Australia Announces $9.8m for Early Language Ed

Pilot program bets children can learn a new language without a teacher.

166620379The Australian government is pouring nearly AUS$10 million into world language education pilot program. However, language teachers won’t see a cent. The program, Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA), will provide foreign language apps for tablet devices in preschools. The ELLA will use custom play-based apps to get three- and four-year-olds excited about world languages.

“Our youngsters are inquisitive and soak up large amounts of information like sponges – often putting us adults to shame with their ability to pick up something like a new language with speed and ease,” explained Sussan Ley, Assistant Minister of Education. “As an island nation participating in a global economy, being able to communicate freely across multiple languages is also becoming more and more of a valuable asset for Australians and, frankly, a necessity for our future economic success.

“It’s also important to helping overcome social barriers and promoting inclusive communities locally, with almost one-in-five Australians speaking a language other than English at home.”

The languages that will be available through the trial are French, Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese and Indonesian. Beginning early 2015, 40 preschools across Australia will take part in the year-long pilot program.

“For many of us, our children are now technology whiz kids from an early age, so this play-based approach to learning a language makes sense,” Ley said. “This is a fun and easy way to get our kids interested in learning skills for life, such as a second language, from early on in their education journey.”

Ley remarked that ELLA will help rural and regional schools where technology is closing the gap between city schools and schools in the “bush.” Early education centers in Australia who are interested in the ELLA are encouraged to apply here by September 29, 2014.

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