Fewer students are taking up the study of languages at universities across the country – but at The University of Western Australia and others like it across the nation, Italian is the one language that is flourishing and its popularity is due in part to students like 22 year-old Jane Te, of Willetton.
Malaysian-born Jane has just finished three years of Italian Studies and she said she loved every minute of the rigorous course, even though at the end she was the only Asian student.
With an Arts degree under her belt, she is completing a Bachelor of Education so she can teach Italian, maybe along with her other languages – Malay, Mandarin, Japanese and English.
“The Italian studies program was very interesting because it included Italian literature and history and the lecturers could not have been more helpful. The culture is so rich and the language is so beautiful. Unfortunately, I can’t cook Italian food yet, but I hope to be able to one day. I also hope to visit Italy in the near future,” Jane said.
While Jane spreads the good word about her favourite language, another reason for the expansion of Italian studies at UWA is the generous patronage of the Italian-based Cassamarca Foundation, which since 200 has invested more than $28.5 million to fund Italian Studies at nine Australian universities.
“Independent research has shown that the Cassamarca’s Australia project is largely responsible for Italian Studies being the only university language studies area to have expanded over the past decade,” said Associate Professor Loretta Baldassar of UWA’s School of Social and Cultural Studies said.
The foundation is a private financial institution based in Treviso, Italy. Its mission includes the promotion and advancement of Italian culture in countries with big Italian migrant populations.
“The healthy growth of Italian Studies demonstrates that the current crisis in other language studies is due to a lack of funding and resources,” A/Professor Baldassar said. “This is a sad state of affairs. In a multicultural country like Australia, and in the current climate of globalisation, the need for communication and understanding across cultures is more important than at any time in our history.”
“Speaking a language other than English is not only an important part of what it means to be an international citizen, but it has been shown to also improve your knowledge of English,” Professor Alan Robson, Vice-Chancellor of UWA, said.
From 2011, students doing a language at TEE level will receive bonus points when applying for entry to UWA.
Professor Robson said the university was keen to move Australia away from its monolingual mindset and encourage students to deepen their cultural understanding.
Jane Te (Willetton) 0417 590 694