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iniiIiIut _ sIavenisIiko
+61 3 9544 0595
stockdale avenue. clayton north 3168 victoria,. australia
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24 March 2010
Response to Discussion Paper on Victorian Languages Strategy.
Name: Aleksandra L. Ceferin, President, Institute for Sloven ian Studies of Victoria Inc.
I would like to put forward a proposal for the implementation and delivery of new and innovative language programs, within the ambit of the strategies directed at a highly-resourced, internet-based, and extensive language curriculum in the Australian school system. Referring to the Discussion Paper my proposal refers to the specific area of "quality languages education"; a direction set out in pages from 6 to 12, which looks at the challenges of strengthening language education in Victoria. My response is set out as follows: Indication of some important interrelated issues in providing a greater range of languages and language study resources: globalization, restrictive choice of languages, level of funding, motivational factor. The two proposals are aimed at the provision of: comprehensive web-based language learning courses, and a broader choice of languages in the existing Victorian school system.
Proposals for a stronger language curriculum I. Use of Internet to develop comprehensive language courses II. Establishment of increased language provision in select existing schools.
The proposals are based on the view that: web-based learning is an effective solution which can be integrated into any program or environment and which ensures delivery of high quality learning materials with enhancement of learning and teaching experiences; a fully integrated online language course would engage, stimulate and motivate students to continue language studies; by accessing streamlined and extensive online language resources students will be more engaged in learning languages, will be more motivated to use the target language for information-seeking, and become more aware of the multilingual nature of the world; schools with focus on LOTE studies will be a more effective use of teachers and teaching resources.
The Discussion Paper DEECD Victorian Languages Strategy provides a comprehensive overview in the State's language provision and it is apparent from the achievements that there is a solid foundation for further development and improvement of LOTE delivery. It is widely recognized that Victoria is the leading state in language education, statistically based on the highest participation rates in schools. I believe in fostering and promoting linguistic diversity, and I endorse the position of MCEETYA in 2005, National Statement for Languages Education in Australian Schools, that all languages are equally valid. The European Union also practises this principle in its official recognition of all the languages of its member countries.
The future in the global world
The phenomenon of globalization and the pace of technological change indicate the importance of knowledge and understanding of other languages and cultures, in order to engage successfully on an international leveL
The strategy for presenting a rich and varied language curriculum has an important and inherent value on two levels: The personal - enriching the individual's understanding of the world and its diverse cultures The economic and international level - communication skills developed to enhance intercultural dialogue. In the delivery of a general quality education for all students, learning other languages is a continuing and essential educational goal for Australia. It is generally acknowledged that to know other languages, and to be bilingual or a multilingual speaker is desirable, practical, and of benefit to Australian society and to its role in the world. It has also been established that communicating in two or more languages, adds to the personal development of the individuals, extending communicative skills, while at the same time enriching and broadening perspectives on the diverse nature of the world in which we live. There is a prevailing view in Australian society, based on the argument "The whole world is learning English, so we don't need to learn another language." Does the argument still hold? Not in the opinion of experts in the area. "The complex international, technological, economic and cultural changes currently taking place are likely to put an end to the complacency of English is enough argument"(Sue Fernandez, p17). David Graddol has provided an analysis of world economic trends which have for several decades given a competitive advantage to English speakers. He believes that we are now coming to an end of the period where native English speakers could bask in their privileged knowledge of the global lingua franca. (Graddol, 2006) ... With the growth of other superpowers, India, China, Brazil and Russia, as well as fast growing influence of Arab countries, the relative importance of languages will alter and the world will become increasingly bi- and multilingual. Monolingual English speakers face a bleak economic future. (Sue Fernandez, p.18)
Which language and how many?
