MECS Blog

Introducing the Indonesian Program

Introducing the Indonesian Program

Thursday, 11 December 2014  | Rachel - Indonesian Teacher

Hospitality and Language Learning

As a language teacher, my mission is this: I want to see students grow into people who treat other languages and cultures with curiosity, confidence and respect. As a Christian, my mission is to empower my students to love God and their neighbours, and to make disciples of all nations. So, as I begin my journey at MECS, I’m working hard to marry these mission goals to ensure that language learning will cultivate these principles within the minds and hearts of my students.

As Christians, we can begin to fulfil our duty to love our neighbours, and to make disciples of all nations by immersing ourselves in other cultures and relating to others in their own language. “Foreign language education prepares student for two related callings: to be a blessing as strangers in a foreign land, and to be hospitable to strangers in their homeland.” (The Gift of the Stranger by David Smith, p. 63)

Authentic Learning

The biggest galvaniser for me in becoming passionate about Indonesian was being embraced into the community in Indonesia while I studied there. I learnt about them, and had insight into the way they saw the world. But although this was wonderful, it wasn’t the only thing that drove me to continue in my study. It was when I constantly found my vocab to be inadequate for articulating myself, communication break-downs happened, and I wanted to learn the language so I could understand the people. Now, part of my job as a language teacher is not to simply make language learning about remembering words for a test, rather allowing students to grapple with what it means to communicate by understanding and being understood. I want to equip them with tools for authentic communication through real-life applications for the language they learn, but also by not shielding my students from the frustration of not being able to express what they want to say. This is important to build empathy for those they might meet in their lifetime who speak English as an additional language. It will also provide valuable and genuine opportunity for my students to be guided towards developing strategies for handling such crises in Indonesian, and a willingness to continue communicating beyond the breakdown, because the goal is relationships, and people. Not about correct spelling and perfect grammar.

Common misconceptions about language learning

I am aware that since language learning is new to MECS at a Primary level, many of you may have questions, queries and perhaps even some concerns about this addition to the curriculum. Here are a couple of the more common misconceptions about language learning that might help give you something to think about: ‘People have a limited capacity in language, and time spent on another language is time taken away from another’.

This isn’t true because knowing one language helps you understand another. That is, through learning a second (or third!) language you gain insight into how languages function, including knowledge about the structure of words, the structure of sentences, the sound patterns possible in a language and how the structural features of a language can be manipulated. These skills are transferable and are enhanced by learning another language.

‘The curriculum is too crowded to allow time for a second language’.

This is a statement about priorities. Languages have been declared as a Key Learning Area by the Australian Government, and this is not simply for strengthening economic ties with other nations. Developing a child’s potential to the fullest involves language learning because it helps us:
Make discoveries about the relationships between words and meaning;
Understand how languages (including our first language) works;
Understand that different cultures have different ways of looking at the world.

Studies suggest that those who are multi-lingual are more perceptive to their surroundings and better at focussing in on important information. They tend to score better at standardised tests, are better at remembering lists or sequences, and are generally more self-aware.

A Contemporary Learning Space for Indonesian

We’re excited to be preparing the class room that had been dubbed the Primary art room as our Indonesian language room. We have worked hard to design the classroom as a flexible space that cultivates active and deep learning. We will be catering for different learning styles with soft furnishings, a standing work bench, cluster-designed tables and large floor space for interactive games and activities.

Technology has much to offer language learners, and we hope to take advantage of the different applications, language programs and Indonesian-specific material.

We are sure the students will be blown away by what we have in store for them in this Contemporary Learning Space. No doubt you will hear about it when school gets going again in 2015. 
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