Language contest draws thousands to Griffith

Indigenous Languages teacher Karla Thompson with students who participated in the annual Gold Coast Languages Speech Contest at Griffith University

Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus became a multilingual metropolis when more than 5000 people, including 1500 competitors, attended the recentGold Coast Languages Speech Contest.

Students, family and representatives from the three tiers of education flocked to Griffith for the annual event hosted by the University and the Gold Coast branch of the Modern Language Teachers Association of Queensland.

Established in 1980 by language teacher Ms Roslyn Fischer and current Griffith lecturer in Japanese, Dr Leigh Kirwan, the Gold Coast Languages Contest attracts primary, secondary and tertiary students for competitions in Japanese, French, German, Chinese, Italian and Spanish.

This year also welcomed anAboriginal languages component, with students from Benowa and Robina state high schools taking part. The National Indigenous Language Curriculum is scheduled to roll out in 2014.

The Queensland Japanese Speech Contest, previously held in Brisbane, is also incorporated in the Gold Coast event, with students competing for a place in the national final in Melbourne in October.

The President of the MLTAQ on the Gold Coast, Dr Kirwan said the contest drew the most gifted language students from Queensland schools and could be an important factor in their eventual career choices.

“The MLTAQ has played a very important role in opening the doors for talented students who work hard to achieve high level language skills,” Dr Kirwan said.

“These skills enable students to work anywhere in the world as teachers, tourism personnel, translators, in defence forces, international relations, government and even with the United Nations.

“Employers have become increasingly conscious of their international position in trade, commerce, culture and foreign policy and they greatly value employees who can speak more than one language.”

In an interview in Australian Teacher magazine, contest convenor and French teacher at Benowa State High School, Ms Gabrielle Bert, said competitions such as the Gold Coast Languages Speech Contest built confidence and public speaking skills.

Dr Kirwan said it was not unusual for students to make their contest debut while at primary school and then continuecompeting throughout their high school years and even on to university.