More Victorians love learning languages

A resurgence of a love for language is why more students today are enrolling in language classes, according to the Victorian School of Languages.

Victoria has a strong tradition of languages education, with all schools required to provide language programs from Foundation to Year 10.

The VSL's Bosnian class

Victorian government schools provide programs in 22 languages and the Victorian School of Languages (VSL) complements this by providing programs in about 50 languages.

This enables students to learn a language of their choice that they cannot access in their mainstream school.

In 2017, approximately 18,000 students enrolled in the VSL's Saturday morning and distance education language programs across metropolitan and regional Victoria – and that number is rising, according to Victorian Language School alumni, ex-teacher and now area manager Venetia Kefalianos.

'You learn why people think in a different way because they have a different background,' Ms Kefalianos says.

'It opens your eyes to the world.'

Why study a language

Mr Tosic says there are many reasons why students choose to study a language.

'Some students would probably do it for getting a solid ATAR score,' he says. 'Other people do it to learn their parents' mother tongue.'

'And some people just have an interest in languages.'

As well as the opportunity to study a language as part of VCE and their ATAR score, Assistant Principal Joe Tosic says learning languages is hugely beneficial to student literacy.

'Being bilingual has proved to have quite a positive impact on person's educational outcome,' Mr Tosic says. 

'We're using a part of our brain associated with maths and music,' Ms Kefalianos says.

'You're using the full potential of your brain power.'

Ms Kefalianos says international students in Australia come to the school too. Last year, an international student from Cambodia won a Premier's Award for his high score on completing VSL's Khmer course.

'He said, "it was my connection to Cambodia and I felt so lonely"', Ms Kefalianos says. 'For that student, it's their connection with their community.'

Learning in a diverse community

Each centres offers different languages reflecting the diversity of their local community. 

For example, the South Oakleigh VSL centre offers Chinese, Greek, Russian and Turkish to reflect the language groups of their community.

Mr Tosic says new languages are always being added to the VSL curriculum thanks to community groups working with the school. VSL recently added Karen, Malay, Indian languages Malayalam and Kanada, and Swahili.

'There's a large Malayalam-speaking population in the northern suburbs, so we opened up classes in Epping and areas where there's large demands,' Mr Tosic says. 'They come to us with a list of students who are interested, sit down with teachers then we establish a curriculum.'

Ms Kefalianos says VSL itself has fostered a diverse community.

'You get the Greek kids playing with the Russian kids and Turkish kids at lunchtime because they see each other at school,' Ms Kefalianos says.

'They end up with friendships that last for life.'

Learning languages in the Education State

The ability to communicate in and across languages has never been more important.

The wide range of language programs available in Victorian government schools and the Victorian School of Languages reflects Victoria's rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and the importance students see in learning a language in addition to English.    

We provide students with access to high quality languages education so they're equipped to participate in an increasingly globalised, multilingual world.

See: Languages

Victoria School of Languages