One of the major difficulties in offering a broad and diverse language curriculum in a multicultural society such as Australia today, has been the choice of languages to be offered by the schools. Governments, federal and state have taken a hand in establishing guidelines, actively supporting some languages and attempting to facilitate choice by establishing categories: world languages/community languages, European languages/ Asian languages ... In my opinion such a guide represents an unnecessary constraint, and deters many students from studying languages on a continuous basis. Who may determine the importance and usefulness of any language? The perceptions of languages and their worldwide standing change. For example, the French language, for a long time a language of high education and international diplomacy, has been superseded by other languages, whose increased international importance had not been foreseen. Schools are confronted with additional constraints - by availability of language teachers, of language resources, and by the time-table and its inevitable priorities. . In offering a wider range of languages and allowing students to follow their inclination for any language (be it heritage/community, family, career aspirations, academic studies or personal interest) will lead to greater success in learning and greater attendant benefits.
The case of the Victorian School of Languages - fundamental equally valid"
principle "all languages are
A major factor in Victoria's success is the range of choice of languages. One of the main contributors in this success is the Victorian School of Languages, an extraordinary educational institution, which has served as a model for other states of Australia and around the world. It provides, on Saturday mornings, continuous quality LOTE programs - heritage and world languages - from levels 1 to 12. The success of Victorian School of Languages can be ascribed to this equality of languages and free choice. Begun in 1934 by a language teacher who wanted more options for language studies than the traditional French and German, it has grown through the various migration waves by accepting any language, providing it could guarantee the essential prerequisite elements: students, teachers, curriculum, and study texts. Today VSL offers 47 languages, including African languages. The standards are assured through rigorous curriculum standards, assessment and reporting, faculty structure, teacher training and professional development, particularly at senior levels. The program offers classes of 180 minutes a week, which is more than the general norm in schools. VSL has also developed further distance education courses (10 languages). It could do more if funding were available.
Proposal I Use of information and communication technology
During the last decade the Internet has significantly altered the way we communicate and receive information, even use language - in oral and written communication. It has opened access to a global reality that reaches beyond boundaries of borders and languages. Greater use of the Internet could be made, not only to provide greater access to language but also to introduce the language student into the great "immersion" potential of the medium, both in language and intercultural studies. In the language classroom, the Internet can be used - to supplement the language work, expand reading skills, extend knowledge of the culture, and encourage research and assignment work. The most significant aspect of the Internet is, that it presents current information on a variety of areas and possibility of engagement and interactivity. This would address the shortage of language teachers and for many languages a shortage of course books. Internet is also a supreme study tool. In recent years technology has provided software for a full range of learning tools, with audio, video, interactive approach and enormous research possibilities, to gather information and to maintain contact with contemporary society. To develop the Internet as a learning tool two aspects need to be addressed: Online language courses and Development of a common language course structure. In Victoria there is already the experience and skill gained in constructing a common course structure for all languages and all levels from Years 7 to 12 (CSFNCENELS). This experience could be well adapted and used to develop online languages courses. Utilizing the Internet technology would be a step forward in the direction already taken in Victoria, since it could provide the necessary structures and the kind of access to the target language on the web. There are several ways the Internet technology could be used to provide language delivery and enhance language study:
a) Online language courses
We should begin to develop online language courses, with a structured approach to essential elements such as grammar and vocabulary, making use of all communication modes, audio and scripted dialogues, thematic vocabulary, grammatical structures with exercises, reading texts for comprehension and information, and self-assessment tools. Such courses would be suitable for independent learning, learning under guidance and/or serving as teaching aid in the language classroom. In the long term they would be more effective, more accessible, more easily updated, than the expensive and often unsatisfactory course-books. This approach would be of particular benefit to languages that are not classed "world languages", and often lack teaching resources.
b) Online course structure
In order to facilitate and expand the study of languages that are poor in resources, a basic structure for online study could be developed for languages with a similar structure. For example, there could be a basic structure for similar language groups. Course developers and teachers in different languages would then provide the basic dialogues, texts, and language specific linguistic elements. On this basis further study materials could be developed for each language: reading, writing and listening comprehension texts, including informative and cultural content on countries where the languages is spoken. This approach has been already successfully tested in the common structures developed for the CSF and VCE during their introductory phases.
c) Particular benefits of Internet - tool for teaching and learning language
Internet now offers opportunities for viewing, listening and reading for information and fact gathering that had never been available before, and should be used to provide interest and to expand comprehension. It is also a great motivator when studying a language, providing its own satisfaction and pride of achievement. It is actually a most effective way of immersing oneself into a language and a contemporary culture. It is a perfect tool for a generation of youth that is completely at home in the digital world.
