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30 October 2013
Deakin University students are embracing opportunities to study Chinese, Indonesian and Arabic as part of their degrees with enrolments in all three languages showing steady growth.
The steady take up of languages by students, accompanied by Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander's vision for students to be literate in more than one language has encouraged the university to introduce Spanish from 2014.
Professor den Hollander told participants at a recent Furthering Australia-China Engagement conference hosted by the University, she also wants the University to be known as a national leader in developing teachers who are Asia literate.
"We know that understanding another language is critical to understanding ourselves and our own culture as well as understanding the cultures of others," she said.
"Deakin now has many students undertaking study of a language other than English – Mandarin is our most significant international language with Arabic and Indonesian, and we have now added Spanish.
"Why have we added Spanish?
"Because if you actually look at the numbers of people who speak those languages, those are the four of the five most dominant languages of the world economy."
Professor den Hollander said the University wanted to encourage the number of students studying one of the five worldly languages and perhaps to even study two.
She also wanted to ensure students have the opportunity to undertake exchange and study programs, be they face to face or via international 'cloud classrooms'.
"We know that most students graduating from an Australian university today are highly likely to work for an international company and spend time working and travelling overseas," she said.
"A future Deakin graduate will be as likely to work in Shanghai as to work in Sydney or Melbourne.
"We therefore have to become globally capable and our graduates must be culturally and Asia literate.
"This is a particular challenge for Australia, a nation which has been habitually monolingual and Western focussed."
Deakin University's Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Matthew Clarke, said while many universities had scaled back their foreign language programs in the face of declining student demand, Deakin saw languages as a key part of learning.
"I think our languages programs are a quiet success story," Professor Clarke said.
"While Spanish is being cut at other universities, Deakin will be adding it to our suite of offerings in 2014.
"Interest in our Diploma of Language continues to grow, we have also recorded very strong growth in Chinese and Arabic and our Indonesian program continues to make steady progress."
Professor Clarke said enrolments in Arabic had grown from 36.1 equivalent full time students (EFTSL) in 2008 to 43.8 as of March 2013. An EFSTL (Equivalent Full Time Student Load is the equivalent of a student studying full time for one year.
"Our Indonesian program started with 68.5 equivalent full time students in 2008 and reached 77.3 EFTSL in 2012. As of March this year it had 49.8 EFTSL.
"Our Chinese program has grown from 145.6 equivalent full time students in 2008 to 162.4 in March 2013."
Professor Clarke said languages could also be studied with another degree, or studied as a separate award via the Diploma of Language.
"The Diploma of Language started in 2009 with a modest nine students (.5 EFSTL) and rose to 79 students (10 EFTSL) in 2013," he said.
Professor Clarke said an attraction of the languages program was the opportunity to take part in the in country programs.
"These programs are the culmination of helping our students develop an international perspective," he said.
"They enhance the University's commitment to internationalisation of the curriculum because students are immersed in the target language - they live and breathe it."
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