Amy Khan is the daughter of two Chinese migrants that arrived in Australia twenty years ago, and despite teaching Chinese at one of the best private schools in South Australia, the 38-year-old mother confesses that she has enrolled her nine-year-old daughter in Greek school so that she can learn how to read and write in Greek.
“I am perfectly aware of the fact that the economic rise in China, the international trade demands and the business relationships between Australia and China, call for the younger generation living in Australia to develop a basic grasp of the Chinese language, but at the same time, I can’t overlook the fact that the Greek language holds an important place in the world,” Ms Khan told Neos Kosmos.
“With a long documented history, Greek is the foundation for all modern-day languages, therefore, it is important for us parents to encourage our children to explore it further and understand its structure and morphology.”
Ms Khan added that despite people’s popular belief that Chinese, and to some degree English, are difficult to grasp, both appear to lack imagination – being fairly simplified – either using symbols to explain an idea and concept or as far as English is concerned, having been influenced to their core, morphology and etymology by Greek and Latin.
“The differences are vast. For example, if one studies the Chinese language it is apparent that all letters and words are communicated through symbols. At the same time, time frames that define temporal duration such as the days of the week and months, are also obsolete. On the other hand, the absence of the masculine, feminine and neutral that we come across in the Greek language allows the writer or speaker to express different interpretations and delve into deeper meanings, that contribute to the richness of the Greek language.
“This is probably also the main reason why most of us cannot easily understand and learn Greek; because it is so much more complex and multidimensional than most other languages.”
The young mother teaches Chinese to high school students, many of whom are of Greek origin, noting that compared to her other students, Greek Australian children appear to have the ability to comprehend and pick up another language at a quicker pace.
In her 15 years of teaching, Ms Khan says that those who speak the language of their ancestors to a satisfactory level have developed an ‘open mind’. They are more willing to have fun and experiment with complex spelling and syntax and are certainly more receptive in absorbing and adopting different concepts.
“These are important developmental skills and the main reason behind my decision to enrol my daughter in Greek school.”
She laments that children in Australia, regardless of their culture, are not particularly keen on learning how to speak foreign languages. It is particularly regrettable since the benefits are multiple, valuable and a great asset to the cognitive process of an individual.
Several studies in Sweden and the US found that learning a foreign language has visible effects on brain power, improves one’s memory as well as their observation skills and also helps develop confidence, improve decision making and even leads to wiser financial choices.
Simultaneously, through the learning process, the brain learns how to recognise different symbols, negotiate various concepts and communicate in more than one traditional way.
“Despite the fact that the Greek language is no longer popular worldwide, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that it is the foundation of philosophy, literature, medicine and sciences, and has significantly shaped the world for centuries, therefore learning how to speak is still a valuable skill.
“And if we are not capable of learning it, it is still our duty to at least try to understand it,” Ms Khan concluded.