Proposal II Establishment of selected schools with increased language provision
The problem of teacher and teaching resources shortage, limited language options and time-table constraints, would be at least partly overcome by concentrating language studies in select schools with focus on a multilingual education, where students could enroll in several languages of their choice and study them intensively at senior levels, possibly with a career focus. Ideally language studies at higher level might be combined with selected relevant studies - business, history, science where language skills could be directed on extending knowledge of the language and communicative skills through reading, listening and writing skills in particular areas of study, ego business studies, sciences, social studies, politics, etc. with a view to the personal interest, academic studies and/or future career options. The language program might include the translation and interpreting skills, and specific writing skills, such as report and letter writing conventions, etc. Internet, with its relatively simple factual language could be utilized for acquisition of reporting techniques and research of the country where language is spoken, as well as communication links via the Email. Language programs combined with selected relevant studies It would suit students who have a natural talent for languages and are looking for a future and a career, where knowledge of a language would be utilized (diplomacy, international affairs, international business, travel industry, librarianship, teaching ... ) Such schools would have the advantage of being able to offer a greater number of languages, than is generally possible, concentrating staffing and teaching resources, providing technology for effective study, and an attractive and stimulating environment for language study.
Accelerated courses at Year 10 The school with such resources could offer intensive accelerated courses at Year 10 level, courses adapted to native speakers, courses for interpreters and translators, courses for communicative skills in English and other languages. It might develop into a school that provides - possibly with an extended Year 13, the skills needed in international business offices, government offices, libraries, and tourism industry. Some European countries have such schools. Knowledge of several languages is recognized as an essential communication skill, used in hospitality, all kinds of social, educational, cultural and business exchanges with other countries. The language option could be taken from Year 9 or 10, when students might have as many as 10 lessons per week of intensive study and also take the opportunity to improve their communicative skills by visiting the countries where fuelanguageisspoken.
Motivational factor: does the school provide an environment
conducive to language study?
LOTE is generally recognized as educationally beneficial and as adding an extra dimension to an educated person's curriculum, but it too often falls victim to the principle of educational priorities. LOTE must compete in the curriculum with »more important« and »essential« subjects: maths I & II, physics, chemistry, English. At lower levels, when some subjects are optional, it is competing with Arts, Physical Education, Photography, Computer skills .... How do we motivate a young person to make the choice of Language Other Than English, when there are other »fun« subjects offered? Can we get the Principals and teaching staff to realize the importance of languages? Too often it is the LOTE that is dropped from the crowded curriculum, the Cinderella among the school subjects. The whole community, careers advisers at the school, the majority of the teaching staff tell the students that it is not essential, since English is the lingua franca used for communication all over the world. The non-English speaking world is a closed book. They may venture to visit this world sometime in the future, and manage to see it with the assistance of interpreters and a few words - not enough motivation to study the language through the six years of the secondary education. Motivation through parallel and language integrated studies I suggest that motivation would be provided through a clear purpose and parallel studles that support the learning of a specific language. I put forward the idea of combined/integrated language courses with the study of history, geography and literature and science, so that students could study the country or countries where language is spoken, the past and present achievements and literary works (particularly in senior secondary levels), initially in English, then simplified texts jn the
language, and at the senior level increasingly reading the authentic texts. I would add business studies, which are chosen by many students as their direction for the future. A similar approach can be taken with heritage languages, which have the advantage of a stronger emotional appeal. In Siovenian, from Year 7 to 12 and VeE subject in VSL (1977-2005), we always taught some history, traditions, narrative heritage, literature, landmarks, as much as possible integrated with the study of texts in Siovenian language. This was possible with the second post-migrant generation, when the language was spoken at home and within a circle of friends. In this context the students regarded even the difficult grammar as worthwhile and challenging, and were interested in the cultural content of the course as part of an integrated approach towards language and culture. We continued with this integrated approach with the website www.thezaurus.com.initiated through the LOTElinx project (Education Department of Victoria in 1998). In essence the website offers language and cultural study materials on Slovenia and functions also as a portal of interesting informative links. The contemporary interest is provided by drawing attention to significant cultural events and achievements. It has been enormously successful, its readership growing through the 10 years of its existence to half a million monthly views from 80 countries. In language teaching an emphasis has been placed for some time now on oral communication, and in my opinion not sufficiently on reading comprehension. I speak from my own experience as a learner of languages, which occurs mainly, particularly initially through reading, the bext step is listening; nowadays through the medium of films, then it is the turn of oral communication, particularly when travelling, and it occurs in natural surroundings - naturally. In my view, reading for information or to enjoy a literary work in the original, leads to an improved vocabulary and an understanding of its use in context. It also extends writing skills, with an improved lexical and grammatical ability.
