Language teachers get creative connecting Asia to regional Australia

Posted February 14, 2018 09:50:17

Teaching languages in regional Australia can be challenging, but these teachers are going the extra mile to help their students connect with their neighbours in Asia.

Key points:

  • Opportunities for students to use their skills are hard to find in regional areas
  • A lack of resources means teachers sometimes make their own study materials
  • One school is using Skype sessions with sister schools overseas

From Skype sessions with sister schools overseas to long-haul capital city excursions, teachers are finding ways to deal with the issue of distance.

Chinese teacher Sophia Slavich took her Year 8 students at Stawell Secondary College on an excursion to Melbourne, which is about three hours away, for a Chinese meal among other activities last year.

She said it was a “big investment” for an experience that wasn’t easy to come by in the Victorian town, which has a population of just over 6,000 people.

“Being able to go on excursions, and even just go out for a Chinese meal, are really valuable experiences when you’re learning languages — when you can put [the] language into use,” Ms Slavich said.

Parents see potential benefits

Ms Slavich also teaches at Stawell Primary School, which made the decision to swap German for Mandarin Chinese classes about two years ago.

She said the school only had enough resources to offer quality education for one language, and Chinese was chosen because of the Australian Government’s focus on Asian languages.

And like in the capital cities, Ms Slavich believed there was more interest from the Stawell community to learn Chinese.

“The parents I’ve spoken to have all been really supportive of it,” she said.

“There’s quite a big farming community here, and for parents who are interested in developing bigger export markets, I think they can see that it could be a good [skill] for their kids to learn.”

Ms Slavich said since there weren’t enough resources for her students to have their own textbooks, she taught them using self-made materials.

Her Year 9 students were also involved in the Victorian Young Leaders to China program, a six-week in-country immersion program.

Through an exchange program, students from Shanghai also travelled to Stawell and stayed with the primary school students’ families.

“That week was incredible, you can just hear all the kids using Chinese out in the playground because they could actually see [someone] they could talk to,” she said.

Technology helps students practise

Skype sessions are a part of the program in Townsville Grammar School’s Indonesian classes.

The students have been buddying up with students from their sister schools in Bali and Yogyakarta, giving them the opportunity to practice Indonesian with native speakers.

Teacher Shandelle O’Reilly said the lessons are something her students always look forward to.

“I love seeing the excitement on their face when they practise what has been taught in class,” she said.

“[The students] understand what the Indonesian students are saying and respond to their questions.”

Aside from being fun, Ms O’Reilly said the Skype sessions are necessary as there are not many authentic cultural experiences or events offered in the city, despite its size.

To address that issue, she uses Indonesian music to help keep children engaged with their studies. Indonesian students from James Cook University have also helped teach the class songs.

“Repetition accompanied with enjoyment are very important when learning a language,” Ms O’Reilly said.

Her students have also performed at the Townsville Cultural Festival and many community events, allowing them to practice their language skills.

“I would love to have more collaboration with these groups. However, many international students finish their studies and return to Indonesia,” she said.

Ms O’Reilly said demand for Indonesian language teachers is not growing in Townsville, a fact she finds disappointing considering Indonesia’s proximity to Australia.

“I strongly believe that Indonesian language skills can open doors to a wide range of employment opportunities in areas of government, education, business, military, and medicine just to name a few.”

Passion to challenge ‘misconceptions’

Heywood is a small agricultural town with a population of just over 1,700 people, located in Victoria’s south-west.

It has two public schools, the Heywood & District Secondary College and Heywood Consolidated School, and both offer Indonesian classes.

“I’m very satisfied, because the school is very small with only 130 students, but this year I also have four students doing VCE Indonesian,” secondary school teacher Jane Shearwood said.

However she said many students choose not to continue learning Indonesian, because they do not feel connected to the language.

“The language is not relevant to their lives, they don’t meet Indonesian people to make them want to learn to speak Indonesian,” Ms Shearwood said.

Ms Shearwood, who is also a member of a Saman traditional dance group in Melbourne, said she plans to continue teaching Indonesian in regional Australia despite the challenges.

“I feel there needs to be somebody out here with passion,” Ms Shearwood said.

“I really want people to understand that there’s a lot of misconceptions about Islam, about Muslims, about Asian people, here in regional [Australia], where people aren’t exposed to different cultures.”

Melbourne is a four-hour drive from Heywood, and she said it was hard for her organise excursions that could expose her students to Indonesian culture.

Despite the distance and the planning involved, Ms Shearwood said she plans to take her students to Melbourne’s annual Indonesian Film Festival this year.

