LOTE stands for Languages Other Than English. Learning a language other than English offers your child the perfect opportunity to ensure that they are ahead of the 88 per cent of graduating students in Australia who don’t graduate having learnt a second language. Over half of the world’s population are bilingual, yet according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, (Census of Population and Housing 2016, published June 27, 2017) only 21 per cent of Australians speak two or more languages.
The Queensland government is taking steps to remedy this, and the Department of Education’s Advancing Education Action Plan includes an expansion of the study of languages in Queensland schools from Prep to year 12 with a focus on Asian Languages with the aim to support our children to develop a global mindset. The global schools through languages plan acknowledges that more than ever before our children need to understand the traditions and cultures of our broader community as they live and learn in an increasingly interconnected world. You can read more on this at www.advancingeducation.qld.gov.au
Apart from developing a global mindset, there are many other benefits for your children from learning to speak a second language:
It boosts your child’s ability to communicate in their first language.
Learning a second language can give your child a firmer grasp on their first. Formulating foreign phrases requires the use of grammar skills, which allow him or her to better understand the rules of their native tongue. This double reinforcement leads to solid language and reading comprehension skills that can result in better grades across the board. Keep in mind though, children, and even adults, often go through a silent period when learning a new language. So be patient and keep on trying even if it seems like your child isn’t catching on. It pays to remember that a young child can comprehend vast amounts of language prior to being able to articulate in their target language themselves.
It improves their brain’s efficiency, function, performance and plasticity which improves their academic performance by enhancing their decisionmaking skills, developing their problem-solving skills and their ability to multitask.
With the 2019 full implementation of our National Curriculum from Prep to Year 12 in Australia, we need to help our students to achieve their best. This will mean external examinations for all learners and a
change for our children in Queensland. Fortunately, for second language learners, two significant by-products of bilingualism are better cognitive skills and longer attention spans. Those skills combined contribute to great test-taking ability.
It is fun, challenging and becomes part of who they are, it encourages healthy risk-taking, not being afraid to make mistakes and provides better career opportunities.
Learning a language should be fun, it’s about acquiring a range of skills and tools that will enable them to be able to communicate with others from differing backgrounds, promoting cultural awareness, diversity
and tolerance. Our life, language, travel and cultural experiences all blend to become our own personal intercultural knowledge, a blueprint if you will. This intercultural knowledge enables each child, with their personal experiences, to be their own unique blend of the languages and cultures they experience throughout life, learning and travel.
How you can help your child with learning a language other than English.
Just like when your child was mastering their first language, the key to success lies in repetition and frequency! It is the same as how building your child’s competence in any given sport requires frequent quality training in order for them to be successful and to achieve their personal best. Learning and retaining a second language also requires quality training and frequent repetition, i.e. “Use it or lose it.”
•• If you are skilled yourself in another language simply speak to your child at home in that language as you go about your daily routine. Your child will start picking up on the words and phrases that they hear.
•• There are many fun tools available to assist children with language learning. There are apps, online tools, websites offering interactive learning and young learner’s channels on YouTube.
•• Encourage your child’s learning through watching their favourite movie in the target language with English subtitles.
•• Download a music playlist of their favourite songs in the target language and get them to sing Karaoke.
•• There are community language classes available for children of all ages.
•• Dine at a restaurant from the target language and get them to use their language skills with greetings, etc. Alternatively, cook foods at home from the target language culture and practice meal-time etiquette in the language.
•• Plan a family holiday together using maps, phrasebooks and through researching cultural norms of the target country.
Children’s minds are sponges, learning as they proceed through life which is why learning a second language for children is often easier than for adults. As a parent, you have the chance to prevent your child from experiencing a sense of regret that they didn’t make the most of this opportunity that is afforded to them as a young person. Of course, your child will face times when it is challenging, but it is important to continually encourage them, providing them with opportunities to utilise their skills. The rewards of learning a second language are immense, being able to speak or even break a cultural barrier in attempting to speak with someone from elsewhere in our vast world opens doors to wonderful, life-enriching experiences.
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein stated famously, “The limits of your language are the limits of your world.”
Being able to speak another language does empower children to become incredible human beings.