Conclusion The present government has introduced the concept and strategies towards an education revolution. I suggest that this is an opportunity to make a difference in the study of languages other than English, particularly in Victoria, where a great deal has already been achieved. Currently a fairly narrow language choice is made by the school according to availability of resources, and on the part of parents/students according to considerations of future career, heritage factors or parents/students' interest. With the exception of Victorian School of Languages, the choice is limited. If more use is made of digital technologies, in various ways suggested above, many of present shortages and restrictions (teachers and resources) could be overcome. The development of comprehensive and integrated web resources would be a Significant initiative in the overall strategy to strengthen the LOTE delivery. High quality resources are an essential stimulus factor in engaging students and motivating them to continue studies in the target language. The proposals represent a major commitment of effort and resources. However they are in line with the federal government goals for Australia's future expressed in the idea of "education revolution". If the direction of the proposals is at all considered, it is recommended that a taskforce be established to explore the possibilities, investigate similar practices within Australia and in other countries, and put forward an implementation plan. I believe that these proposals are practical, forward looking and achievable, with the right kind of financial and moral support by the government, that has from the beginning presented itself as progressive in addressing the education system, on which the future of Australia depends in a very major way.
Aleksandra (Sasha) L. Ceferin (BA Hons, MA President Institute for Siovenian Studies of Victoria Inc.
Dip.Ed. Monash Univ.)
Biographical Notes A. Ceferin is a project manager and chief editor for the educational website www.thezaurus.com. presenting online language and cultural resources, with an open learning approach to Siovenian language studies. The world class web site is the result of bilateral cooperation; designed by Siovenian web developer company Zavod Neuropolis of Ljubljana. In recognition for activities in education she received the National Educational Award in Slovenia in 2004. ISSV Inc. initiates and organizes; bilateral projects between Australia and Slovenia, and supports language studies with continuing web projects. The website and other ISSV projects are funded by the Republic of Slovenia, donors and grants.
A. Ceferin participated in the school system reform process (VISE and VCE), as a member of the Field of Studies
Committee for LOTE. She was Course Developer for German and Sloven ian, Manager of Siovenian HSC, LOTE Consultant, Area Manager and Assistant Principal in Victorian School of Languages, with special responsibility for Course Development and Teacher Training. As a LOTE teacher (German, ESL, Sloven ian) her experience in the field of LOTE is extensive; as teacher at secondary and tertiary levels, language and curriculum coordinator. As course developer she produced curriculum documents for VCE German and SCFNCE Siovenian for all levels of language study. In her capacity as LOTE consultant, Area Manager and Assistant Principal in Victorian School of Languages she was responsible for course development for forty languages and professional development of teachers.
A. Ceferin initiated and maintained Sloven ian language as a secondary school subject in Victoria, covering all
organization and assessment matters from 1976 to 2005. In 1998 ISSV participated in LOTElinx project of the Education Department of Victoria, and a team of ISSV members developed the website Siovenianlinx, renamed www.thezaurus.com. The success of the educational website for a country with a population of 2 million, is evident in 500.000 hits monthly, accessed by viewers from 80 countries.
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