Learning Chinese Initiatives in Australia Flop

Check out this article on the results of a push to teach Asian languages in Australia. From the article:

“Most parents just don’t see the sense in learning Asian languages. What chance is there really that their daughter will need her schoolgirl Indonesian to do business deals? What cultural payoff is there in learning Korean that a child in this essentially European country couldn’t get twice over from learning French?”



Filed under Chinese Language Instruction, The Learning Chinese Craze

9 responses to “Learning Chinese Initiatives in Australia Flop

  1. Robert Hormozi

    I’m a proud ethnic background Australian who is married to a chinese girl and am 1/3 way through learning chinese.

    When I read this “Compulsory teaching of foreign languages was always unnecessary because we’re blessed to have English as the national tongue – the language of business”. It made me feel embaressed to be non chinese. I believe I feel what you are thinking when your reply was a blunt “Yep.”

    • truettblack

      Robert, I wasn’t referring to the rather disgraceful part of the article you quoted. I meant that for many people, learning Mandarin is nothing more than a flight of fancy and as such, a waste of time. They have no idea what they are getting into, and will not succeed. There are others who have good reasons to learn and who will find a way to master this difficult language. It’s mainly about motivation. So my “Yep” was in reference to the part I quoted.

      It appears to me that the learning Chinese initiative in Australia has, so far, been poorly executed. What has your experience been like as an adult learner? Have you found qualified help?

      • Robert Hormozi

        Hi truettblack,
        Apologies for misinterpreting.

        I currently am attending TAFE which is similair to university only cheaper.

        I found TAFE has taken my chinese to the next level and at the rate I’m going I expect to be watching Taiwanese Dramas without a problem in 1.5 years. Before attending TAFE I was only listening to 15 minute pod casts twice a day for a year which helped me a lot but only took me to a certain point. Learning to write characters, for me personally, was amazing. I think another hidden advantage of going to TAFE/class/uni was the pressure of tests. You need to study every day to pass and that for me was just another reason (ontop of many existing) to study everyday!

        My teacher is shang4hai3ren2 and my only single gripe would be is that I wish she was bei3jing1ren2 because I am now finding that their heavy use of “r’s” is difficult for me to understand as I neither my Taiwanese Drama’s, fionce, or teacher has this accent =]


      • truettblack

        Great reply Rob, thanks, and “add oil” on your studies!

        Don’t worry about the accent. What you refer to–the heavy use of “r” rhotic suffixes–is only used by northerners in China. Standard Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect, but is no longer synonymous with it. I rather like the Mandarin I hear in Shanghai among the younger natives there.

  2. My teacher is also from Shanghai, and I prefer that accent. Have trouble understanding Taiwanese folks – they seem to mumble a lot! We spent some time learning the Beijing dialect for a while, and it droves us batty trying to figure where to put the “rs” πŸ˜‰

    I have to agree with Truettblack – unless you have a very strong motivation to learn Mandarin, it’s gonna be a failure. I’m Chinese (from Malaysia), and I’m learning Mandarin.

    My main motivation is because I want to read Chinese literature and not feel like half a Chinese because I don’t know how to speak it. And oh yeah, because I want to work in places like Taiwan, China or Singapore.

    I’m fortunate that I have some foundation – I can speak SOME Chinese, and I can understand Mandarin about 60-80% of what’s spoken. But I want to bump it up to total fluency if I can.

    Love your blog btw.


    • truettblack

      Thank you.

      As husband to a Taiwanese lady, and son-in-law, uncle, cousin, and brother-in-law to a large group of lovely Taiwanese people, I’ll advise you to withhold judgement on the Taiwanese accent until you’ve spent a great deal of time in Taiwan. The friendliness of the people in Taiwan makes that accent music to my ears!

      Having said that, I rather like the Shanghai accent, and think the Beijing accent is fine, just a bit hard to understand once people go into local dialect mode up north.

  3. Oh, I don’t have anything against the accent – I just find it difficult to understand them! Or maybe actors in Taiwan just mumble a lot LOL. I guess I’m just used to the ‘crisper’ and sharper Singaporean/Malaysian accent … need to watch more Taiwanese shows! πŸ™‚

  4. Tony

    I’ve had Chinese girlfriends and friends for 10 years. I have taught a Masters at University. My partner of the last 7 years is a native Mandarin speaker. I have traveled in China. I have no intention of learning Mandarin or any other language. I simply don’t need to. There are so many languages in the world, which one would I pick? The most valuable of course and that is English.

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