The Australian Curriculum: Languages is designed to enable all students to engage in learning a language in addition to English. The design of the Australian Curriculum: Languages recognises the features that languages share as well as the distinctiveness of specific languages.
There are aspects of the curriculum that pertain to all languages. The key concepts of language, culture and learning, as described in the Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Languages, underpin the learning area. They also provide the basis for a common rationale and set of aims for all languages.
The Australian Curriculum: Languages includes language–specific curricula for world languages and a Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages.
The curriculum content and achievement standards are different for each specific language because of inherent differences in the languages themselves.
Each language has its own distinctive structure, systems, conventions for use, related culture(s), place in the Australian and international communities, as well as its own history in Australian education.
Understanding who learners are, as language learners and as young people, is the starting point for developing their language learning. An increasingly varied range of students now study languages in Australian classrooms. The changing pattern of migration to Australia is extending the range of languages students bring with them to school. Education systems seek to provide for this diversity of language background and for the fact that languages classrooms include students with varying degrees of experience of and proficiency in the language being learnt, as well as their particular affiliations with additional languages.
Learners come to learning languages with diverse linguistic, cultural and personal profiles, bringing distinctive biographies which include individual histories; biographies; previous experiences of and relationships with the target language and particular motivations, expectations, and aspirations.
As unique, social and cultural beings, students interpret the world and make sense of their experiences through their own social and cultural traditions, understanding and values.
Learners of languages in Australia comprise three major groups:
Second language learners are those who are introduced to learning the target language at school as an additional, new language. The first language used before they start school and/or the language they use at home is not the language being learnt.
Background language learners are those who may use the language at home, not necessarily exclusively, and have varying degrees of knowledge of and proficiency in the language being learnt. These learners have a base for literacy development in the language.
First language learners are users of the language being learnt who have undertaken at least primary schooling in the target language. They have had their primary socialisation as well as initial literacy development in that language and use the target language at home. For Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages, first language learners are learners whose primary socialisation is in the language being learnt and who may or may not have yet developed initial literacy.
Within each of these groups, there are differences in proficiency in the language being learnt. It is acknowledged that the span of language experiences of background learners is particularly wide, and learners in this group are likely to have quite diverse affiliations with the target language. Nevertheless, for pragmatic reasons, it is not feasible to identify further groupings.
A framework is being developed for Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages that caters for different learner pathways that also take into account the state of the particular language involved.