Chinese is the New Italian
The official language of China, Mandarin, is already the most widely spoken language in the world where 955 million people, 14.4% of the world's population, claim it as their native tongue. Mandarin overtook Spanish and English whose numbers are a little further down the ladder at 5.85% and 5.52% respectively. Mandarin is also the second most popular language online and in a 2013 report, the British Council ranked it as one of the top 10 most important languages for the future of the UK.
Chinese has been taught in Australian schools since the 1950s and has experienced rapid growth during the 1980s as China undertook a policy of open-door and economic reform.
Chinese has always been taught as an additional language in Australia, but schools are now catering to increasingly varied cohorts of Chinese language learners, including overseas-born Chinese speakers. The population of Chinese teachers has also changed, with growing numbers of teachers from the People's Republic of China now teaching in Australian schools.
Chinese is recognised as an important language for young Australians to learn as Australia progresses towards a future of increased trade and engagement with Asia.
As such, the Confucius Institute at La Trobe University has been developing its after school programs as a unique opportunity for Melbourne based schools to add Chinese language learning on top of their curriculum.
Currently, we have been delivering after school Chinese language classes to our partner, Yarraville West Primary School. Two classes at the Foundation and Level 1 progression levels are being taught on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 3:30 - 5:30pm with students ranging from ages 5 to 10.
Expectedly, young children after a full day of school may find it difficult to concentrate, so our Chinese language teachers focus on creating a very engaging, fun and active learning environment. The feedback from the students and parents has been very positive and our after school program creates advantage for the Yarraville West students by enabling the opportunity and confidence to pursue Chinese language learning at higher levels of schooling.
The current links between Australia and China are characterised by bilateral relationships in trade and investment, as well as the important educational exchanges, as well as research and development in science and technology. The movement of people and ideas, as well as economic, cultural and educational exchange, adds to the richness and complexity of this relationship, and the place of Chinese language learning in Australian education is a vital one.
To learn more about our after school program, please visit our website, and if you or someone you know is interested in Chinese language learning and culture, please do not hesitate to contact the Confucius Institute.