Topics: languages, education, regional, secondary-schools, primary-schools, internet-technology, music, australia, stawell-3380, heywood-3304, annandale-4814, townsville-4810, china, indonesia, asia

Lady Gaga cancels world tour due to ‘severe pain’

Posted February 04, 2018 11:30:55

US singer Lady Gaga has cancelled the rest of her world tour due to “severe pain” caused by the bone and muscle condition by fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain in the muscles and bones. Other symptoms include tiredness, sleep problems and troubles with memory.

The Grammy-winning artist has cancelled the final 10 dates of the European leg of her Joanne World Tour.

“I’m so devastated I don’t know how to describe it,” she said in a statement.

“All I know is that if I don’t do this, I am not standing by the words or meaning of my music.”

She said she loved the show “more than anything” and she loved her fans, but the situation was beyond her control.

Lady Gaga kicked off her world tour in Vancouver last August. She was scheduled to visit many European cities before finishing on February 23 in Berlin.

“London, Manchester, Zurich, Koln, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin. And Rio. I promise I will be back in your city, but for now, I need to put myself and my well-being first. I love you forever,” she said.

The statement said she was in the care of medical experts who were working closely with her “so she can continue to perform for her fans for years to come”.

Ticket holders have been offered a refund.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, music, united-states

After being a day away from closing, Canberra’s Phoenix is rising from the ashes

Updated February 02, 2018 13:59:25

Staying true to its name, Canberra’s Phoenix Pub has risen from the ashes with renewed hope of survival.

Manager Netti Vonthethoff said she was overwhelmed the Canberra community raised $50,000 in weeks to save them from closing due to a complex legal dispute with the landlord and property manager.

“Just weeks ago we were sure we needed to close the next day and it was all very exhausting,” Ms Vonthethoff said.

“Now I think we’re going to make it through.”

The public threw the business a lifeline through fundraising events, online donations and simply grabbing a beer at the venue, with Ms Vonthethoff saying trade had increased drastically since they signalled trouble one month ago.

“All those people that have come forward [to help], the bigness of that, I don’t even know how to express. It makes me realise there’s no way they would have let us close,” she said.

“It’s not just my heart that’s up there, it’s the community’s heart and it’s been shown.”

Water and fire damage cause sting of setbacks

During a recent fundraising event, ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said the city’s live music scene would suffer from the loss of The Phoenix, which had been showcasing local talent for 25 years.

The pub in the iconic Sydney Building on East Row had faced a string of financial setbacks since the premises were damaged by fire in February, 2014.

After being hit by a storm the following year, it was slapped with a $200,000 bill for a period operators say the business was unfit to trade, despite putting thousands of dollars into repairing the venue.

The Phoenix spreads across two premises and the original part — the much larger section — has been mostly closed since the fire.

Last year the property manager, LJ Hooker, terminated that section’s lease after claiming the business’ renovations were non-compliant with fire regulations.

Ms Vonthethoff said community support had put the businesses in a significantly more stable financial position, making the prospect of reopening that section more likely.

“That other side still has a lot of debt on it, but the trade is now enough to carry the costs of that side where as it hadn’t been,” she said.

“That’s why we are hoping to negotiate [with the landlord] to get back into that space.”

But she said for now she was just happy the smaller side’s immediate future was secured.

“Pretty much every band that has come though The Phoenix for all of January have donated their time and energy and all the money raised for them has been donated directly to The Phoenix,” she said.

“For everyone to have jumped out to help us just shows how much we mean to them and that is just so positive.”

Topics: music, community-and-society, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted February 02, 2018 13:43:58

Trump hits back at Jay-Z after ‘superbug’ comment

Updated January 29, 2018 09:06:31

Donald Trump has lashed out at Jay-Z after the music mogul criticised the President for his disparaging comments about African countries.

“Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!,” Mr Trump tweeted.

The message came after the producer told CNN that economic success does not offset Mr Trump’s hateful rhetoric.

“It comes back to the whole thing, treat me really bad and pay me well,” Jay-Z told CNN’s The Van Jones Show.

Department of Labour figures show the employment rate for African Americans has fallen steadily since 2011, years before Mr Trump took office.

The stoush erupted after Mr Trump reportedly called some African countries “shitholes” during a meeting on immigration protections.

“Really hurtful because it’s like looking down on a whole population of people and you’re so misinformed because these places have beautiful people,” Jay-Z said of Mr Trump’s “shithole” comment.

Jay-Z also labelled the President a “superbug”.

“You have sprayed perfume on the trash can,” he said.

