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Languages Education

Start a new language program

This page includes the process and considerations for setting up a new language program.

Overview of the process

Establishing a high quality, sustainable language program which aims for students to develop proficiency in a language is not a short-term project.

Schools need to involve their communities in key decisions such as what language will be taught, and build an understanding of the cognitive, learning and practical benefits students will gain from learning a language.

Schools starting a new language program should establish timelines that allow for the following, before the introduction of a program:

  • investigation
  • consultation with the community
  • building demand and support for the language program
  • decision-making around language choice and program structure
  • resourcing and staffing allocation

These timelines will vary based on the local school context and factors such as:

  • location
  • availability of VIT registered teachers
  • the type of program to be taught
  • the delivery mode (face-to-face, blended learning, virtual conferencing)
  • the program structure (whole school or year level, number of lessons per week and how lessons are sequenced across the week)

Schools may consider establishing a languages committee, possibly as a sub-committee of the school council, to guide the process. The languages committee should include representation from the school council, the school administration, teachers, parents and students where appropriate.

For more information, refer to:

  • Staffing — information about staffing a languages program, options for identifying teachers, the required qualifications and teacher retention.
  • Funding and resourcing — information about government school funding for languages programs within the SRP, and other resources and support available.

Investigating the options

A complete picture of the languages spoken and taught in your local community can inform decisions about which languages are most appropriate for your school. As a starting point, find out:

  • the languages spoken at home by students’ families, and the numbers of families speaking each of those languages (schools can use the LBOTE data in CASES 21)
  • the predominant languages spoken in the wider school community (available from ABS census data, by postcode)
  • relevant historical factors in the local area (for example, the language background/s of early European settlers in the region)
  • the languages taught at nearby kindergartens, community language schools, government and non-government schools, and for primary schools, the language/s taught in the secondary colleges to which most students will transition
  • the number of students learning a language outside regular school hours through a community language school or at the Victorian School of Languages, and the languages they are learning

In the case of Aboriginal Languages, specific cultural protocols apply. Refer to: Aboriginal Languages and Cultures Victoria

A list of government schools and the languages taught in 2019 is available to assist. Refer to:

A list of Community Languages Schools in Victoria which includes campus locations, languages taught and contact information is also available. Refer to:

Regional project officers assist schools and teachers by promoting the benefits of languages and supporting schools to establish and sustain quality languages programs. Refer to: Regional project officers

Pathways and partnerships

Local schools or clusters of schools should work together to ensure that students are provided with a languages learning pathway from Prep through to senior secondary schooling. An early start and continuity of language learning over time are key to developing proficiency in a language in addition to English. Schools are encouraged to include local kindergartens and playgroups as well as other primary and secondary schools in their investigations about languages and pathways for languages in their local area.

Partnerships with local schools can be established for joint planning and sharing resources, including staffing.

Partnerships with local community groups or businesses provide opportunities for authentic languages learning. Find out about:

  • cultural organisations in the local area (such as social clubs or facilities for elderly citizens of a particular language background) where languages other than English are spoken
  • local businesses with links to countries where languages other than English are spoken

Programs, resources and support

The decision about what language to teach may also be influenced by the available resources, including trained staff to support a particular language. The type of program that will be offered and the availability of suitably trained staff are interdependent and both need to be investigated prior to making a decision.

Consider investigating the following:

  • the types of language programs that are run successfully in the local area or in other Victorian schools. Consider arranging for members of the school council, interested parents and staff members to visit schools which are recognised as having effective language programs. Your Regional Languages Project Officer may be able to recommend schools to approach, refer to Professional learning
  • support available for the teaching of specific languages in schools, including the availability of assistants, refer to Language assistants program
  • the availability of teaching and learning materials in particular languages, including digital and online resources suitable for Victorian students, refer to Languages: LF-10
  • the languages spoken by staff members and any language teaching qualifications held by current staff
  • whether the relevant language-specific teacher associations or the Regional Languages Project Officer or Language Adviser can connect the school with any qualified languages teachers in the local area, refer to Professional learning
  • whether the Victorian School of Languages or Community Languages Australia can identify a qualified languages teacher or a teacher who is able to be given permission to teach by VIT whilst they are upgrading their qualifications, refer to Victorian School of Languages or Ethnic Schools Association of Victoria
  • whether there are any local community members with proficiency or qualifications in the selected language who are willing to undertake further training to become a qualified languages teacher

Consulting the community

One of the most important decisions for any school is which language or languages will be taught. In order to successfully implement a language program in your school, you need strong support from your school community.

Prepare the way

Prepare the way by promoting the benefits of languages learning to the school community using resources that demonstrate:

  • how learning a language supports the development of cognitive, literacy, problem-solving, intercultural and communication skills, and global understanding
  • the potential longer-term employment, economic and societal benefits of gaining proficiency in a language or languages in addition to English

Schools may use the following resources highlighting the value of language learning at parent information nights or other events:

  • Promoting the benefits of language learning — A paper outlining the benefits of learning a language based on research findings.
  • More Languages, More Benefits — This brochure outlines the benefits of learning a third language, arguing that speaking two languages makes it easier to learn a third language and that, in turn, learning a third language boosts bilingual skills.
  • Multilingualism and Second Language Acquisition — This brochure rebuts some common myths about language learning and multilingualism including the crowded curriculum, community languages as undermining literacy in English and unfair competition coming from students with a background in a community language.
  • Linking languages to the early years — A research report presenting case studies of schools which have established effective links between teaching languages and early literacy development in English.

School stories featuring a video testimonial by the principal and languages teachers about the personal, pedagogical and vocational benefits of languages learning:

Testimonials from past students of languages in Victorian schools talking about how learning a language at school has impacted positively on their personal and professional lives are available at Languages Testimonials.

Tips for gaining school community consensus

Community consultation is even more critical when a school is considering replacing an existing language program with a program in a new language. All relevant stakeholders in the school community should be informed and have the opportunity to provide feedback, to avoid tension and a potential sense of loss. The rationale for a possible change of language should be clear and discussed openly so it can be understood by all members of the school community.

Options for the consultation process

Summarise your investigations into languages, programs, pathways and options for your school and make this information available to the school council and school community for consideration prior to consulting about the choice of language. It may be appropriate to provide translated information or use interpreters to share the information effectively.

Consultation can take place face-to-face or through written or online feedback. It is important that all members of the school community are well-informed about the options and have the opportunity to provide input.

Languages forum

Consider holding a school languages forum, where a summary of the information collected can be presented, and everyone has the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.

If deciding a suitable language or languages is likely to be controversial, it may be useful to identify a 'neutral' person to chair the meeting, if possible from outside the immediate school community. Use translated material and interpreters, where necessary, to ensure that the information presented is accessible to everyone.

Surveys

Consider using a written or online survey to gauge parents' opinions about the choice of a language, using translations into community languages, if appropriate. Ask parents for up to three suggestions, in order of preference, including the reasons parents consider the most compelling for teaching these particular languages.

Guidance chapter on starting a new language program

Reviewed 01 December 2020

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