2 May 2024

Why should you study languages in Senior School?

Heads of SchoolSenior School
Why should you study languages in Senior School?
Why should you study languages in Senior School?
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‘Do you know what a foreign accent is? It's a sign of bravery.’
- Amy Chua

April 23, the first day of Term 2, marked the United Nations’ English Language Day, the date traditionally observed as both the birthday and date of death of William Shakespeare.

As we well know, English is one of the primary languages of international communication. People from different countries and cultures from across the world are increasingly able to communicate with each other in English, even if it is not their first language. This makes it an essential tool for global co-operation and diplomacy. English is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and alongside Chinese, French and Spanish – three of the four languages available to study at Carey.

Given that the majority of our students in the Carey community are competent and confident first language speakers, why is it so important that we encourage our young people to continue with their additional Language studies as they progress through the Senior School?

To help me ponder this, I sat down with Ms Ermin La Rooy, Leader of Learning – Languages (pictured), to hear more about her passion for and perspective on the importance of language studies.

Ms La Rooy, tell us a little bit about yourself, and why your heart is warmed by learning the languages of others.

I was born into a multicultural family: an Austrian father and an Italian mother. My parents broke the rules of what was acceptable way back then, refusing to judge people by where they were born. Because of my amazing parents and their openness to change, tolerance and understanding of community – and by that I mean not just your family and the suburb, city, country you live in, but something bigger – I have always been open to being a global citizen and exploring the possibilities that come with learning about others, including their languages.

What languages can you speak?

The first language I spoke was Italian, followed by German, so both my parents were happy. Both of these language helped, as the area of Italy in which I grew up had speakers of both. My family also spent some time in Croatia, so that was the next language to be learned. Before we moved to Australia, I began learning English and once I made it to university, I began studying Chinese and Indonesian. The next language on my list is Korean!

Why is it important that our young people continue to study an additional language beyond Middle School?

Learning another language means more than just memorising lists of words: it strengthens both our memory for sequences and our ability to concentrate and build connections, it sparks our curiosity for other cultures, it opens our minds to different ways of living and thinking, and it promotes harmony and respect.

Contemporary Australians are members of a global community, connected to the whole world by ties of language and culture, economics, politics, travel and a shared environment. Enabling our students to shape the future of their world is at the heart of each dynamic Language class and Language curriculum, including that which they might engage with at university. In June 2020, the Federal Government announced that studying languages at university and in the professional capacity deserves reduced course fees! Language study is important, beneficial and it opens doors.

What would you like our Year 9 and 10 students to know about the continuation of their language studies in the Senior School?

Senior School language teachers are great at differentiating and they will often walk into the classroom with a few activities and tasks ready to go that allow students to not only practice language use in a relevant form, but also, have fun! Students can work at the point of need, and if they choose to do so, extend themselves to experience additional success. When we speak to our Year 11s and why they continue beyond Year 9 and Year 10, it is largely because they have experienced success, feel they are doing well and they are enjoying being able to use their additional language in real world situations.

Why have you dedicated your career to supporting young people to develop their additional language skills?

My dad always said that if you understand the community and the culture you are joining, you will be okay. To me, this includes doing my best to learn the language of the people I am working and living with.

It has been a pleasure teaching young people the power of understanding others’ similarities and differences, and the connections that can be formed between oftentimes disparate people when language helps to create common ground.

As an educator, I have been privileged to help many young people through their language learning to become confident, generous and responsible citizens. I experience so much joy as I watch students learn how to learn and become self-regulated and motivated lifelong learners who are capable of facing the future with resilience and optimism.

Kellie Lyneham
Head of Senior School


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