Australians should learn Mandarin and yet we wont

Labor’s Penny Wong delivered a serious speech on relations with China yesterday. While she did not talk outside her foreign affairs brief she did make the mandatory reference to Australia’s woeful record on learning Asian languages. “We must stop being so defiantly monolingual. We need to ramp up the study of Mandarin in Australian schools so that the ability to speak and read Chinese is no longer a curiosity but a key tool for doing business.”

As to what the Opposition proposes to do in government Ms Wong was silent. However shadow treasurer Chris Bowen is on the case, saying Labor will “ use the COAG processes to collaborate with states and territories to lift the focus on Asian languages and work on specific programs in this field, ” (CMM October 3) CMM is embarrassed to admit he cannot write “pull the other one, for verily it hath bells upon in it” in Mandarin. There has been plan after plan since the Asia-boom of the early ‘90s and yet we remain, as Ms Wong puts “defiantly monolingual.”


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