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Produced by Asia Education Foundation, this digest shares recent research relevant to fostering the development of Asian languages and studies, and intercultural understanding in Australian schools.

February 2015 edition


Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group Report on initial teacher education released

The Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers report was released on 13 February 2015. The report makes 38 recommendations on how to better prepare new teachers for the classroom in order to improve student learning outcomes. The following recommendations have direct implications for AEF's work:

  • higher education providers deliver evidence-based content focused on the depth of subject knowledge and range of pedagogical approaches that enable pre-service teachers to make a positive impact on the learning of all students (Recommendation 14)
  • higher education providers equip all primary pre-service teachers with at least one subject specialisation, prioritising Science, Mathematics or a language. Providers publish specialisations available and numbers of graduates from these programmes (Recommendation 18).


Notes on teaching Chinese to foreign learners

Halliday, M. A. K. (2014). Notes on teaching Chinese to foreign learners. Journal of World Languages, 1 (1), 1-6

An Emeritus Professor of linguistics at the University of Sydney shares his views on how to teach Chinese more effectively to native English speakers. Based on his personal experiences, he addresses challenges that Chinese teachers typically encounter in the classroom. He emphasises that older students, amongst others, initially learn best from teachers who speak the same language as they do, Chinese characters should be introduced at a later learning stage, and teachers should aspire to achieve 'phonological accuracy'. He also argues that while every student learns Chinese differently, they can all be classified according to the following learning modes: 1) by ear or by eye; 2) by performance or by reflection; 3) by content or by expression; and 4) by principle or by example.  

Practical relevance

This freely available article can assist teachers of Chinese in determining appropriate Chinese language pedagogy for native English speakers.

The relationships between ambiguity tolerance, learning strategies, and learning Chinese as a second language.

Chu, W. -H.; Lin, D. -Y.; Chen, T. -Y.; Tsai, P. -S. & Wang, C. -H. (2015). The relationships between ambiguity tolerance, learning strategies, and learning Chinese as a second language. System, 49, 1-16

This Taiwan-based study on learning Chinese as a second language (L2) examines the relationship between learners’ ambiguity tolerance and their language competence and learning strategies. The study found students with high ambiguity tolerance are significantly more likely to show high L2 competence. The article suggests that language teachers should use learning activities and resources that assist students to cope with ambiguity, which would also develop students' cross-cultural competence. Moreover, the study found that successful Chinese L2 learners often use learning strategies that 'focus on the understanding of overall meaning in communication, use Chinese in a natural and authentic context, and excel at monitoring their study and progress' (p. 9).

Practical relevance
The article helps Chinese language teachers reflect on their personal approaches to teaching Chinese, especially the ways in which they support students to deal with the ambiguities encountered in L2 learning. It also offers practical recommendations regarding the use of certain learning resources, materials and interactive classroom pedagogy.

Language as 'soft power' in bilateral relations: the case of Indonesian language in Australia 

Hill, D. (2014). Language as 'soft power' in bilateral relations: the case of Indonesian language in Australia. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, DOI: 10.1080/02188791.2014.940033

This article explores Indonesian language enrolment trends in Australian education vis-à-vis Australia's attitudes towards Indonesia in the context of public diplomacy and educational policy. The author argues the decline in enrolments in recent years may impact on Australians' views and attitudes towards Indonesian. Further, this deterioration in enrolments and in public attitudes appears to be influenced in some way by government policies. The article concludes by calling on Australian and Indonesian policymakers to intensify their efforts to promote and support Indonesian language learning in Australia.

Practical relevance
The article underscores the interconnectedness between learning Indonesian, intercultural engagement and developing positive attitudes towards one of Australia’s closest neighbours. The article is insightful for school leaders and language teachers who wish to introduce or reinvigorate an Indonesian language programme at their school. It is also linked to the Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia cross-curriculum priority in the Australian Curriculum.


The views expressed within this update, or any of the articles it contains, do not necessarily represent those of AEF or the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.

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