Learning languages at school

learning languages at school.

Learning a language at school can enhance your child’s educational experiences.

Students who learn a new language will develop stronger communication skills, learn about languages as systems and explore the relationship between language and culture.

NSW Department of Education

Learning languages at school comes in many different forms. 

What does learning languages at school look like?

How students or schools choose to learn languages varies from school to school.

Common ways students learn languages at school include:

  • Mandatory language learning at school in Year 7 and 8 and optional Year 9 and 10
  • Studying a language for the HSC or VCE
  • Studying a language component as part of the International Baccalaureate 
  • Studying an IB Bilingual Diploma
  • Studying a mandatory language in an International School or Cultural School from a young age

5 Benefits of learning languages at school

1. Cultural knowledge

A main benefit of learning languages at school is the cultural benefits.
Students learning languages at school gain an understanding of cultural contexts.

Language students use language to learn and connect with others. Learning languages at school is a great way for students to gain respect, understanding and more positive attitudes towards other languages and cultures.

It is a great way for students to appreciate people and customs from a different country.

Cultural immersion at St Aloysius College, Melbourne through excursions and extracurricular clubs

St Aloysius College offers French, Italian and Japanese and the study of these languages is complemented with a range of incursions and excursions to extend students’ cultural knowledge beyond the classroom, as well as co-curricular lunchtime language clubs. The College is proud to have partnerships with schools in Kyoto and Milan, through which students have the opportunity to take part in overseas study programs and immerse themselves in the language and culture. 

St Aloysius College, North Melbourne

 2. Improving brain development

Learning languages at school has many educational benefits including greater academic achievement and greater cognitive development.

Studies show that bilinguals have:

  • Better problem-solving skills;
  • Improved memory;
  • Mental flexibility;
  • Increased concentration; and 
  • Better results in standardised tests.

Students who study language at school also perform better in other subjects.

With increased problem-solving skills, students who learn a foreign language tend to ‘make smarter decisions’. Considering a problem in a different language requires decision-making based on more cold, hard logic.

Why is learning languages at school important?

Research has revealed that learning a new language is easier in early years.

“The later in childhood that the second language is acquired, the greater are the changes in the inferior frontal cortex.”

Dr Denise Klein, Researcher, The Neuro’s Cognitive Neuroscience Unit

 3. Developing a global perspective

A recent trend amongst schools in Australia is the emphasis on global connection.

Many private schools incorporate a global perspective when teaching language at school. 

The most common examples include global student exchange programs or sister schools and relationships in a different country.

Schools are also finding more innovative ways to incorporate a global aspect.

Incorporating a global perspective at Alphington Grammar School

“Students have the opportunity to thoroughly develop their language skills and cultural understanding, as our school offers ELC to VCE Greek and Year 7 to VCE Chinese. 

ELC students enjoy the Greek Immersion Program. Enrichment clubs allow students in all year levels to pursue languages outside of class in activities such as Chinese Book Club, Greek Radio Theatre, Culture Club, language specific choirs and bands. Students also participate in competitions to showcase vocabulary skills, original writing, and public speaking.

An in-country experience in Secondary School allows students to consolidate in-class learning and to broaden their global perspective.”

 Ms Denise Diakodimitriou, Head of LOTE, Alphington Grammar School

4. More opportunities for tertiary education

Studying languages at school will ensure your child has many opportunities following high school.

Learning languages at school may help students who are looking to study or work overseas.

Many US colleges favour bilingual students in their applications. 

Learning a language at school also benefits students who wish to pursue International Studies or an international degree in university and provide background knowledge. Many international university programs require students to master at least 1 language.

Your child may also utilise their high school language skills to undertake the exciting option of student exchange.

5. Future employment opportunities

Many students may wish to pursue global or international employment.

Learning languages at school is an effective way for your child to function in the modern global marketplace. Many large firms offer an international sector or branch which your child may wish to work in.

For example, many large financial corporations may conduct business in Shanghai or Singapore.

Jason Goodman Vbxyfxlgpjm Unsplash
Jason Goodman Vbxyfxlgpjm Unsplash

Your child may also wish to use languages on their CV to stand out from other candidates in domestic roles.

Overall, language skills are always beneficial in a workplace. Students who study language in school will gain effective communication skills.

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 38 or Choosing a School VIC 34.

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