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French makes way for Mandarin

AUSTRALIA. Australian schools teach more languages than any other country in the world, according to new Australian National University research.

Work done by researchers at the Australian National Univeristy found that the teaching of Asian languages is expanding, with Vietnamese, Indonesian and Japanese increasingly being taught alongside the traditional European languages.

More than 40 languages, including many spoken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes, are being taught.

More pressure is being put on schools to meet community demands as some 120 languages are now spoken in Australian homes. Schools are switching from teaching French to Indonesian, Mandarin and Japanese as numbers of Asian immigrants increase.

Schools are being urged to offer Asian languages as the government tries to develop trade and tourism with the Pacific Rim.

"The nature of Australia's economic contacts, migration and international relations means the array of languages offered to school students here is really stunning," said Associate Professor Richard Baldauf, a visiting fellow in the ANU's department of linguistics.

Professor Baldauf is in a consortium of academics who have received federal government funding to assess language teaching.

Early results showed that programmes such as the National Asian Languages and Studies - a Commonwealth initiative which has provided Pounds 9 million annually to schools over the past three years - have encouraged diversity.

The programme provides extra training for teachers who want to integrate Asian studies in the curriculum. Areas covered include art, history, science and literature.

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