In your country, what are high-prestige and low-prestige languages for L2 speakers?

By: | Post date: 2017-04-06 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Other Languages

Thirty years ago, the most popular languages to learn at school in Australia were those that have inherited prestige from Britain: French, with German a somewhat distant second.

They are being overtaken now by Spanish and Chinese and Japanese, but they remain entrenched, particularly in elite schools. The French lecturers I use to hang out with would surreptitiously roll their eyes about the sense of entitlement of their students.

The languages moving up, Spanish and Chinese and Japanese and Indonesian, are not prestigious in the same way: they are seen I think as utilitarian rather than cultured choices. Then again, I’m biased. But I’m pretty sure no one would be looked down on for choosing one of those languages. They are regarded as eminently practical.

The languages that will be taken less seriously, as with other answers here, are community languages, spoken by large migrant communities. Greek, Arabic, Vietnamese. They are usually learnt by Heritage speakers, and are regarded as easy marks to add to your high school exams. If you’re not from the ethnic group, people will be genuinely puzzled about why you are learning it. And because the Heritage speakers all around you in the classroom already know at least bits and pieces, you are going to find the class quite frustrating.

Interestingly, Italian is both a cultural Prestige language and a community language, which has worked in its favour.

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