A couple of us from the office recently enjoyed a short break in Bali and had to agree that even a little knowledge of languages can go a long way. Merely attempting a few variations of ‘selamat …’ or inquiring ‘Apa kabar?’ brought smiles to locals’ faces and broke down some of the local – tourist barriers. We were rewarded with more genuine engagement and more enthusiastic service (or bartering!).
Apparently, only 1% of the 120,000 Australian primary school students who start learning Indonesian continue their studies through to Year 12. We know that the opposition wants to boost the profile of language learning – especially Asian languages – if they are elected. However, some have argued that this is pointless as English is so widely taught overseas, and from such an early age, that foreign nationals will always speak English more competently that Australians will manage in other languages.
An article in today’s Age highlights the benefit of language learning, and in particular of a new program developed by Monash University. The program, for integration in schools, pairs native speakers with language learners in schools, encouraging the latter to communicate more authentically than permitted by school textbooks and doubtless providing enormous support to language teachers. Where in-country exchanges are expensive and impractical, this program offers a wonderful opportunity to converse with native speakers eager to spread their language and culture.
Learning a language provides not only a communication tool; it also offers an insight into other worlds, other cultures and traditions. It gives you a greater sense of your own place in the world and the mutual bonds that bring strangers closer together. Not least of all, learning a foreign language develops neural pathways that would otherwise remain dormant. Surely that’s a reason to make you feel baik…!
Why not share some of your travel stories, or ways in which a knowledge of the local language has helped you out in one way or another?