App to revive language learning

Media Release
  • Minister for Education and Training

Around another 3,000 pre-schoolers across the country will start learning Chinese as a second language through an app the Federal Education Minister has described as “vital” to Australia unlocking the full potential of our relationship with China.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the Turnbull Government is offering more than 300 preschools access to the expanded pilot of the Early Learning Languages programme and Polyglots apps, meaning around 10,000 pre-schoolers will be able to study Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, French or Arabic.

Minister Birmingham said the expanded trial will inspire more children to learn a language and deliver greater long-term engagement with languages as students move through school.

“Our $9.8 million investment in the languages app highlights the Turnbull Government’s commitment to reviving the study of languages throughout Australia’s early education centres, schools and universities,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Initiatives like this languages app will be vital to helping our children take advantage of the ‘Asian Century’ and the new opportunities our economic transition presents.

“Seeing and hearing young children counting, following recipes and singing in a language that isn’t their native tongue, you understand how engaging this app is and why it has had such positive feedback from kids, educators and families.”

Minister Birmingham said an evaluation of the ELLA programme and Polyglots apps by Deloitte has shown how successful the 2015 pilot was and the positive feedback is why the Turnbull Government has expanded the trial to more pre-schools and childcare centres this year.

“This languages programme ticks the boxes for an excellent educational resource: it’s backed by evidence, it inspires students, it gets parents involved in education and is useful for educators,” Minister Birmingham said.

“The evaluation of last year’s pilot in 41 pre-schools highlighted that the app is driving an active interest amongst children in the culture of the language they’re learning.

“The evaluation also showed that 78 per cent of parents had seen their child using words from the language outside of preschool, meaning parental engagement with their children’s learning and the popular apps are combining to increase the number of Australians studying a language. Around 49 per cent of parents also said their children were showing interest in the culture of the language they were learning through ELLA apps at home.

“Not only are students benefitting, but Deloitte found the app has helped 70 per cent of educators in the pilot programme feel more confident incorporating languages into their lessons.

“Following the success of the ELLA programme and Polyglots apps, the Turnbull Government has committed $6 million through the National Science and Innovation Agenda to the development of a similar app focused on inspiring students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Minister Birmingham said he expects the “Polyglots” apps will help turn the tide on the decline of language study in schools.

“As the Asia Education Foundation’s Senior Secondary Languages report has shown, the proportion of year 12 students studying another language has dropped from 40 per cent in the 1960s to just 12 per cent today, which is why it’s encouraging that Australian children – and parents alike – have taken to the Polyglots apps with such enthusiasm,” Minister Birmingham said.

For more information about the ELLA programme and the Polyglots apps, visit:

The Senior Secondary Languages Education Research Project is available at:

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