“What you do when you do that is the bugs come. You spray something and you create a superbug because you don’t take care of the problem.

“You don’t take the trash out, you keep spraying whatever over it to make it acceptable.

“As those things grow, you create a superbug. And then now we have Donald Trump, the superbug.”


Topics: world-politics, arts-and-entertainment, music, human-interest, united-states

First posted January 29, 2018 09:05:08

Rolling Stone Australia’s future in doubt as publisher goes into administration

Posted January 25, 2018 17:33:41

The future of Rolling Stone Australia, the local edition of what has long been considered the rock and roll bible, looks to be in doubt, with the magazine understood to be ceasing publication.

Publisher Paper Riot Pty Ltd has gone into external administration, according to an ASIC filing, signalling the end for the magazine, which has a small staff based in Sydney.

The decision is expected to result in a handful of job losses, while some contributors owed money will be forced to try to claim that cash through the liquidation process.

The ABC has contacted Paper Riot for comment.

“As much as the money is important to me, I’m more concerned about the people who are losing their jobs and income,” contributor Bernard Zuel said.

“And the music industry is losing one of the last magazine titles we have left.”

The magazine business has been a major victim of the digital disruption, and Rolling Stone’s American edition, the original and groundbreaking cultural icon, has seen value write-downs over the years and has been criticised for its devotion to nostalgia acts of the baby boomer era.

It also suffered reputational damage in the wake of a story about a rape on a US college campus that resulted in a high-profile lawsuit.

The magazine’s founder, Jann Wenner, sold his remaining stake last year.

‘Sad to lose them from the landscape’

The Australian edition, which has been around since the 1970s, changed hands several years ago, when Paper Riot took over the franchise from its former publisher Bauer Media.

At the time, Paper Riot’s Matt Coyte told Mumbrella: “While Bauer didn’t necessarily see it as a viable business for a small operation I thought it was a very viable business, and I look forward to doing some of the things that being a smaller business will allow me to pursue.”

Writer Doug Wallen, who has contributed to the magazine for about a decade, said it would be a shame to see a publication with the kind of name recognition of Rolling Stone go away.

“It’s sad to lose them from the landscape, but I guess it’s not surprising the way things are going.”

Topics: music, arts-and-entertainment, australia

Pitch perfect: YouTube clip lands Australian a cappella group Carnegie Hall gig

Updated January 25, 2018 09:23:00

An Australian a cappella group will be performing at New York City’s famous Carnegie Hall, after concert organisers came across its YouTube channel.

The musical act, which performs popular songs using only their voices with no instrumental accompaniment, began in 2014 at Western Australia’s Curtin University to help bridge the gap between staff and students.

Rhythmos Choir, which has about 30 members, uploaded its songs to YouTube where Carnegie Hall concert organisers heard the group’s work by chance.

The group was then invited to sing at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of The King’s Singers — a choral group from King’s College at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

Dr Jonathan Paxman, a lecturer in engineering and science at the university, is also the choir’s conductor.

“It was a real bolt from the blue. We weren’t expecting that at all,” said Dr Paxman.

“It turned out that the concert promoters had seen some of our performances [of] King’s Singers’ arrangements on YouTube and they reached out to us.”

The group will perform at the iconic venue in April, along with acts from the United States and Germany.

“We were invited along with a number of other choirs from around the world to participate in that performance … it’s going to be a magical experience,” Dr Paxman said.

They were the only Australians to be invited.

Human voice as an instrument

A cappella music, which was thrust into the limelight in 2012 by the movie Pitch Perfect, is performed entirely by the human voice.

“Singing is a whole body activity, it’s the most fundamental instrument really and singing is such a wonderful activity for people to be involved in — it’s great for your mental and physical health,” Dr Paxman said.

For international student Phuong Anh Nguyen, singing brings happiness and a sense of community.

“The feeling after we’ve done a piece and everyone is just harmonising and making those beautiful sounds … just knowing that we’ve made people happy is the most rewarding feeling,” Ms Nguyen said.

She said she was looking forward to travelling to New York to perform on stage for the group’s largest audience yet.

“We are really excited for bringing what we’ve got and joining the choirs around the world for such a prestigious event,” Ms Nguyen said.

Choir brings staff, students together

Dr Paxman was inspired to start Rhythmos Choir after getting involved with music while studying at Cambridge.

“I was singing with the Queen’s College Chapel Choir and I also started conducting my own ensembles over there,” Dr Paxman said.

“That was really where I started to learn the skill of conducting a choir and directing music ensembles.

“There was a gap here for a good performing ensemble that involved students … we had some auditions and we had a small group of singers … and we’ve just built year on year since then.”

