Bec Howie & Penny Wilson

The Language Learning Landscape in Australia: Observations of Two Australian Language Lovers

Australia is a hugely multicultural place that is richer for the waves of immigration that have brought people here from all around the world. Despite the diversity of cultural and linguistic groups that live together in this country (and the fact that before immigration, Australia was home to hundreds of indigenous languages – sadly only a fraction remain spoken today), we have seen first-hand that languages other than English simply have not been valued for various reasons, leaving a long-lasting perception with many Australians that languages are not a priority, too hard to learn, or not important when English is so dominant.
In this presentation, we’ll provide an insight into our observations of the ‘language learning landscape’ here in Australia, our experiences of learning other languages at school and university in Australia, how things have changed and what we’d like to see in the future.

Ask the speaker a question


  • Hi! It’s Miguel!
    This was one long episode of Language Chats. Haha. Very educational, ladies! 🙂

  • DaveHuxtable says:

    Fascinating! I love that there are 70 languages taught in Victoria. That strikes me as a huge number.

    That idea that there has to be some kind of excuse for teaching kids languages seems to be prevalent in many countries. It’s odd that no one tries to justify teaching history or geography in terms of usefulness in future careers.

    We definitely need to promote the cognitive and psychological benefits of language learning more.

  • Debs says:

    Bec and Penny your talk was such a great introduction to this conference for me. Listening to you talk about your school experiences did bring back memories of my own language learning in high school back in the 1980s. I was also told that I should learn Japanese instead of French for economic reasons and that it was the “language of the future”. When my daughter went to high school and studied Japanese she was told that she should learn Mandarin Chinese instead because it was “the language of the future”. Some things don’t change.

  • Bec-IrregularEndings says:

    @Candace Thank you for your lovely feedback and it’s so great to hear that you enjoyed our presentation 🙂 Such a pleasure to have been able to meet you through the online language learning community!

  • Candace says:

    YAY Bec & Penny!!

    Even as an Australian myself, your presentation was incredibly informative and so interesting.

    I can’t believe just how similar our lives are with our language, travel, school and career experiences! I have found “my people”.

    Thank you for such a detailed overview and insight into our national language communities and doing what you do! So very proud of you!

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