Which Languages Should Australian Children Learn?

Do Australians want their children to learn at school those languages that have the most native speakers? The 3 most common languages spoke throughout the world, apart from English, are Mandarin with 898 million speakers, Spanish with 437 million speakers and Arabic with 295 million speakers.

The languages of the rapidly emerging economies

If we were to just choose the languages that have the most speakers that could be the wrong direction to pursue. There is a lot of vested interest these days in investing in things that will draw a financial return. With languages, these emerging languages may need to be the learning focus for children, not how many people who speak a language.  At the turn of the century, Russian, Brazil, China and India were the emerging economies, but now it seems to be India, Indonesia and Malaysia. So that means the key languages to learn for commerce would be Indonesian, Malay and Hindi.

English top language for travel purposes

English is spoken in 106 countries, so it’s not that difficult to find a country to travel to that speaks at least some English.

French is the most popular choice amongst Australian students, but this doesn’t relate to Australia’s most important trading partners, which happen to be Japan, the USA, China and South Korea. If trading is the prime reason to teach a language in Australian schools, then Japanese, Chinese languages and Korean would be the most suitable choices. However, although the government has invested money promoting the learning of Korean, Japanese and Chinese, there aren’t too many schools who have found students willing to learn the languages even though there are a few teaching Japanese.

There is another way of choosing and that’s based on the most widespread languages spoken in Australia these days apart from English which are Italian, Mandarin and Arabic.

Despite various reasons for studying certain languages in Australia, currently French, Vietnamese, German and Greek are studied the most. The reason for this is that German and Greek are popular from a historical point of view and are the most widespread second languages found in Australia.  French has always attracted some interest because of historical ties with Britain where French has been taught as a compulsory school subject.