Benefits of a Bilingual Education
“In an increasingly globalised world it is imperative young people are equipped to compete in a global economy and participate in a global society. This will require not only knowledge of other languages but also the skills to excel in a highly connected world.” The Hon. Martin Dixon MP, Minister for Education, ‘Victoria as a Learning Community’ (November 2011)
“Bilingual education provides an excellent basis for children’s learning. It has great benefits for literary and numeracy development in English and in this case German, as well as for children’s understanding and experience of the world around them. The model of learning at DSM is clearly defined, well developed and supported and serves as a great teaching model in Australia. The benefits of bilingualism to an individual and to society cannot be understated. Bilingual education of the kind provided at this school should be available to all school children in this country.” Professor John Hajek, University of Melbourne, School of Languages and Linguistics
Currently there are 104 students with more than ten nationalities and more than 15 various spoken languages attending our school. To cater for the distinct learning requirements of our students, we have differentiated our methods and optimised the learning environment. Where necessary, we also provide remedial lessons to support the acquisition of both languages. This provides students who have few to no prior language skills with the opportunity to learn in a supported school environment.
At the heart of the bilingual and bicultural education of our students is a “one teacher, one language” approach in which classes are conducted in the teacher’s native language (German or English). Bilingual communication broadens the cultural perspectives of our students and inspires them to become creative and confident participants in the international community.
Kicking Goals for Multilingualism!
by Averil Grieve
It was a warm Melbourne afternoon. The sun was on my back and, as usual, I was spending longer than expected at school pick up. A large group of children were playing on the soccer pitch and I was happy to soak up the winter rays for a while longer.
Sounds of the children’s voices drifted across to me from the soccer pitch. "Paß, paß" said one in German. “I’m over here!” said another in English. “Gut gehalten!,” called out yet another child. The players are children attending a bilingual school in Melbourne’s inner north. They stem from a range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds: as far as I know, there is Australian, German, Austrian, Swiss and Korean in the mix. But that’s irrelevant to the children themselves: they are third culture kids who share not only two or more languages and cultures, but also simply a love for soccer.
One of the players is my own German-Australian daughter. When she and our other children were born, my husband and I made a conscious choice to bring them up bilingually. We knew about the cognitive benefits of bilingualism. Multilingual children, for example, have been found to have more creative thought processes, better attention, task-switching capacities and mental flexibility than their monolingual counterparts. But our main motivations were social and cultural. We wanted to give our children the opportunity to become bilingual global citizens with a heightened ability to understand other people’s perspectives and appreciate cultural behaviours with which they are not familiar.
Initially, I was amazed at how quickly our children picked up their two languages. Today, they seem to weave in and out of them effortlessly: each language being an integral element of their identities and their relationships with friends, family members and teachers. However, I was quickly reminded by the late emeritus professor Michael George Clyne that children learning multiple languages are actually not amazing. They are simply doing exactly what they are programmed to do: discover patterns and ways to express themselves in a range of communicative situations. Indeed, the majority of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual. However, despite the diversity of Australia’s population, it remains one of the most monolingual nations of the world. This means children living in this country often miss out on the cognitive, social and cultural benefits to which they have direct access simply by virtue of being pre-wired to learn multiple languages from birth.
The sun on my back starts to fade as I gradually pack up all of our bits and pieces. “TOR!!!!!,” I hear from the pitch. Is it a goal for Germany? For Switzerland? Korea? Australia? “No,” I think to myself, “Tor for bilingualism and language learning.” Here’s to all those playgroups, kindergartens, schools, organisations and families which provide children the opportunity to simply do what they can best: learn languages to help bridge the political and cultural divides of our globe.