Languages

Students are at the centre of everything we do at Pulteney – simply put, students are our core business and more importantly our core concern. There is not a teacher at Pulteney who does not feel invested in the students they teach. This investment comes on an emotional level –  with overall well-being paramount, but also at a micro level; every teacher wants to not only inspire in the student a passion and enthusiasm for their learning area but also for them to realise the relevance and possibilities that come with it.

With the increasing focus on highly valued STEM subjects in recent years it is important to remember that maths, technology and science are not the only valuable 21st century skills!

As our students move into a world where it is predicted they will have up to 13 career changes during their working lives, we need to equip them with the skills to cope and thrive with this scenario. It is also important that we equip them with the skills to live and work in an ever increasing globalised and multicultural world. As pointed out in the Washington Post recently, the workforce will

 “ desperately need the expertise of those who are educated to the human, cultural, and social as well as the computational” (Strauss, 2017).

In 2013 Google conducted an inquiry into its hiring practices called ‘Project Oxygen’. What it found was that of the top eight most valued characteristics of its managers, the top seven were all ‘soft-skills’.

As stated in the blog “Google just made the case for more foreign language education” the good news for our students is that :

“The soft skills valued in leaders are by-products of foreign language acquisition” (Meaghan, 2018)

In addition the following excerpt taken from the same blog “Google just made the case for more foreign language education” explains these soft skills and how they relate to foreign language learning:

  • Possessing different values and points of view: You may have heard that learning a new language provides a new perspective on the world; that statement isn’t just a feel-good catchphrase. Studies out of Chicago show that even young children exposed to multiple languages are better at understanding other people’s perspectives.
  • Having empathy toward others: A 2015 study from the University of Chicago indicated bilingual children are more likely to be empathetic. Struggling your way through a second language can be humbling, making it much easier to put yourself in others’ shoes and understand those who are different or whose beliefs differ from yours.
  • Being a good critical thinker: Studies from the University of Chicago show that bilinguals are better able to pick up on nuances and subtleties. This leads to more informed decision making, rather than emotional decision making.
  • Making connections across complex ideas: Bilinguals possess many cognitive skills that heighten awareness of complexities in a given situation. Studies show bilinguals have more control over their attention, make more rational decisions, and are more perceptive and observant.
  • Communicating and listening well: Here’s an obvious one—bilinguals are better communicators! When learning another language, understanding others and making yourself understood is always front of mind.

Some of our past Year 12 students were asked to reflect upon their language and culture learning journey here at Pulteney. The development of these highly valued ‘soft-skills’ is evident in their reflections. Although these examples are from our senior German students’, the same skills are as equally evident in our Year 12 Japanese students.

“Learning German has opened more doors for me than I ever thought possible. I was lucky enough to participate in an exchange in Germany for two months, where I was able to experience the different culture, and develop my language and communication skills. I had the time of my life - coming back more independent, with amazing friends, a greater cultural understanding and a huge passion for everything German - the people, the food, the traditions, and the language - I was dreaming and thinking in German by the end of my exchange. I now study German as part of my degree, am part of the University’s German club, and plan to revisit Germany to study and to see the amazing friends I made there, who I still talk to every day. Nothing compares to being able to communicate in another language, it is so rewarding and I highly recommend it to everyone - you never know where it might lead!”

Emily Conroy
Proxime Accesit 2017
Forum Leader

“Undertaking a language subject gives you far more opportuniSties than just learning the language itself. Personally, when I started German in Year 7, I never thought I would continue all the way to Year 12. However German ended up being one of my favourite subjects and it has given me so many great friendships with students overseas. One of the opportunities I had, was to host an exchange student. This is a great experience because of the connections you make and I now have a 'second' family who I can visit on the other side of the world. I had the opportunity to visit my exchange student in the Christmas of 2017. Not only did this give me a greater cultural awareness and the opportunity to travel but I also spent time visiting other exchange students who had come to Pulteney. Although I never went on exchange while at school, I did not feel disadvantaged while in Year 12. Pulteney is lucky enough to host many German exchange students across the senior school. These students are very helpful in providing support to German students across all year levels especially with Year 12's. I could not recommend learning a language enough.”

Caitlin Pearce
House Captain 2017
Swimming Captain 2017

“Learning a language has always been something that has captured my interest. For me, Italian was my first language, followed by English when I moved to Australia. Likely due to being bilingual, learning languages appealed to me greatly because I could see the benefits of being able to speak multiple tongues; from being able to communicate with more people from across the world, including family and friends I had in Italy, to being able to read non-English books and watch movies. No surprise that as I entered Middle School at Pulteney, I quickly fell in love with studying German and all things about the German culture, history and heritage. As a Year 8 being thrown in the world of German, you have no idea just how far you’re going to pursue the language, but for me, studying German provided me with some of the best experiences at school, and continues to be advantageous in my tertiary studies at University. In Year 11, I undertook an exchange with my German host-sister Luisa, which was the start of a life-long friendship across the world. Later that year, I also immersed myself in, and explored, the German culture and sights by attending the 2015 German Trip, which to this day remains as one of the best trips I’ve ever had. The experiences of Year 11 heavily motivated me to continue German in Year 12, where I was able to exceed my expectations and finish the year with a SACE subject merit, and the SAGTA Goethe Prize, for German, which overall helped me achieve proxime accesit to Dux of the School. German continues to be a part of my life, as I am continuing my German studies at Adelaide University.”

Alice Ascari
Proxime Accesit 2016
Forum Leader

“Studying German at Pulteney was one of the most rewarding decisions of my secondary education. Not only was it incredibly fun, but it has also been very helpful in opening doors in the areas of Law and Business, where I currently work. Having learnt German also makes travelling through Europe ridiculously easier. At school, I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for an all expenses paid one-month trip to Germany. Since then, I’ve gone back three more times, which has been a great way to keep practising the language, as well as meeting people from a wide range of backgrounds. If anyone is even slightly considering continuing a language at Pulteney, I would seriously recommend it. It’s an incredibly worthwhile decision that will serve you well in the future!”

Tim Porter
School Captain 2015
Dux 2015

As we enter the most exciting week on the Languages Calendar the “Languages and Culture Celebration Week” it is important to remember why the program is so important. Preparing our students for the future workforce is just one aspect of the program. Helping students to obtain a broader perspective on life, empathy for others, a greater sense of personal and cultural identity and of course improving their communication skills in their target and own first language remains at the core of the language teachers’ purpose.

Kirsty Hickman-Davis

Learning Area Leader, Languages

V Strauss, December 2017,  ‘The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students’ in Washington Post, December 2017, viewed on 2 April, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/12/20/the-surprising-thing-google-learned-about-its-employees-and-what-it-means-for-todays-students/?utm_term=.c774cddc56c6&wpisrc=nl_sb_smartbrief

Meaghan, ‘Sorry Stem, Google just made the case for more foreign language education’, January 2018 in Transparent Language, viewed on April 2,https://blogs.transparent.com/language-news/2018/01/01/sorry-stem-google-just-made-the-case-for-more-foreign-language-education/