Sometimes the past talks to the present and it resonates.
The ancient granite Rosetta Stone, a metaphor for language and understanding, is housed in the British Museum. Its significance is that it translates one Egyptian decree into three languages and facilitated our reading of hieroglyphics.
This knowledge of hieroglyphics then fired up our knowledge of other languages and cultures.
So, it is for school students today in an increasingly globalised world demanding knowledge of other languages and associated cultures.
The Rosetta Stone Online Language Learning program is being trialled at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School North Strathfield and it’s one of the first to offer that type of program to students from Kindergarten to Year 2.
A parent languages survey at the Archdiocese’ newest Catholic Primary school asked for Mandarin as its first new language.
The snapshot of parents‘ attitudes to learning other languages coupled with a 50 per cent attendance rate at a parent meeting encouraged the school to implement the online language learning program.
Parents were given a broad selection of languages to choose for their children that included Chinese, French, Italian, Filipino, Spanish and Korean.
The result was a 46.6 per cent preference for Mandarin and a 20 per cent preference for French,.
So each week students have an hourly, guided language lesson in Mandarin.
Assistant Principal, Siobhan Van Den Nieuwenhuizen, said there was a great interest from parents to join the pilot program along with 17 other schools in the archdiocese.
Rosetta can be done independently and at home and its other aim is to support literacy learning in the classroom with each student using their own iPad.
Assisted by parent helper, Jacinta Moses, the program begins with establishing an English competency in Kindergarten before moving to learning Chinese (Mandarin).
“They’re learning in our language to get proficiency and learn the program. This sits within the literacy program,” said Ms Van Den Nieuwenhuizen.
“French is the second most common language in the world,… Chinese is seen as an integral business language,… parents believe it’s the language for all fields in the future,” she said.
Principal Cathy Young said when they started developing the program the first language for some students was not English, so it was decided that the first language offered should be English so that the fundamentals would be covered appropriate to the students’ ages.
“From a parent’s perspective, it’s a given that children will grow up with a second language,” said Mrs Young.
“We reminded the parents that their children will graduate in 2028 from the school system. What on earth would be the possibilities for them? We can’t imagine yet,”
“The asset of a second or third language for these children – I don’t think we can measure it,” said Mrs Young.
The program is a cluster initiative by Kate O’Brien, CEO Sydney Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning, and will run for the next three years.