Century: Focus on Mandarin, Japanese, Indonesian and Hindi

By   October 30, 2012

The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper was just released on Sunday, and it contains 25 major goals for Australia, some of which pertain to language learning. Essentially, the paper states that every Australian student (in primary or secondary schools) will have the opportunity to learn one of the four priority Asian languages: Mandarin, Japanese, Indonesian and Hindi. In addition, all students will leave school with a knowledge of Asian cultures. You can read the White Paper at the government’s Asian Century site as well as a response to it by the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations. A few other articles include:

Gillard: Australia must embrace ‘Asian Century’

Questions over white paper implementation

Australia’s Asian Literacy in the Asian Century

That last article by William Steed pretty much sums up everything I have to say about this paper. I’m glad the government is actively promoting learning languages and using technology to do so (with the National Broadband Network), but this is mostly a continuation of what previous governments have been encouraging for years. The switch from a focus on Korean to Hindi is a tiny bit surprising, and will probably require the most work to implement. Of course I am most interested in where the teachers for these languages will come from. Many universities have already shut down Indonesian programs because of a lack of interest, so how are we supposed to train students to become language teachers if they can’t even learn languages at university? And as a speaker/teacher of a European language, I wonder what this means for other non-Asian languages.

My university currently offers classes in French, Italian and Japanese, though students can take other languages such as Mandarin, Spanish, German and Indonesian cross-institutionally. Japanese and French have the highest enrollments, and almost all of the students in my class said they chose French because it is a global language and would be more useful in their future careers. So while I am happy that the government encourages language learning, I feel that focusing on Asian languages only is not necessarily the way to go about it. There are many other languages spoken in Australia, and students have many reasons for learning foreign languages, which include living abroad. Not every student is going to stay and work in Australia. I had a similar feeling in the US where Spanish is promoted as THE language to learn, and sometimes it is the only language offered. I knew that I wanted to leave the US and that Spanish would not be as useful to me as French. If I had been forced to take Spanish classes instead of being offered a choice of which language to learn, I don’t think I would have had much motivation.

And indeed, the motivation to learn a language is probably the most important aspect of language acquisition. If you have no interest in a language or its culture, you will not learn very much or very well. Motivation often comes from an appreciation and/or love of the culture, not the actual language itself. Future career or travel goals are also major factors. I’ve actually switched from a focus on Italian and German to Spanish (oh how ironic!) and Dutch/Afrikaans because I plan to travel to places where those languages are spoken within the next few years. Although there are some Italian and German speakers here in South Australia, I have slightly less motivation to study those languages because I know I will not be returning to Europe anytime soon.

Obviously I did not grow up in Australia or go to school here, but from what I’ve heard from teenagers who are thinking about going to university, languages are not valued or encouraged enough in the school system. Students said the classes were too hard or too boring, or they simply didn’t think they would ever need another language while living in Australia. And of course, only spending a few hours a week for maybe three years in no way guarantees that students will become proficient in the language. By the time they enter university, they have bad memories of language classes and choose not to take them anymore, especially when it is difficult to add elective classes to their timetables. And since there is no foreign language requirement in order to obtain a Bachelor’s degree (not that I agree with required classes anyway…), very few students end up taking a language at university, and far fewer actually become fluent.

In a perfect world, all languages would be offered so students would have the choice of which language(s) to learn. This is possible with online classes and I am eager to see how or if the NBN will change teaching in Australia. Of course, the way we teach languages needs to change as well, but that’s another blog post (or thesis!)