Before New York, Rhymthos Choir will be rehearsing for its Perth Fringe World debut at Edith Spiegeltent next month.

Topics: music, arts-and-entertainment, bentley-6102, wa

First posted January 25, 2018 09:01:42

Suburbs at war as residents and pubs clash over noise

Posted January 24, 2018 12:10:49

Should people who move into houses or apartments close to existing restaurants, pubs and live music venues be allowed to complain about the noise?

It is a key issue for the WA Government, local councils, venue owners and builders as infill residential developments mushroom in Perth’s suburbs.

John Carey, MLA for Perth and a former mayor of the City of Vincent, said noise was a perennial issue.

And if you believe new residents should just accept the noise if a food or music was there first?

“Who was there first is not recognised in any regulation or legislation,” Mr Carey told ABC Radio Perth.

Currently, rules around noise in residential zones are the same no matter where you are in the metropolitan area.

“After 7:00pm the level set is 55 decibels for residential areas,” Mr Carey said.

“That’s equivalent to light traffic or a busy office.

“Seventy decibels could be a very loud lawnmower or vacuum cleaner — it’s not that loud.”

Mr Carey said legislation needed to be changed so that some areas with long-standing venues were designated entertainment zones, where higher decibels are allowed and developers and residents must accept the noise.

But it is not a legislative change that can be made quickly or easily, he warned.

It would involve changing both environmental health and planning laws and would require extensive community consultation.

It is an issue that Barry Jones, who co-owns five pubs around Perth, wants addressed sooner rather than later.

“It’s not just an inner-city problem anymore,” he said.

“Local councils are going to be looking to approve more infill in areas which were traditionally for commercial or retail use.

“Those areas often contain long-established licensed premises and built over 100 years ago.

“If the venue was there first, then you need to look at how we can make sure that people moving into the area are aware of the noise and that new developments are suitable to handle the noise.”

Live music venues under threat

But even if new residents are aware that a venue exists when they move in, there is nothing to stop them complaining to their local council or the liquor licensing authority.

And if the venue is found to be making more noise than the law allows, it could be forced to close or change how it operates.

One of Mr Jones’s venues, the Rosemount Hotel in North Perth, has been in operation since 1902 and often hosts live music.

A new apartment complex has gone up across the road, but the hotel’s 115-year prior occupancy won’t count for anything if residents complain about noise.

“When apartments are being built virtually on the doorstep of the hotel, at the Rosemount for instance, that is going to give rise to issues where we just can’t operate in the manner that we have in the past if the law is unchanged,” Mr Jones said.

Some councils have asked developers to install double glazing in new apartments but complaints still come in.

“The fact that you have double glazing on your windows doesn’t mean you have to keep them closed,” Mr Jones said.

“They can open the windows and call the health surveyor down and the noise will be found to be above the limit.”

‘You bought a place near a hotel!’

Most listeners who contacted ABC Radio Perth believe that if a venue was there first then residents should accept the noise, but object to previously quiet neighbourhoods being disturbed by new developments.

Jo: “You bought a place near a hotel! Chances are that hotel has been trading for years. You want to be hip and live in the city or vibrant part of town — this is part of it. Suck it up and wear earplugs.”

Josh: “I lived in Aberdeen Street in Northbridge for 12 years and adored living there. Always marvelled at people whining about noise in the area; you did move into an entertainment precinct.”

Anita: “You move into a place in 1964. Relatively peaceful … you know about the Royal Show, exhibitions, home expo, speedway, but accept these and they become part of the scenery and the calendar. Fifty-three years later there are rock concerts over the road, with noise that rattles the windows and comes up through the floorboards.”

Deborah: “There is definitely a difference between choosing to live near a pub or inner-city and complaining about the noise, and seeing your quite suburb turn into something you don’t recognise.”

Jason: “I find it really intriguing that when a pub has had a long, great history of live music, you would build significant apartment blocks where you are simply going to get a clash of lifestyles. I’m gobsmacked by it.”

Agents of change

Mr Carey said he supported legislation similar to what had been introduced in Victoria, known as the agents of change principle.

“It protects first occupancy,” he said, not just for hotels but also residents.

“If a hotel builds in a residential area it must comply with existing sound levels.”

He said he was optimistic Perth could densify without losing great live music and pub venues, as long as the community was consulted.

“We need the community to understand that life is changing in Perth, and that means an adjustment to their lives.

“But we have to have that conversation, we can’t just change the laws.”

Topics: urban-development-and-planning, music, local-government, human-interest, perth-6000, northbridge-6003