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How Important is LOTE?

This month's question comes from my Homeschool Australia Facebook Group

"How important is LOTE? And do the children have to do it every year? The school they were at didn't have it as they could get anyone to teach it... How do you choose a language?" Roanna

LOTE stands for Language Other Than English. Do the children have to do it? Not all states require home educators to adhere or follow the state curriculum guidelines - refer to the information in the States section of the Homeschool Australia Directory for links to registration requirements and guidelines. Plus, NSW doesn't include it in the primary school curriculum whereas SA does - if you are required to follow the state curriculum, search online for your state or territory curriculum framework to see if it is included.

I included LOTE in our home education program for my children not because it was in the curriculum or required but because it was a good idea and made sense to expand the children's understanding of humanity and how we all relate to where we live (geography) and respond to it (culture, history) and the differences between us.

LOTE at school and at home generally only dabbles with learning another language - no one really learns languages unless one is using them everyday and that generally means conversing regularly with a native speaker. So LOTE is fun and interesting - for example, learning to cook Nasi Goreng, make a gambalan, make shadow puppets, create a board game, watch some documentaries, dress up, and learn a few songs and words.

It isn't until the high school years that learning language gets serious and then everything that is learned in the primary years is covered in the first few months.

Learning languages early builds connections in the brain that benefit all areas of learning and ability - not just language. That's a good enough reason in itself to play with learning languages, but I like the idea of expanding a child's horizons culturally too.

A friend brought up the objection that learning another language is a waste of time because it is rarely used - better to learn something that can be used as a tool to help other people, and in paticular sign language (AUSLAN), a much needed tool in our community. AUSLAN is recognised, at least in South Australia, by the education authorities as a legitimate language to learn under LOTE. I am a definite tool user and like to have lots of tools at hand. My point was that learning another language does a lot more for cognitive development than simply learning another language.

It's a lot like learning to play a musical instrument - sure it has some uses that aren't aesthetic and some people would argue that it too is a waste of time when there are problems in the world in need of immediate practical help. We live in an age where brain use and performance and growth can be accurately measured - there is no doubt that learning things like music and other languages enhances learning and ability across many areas, including and most importantly creativity, lateral thinking and problem solving.

The education system doesn't really recognise this which is why it doesn't get serious about LOTE, the Arts and Physical Ed/Development (unless, for the latter, you live in a rural area!)
Learning sign language makes a LOT of sense and could be started early - before a child starts to talk. I knew a 2 year old who could communicate effectively using sign language with her family and no one in that family had hearing difficulties. It was awesome to watch them communicate at busy, crowed and noising homeschool outings!

But why stop there? Why not learn 2, 3 or more languages - and why not learn them intensively. I see this as not only enriching as child's experiences but developing pathways that enhance further learning in his or her brain.

Why should any one subject have more kudos and importance than another? Especially for younger children. Maths is an abstract language and we fall over ourselves rushing to teach this to young children... Let's teach young children the joy of different languages first and introduce maths more naturally and gently, as a practical tool and as a wonderful language that helps us understand and work with the physical world in which we live.

See the following articles on learning other languages:

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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