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Stacy Bruce is a language enthusiast and a marketing professional rolled into one. Besides fulfilling her career aspirations as Marketing and Communications Coordinator (Languages) at the College of Asia & the Pacific (CAP), she’s got a hidden passion that gives a new meaning to the expression ‘learning on the job’—Stacy is also a self-driven student! When she’s not at work driving the CAP marketing and communications agenda, Stacy is a student of the Masters of Asian and Pacific Studies at CHL, which gives her the opportunity to continue learning the Chinese language. And next year, she plans to also leverage the CHL’s online language education platform to study another language—her shortlist includes Thai, Burmese and Tok-Pisin! Stacy recently spoke to us about her journey with learning languages at ANU and what drives her when it comes to languages, the course in particular, and life in general.
1. How and why did your journey to learn languages at the ANU start?
I started working at the ANU in November 2018, having recently returned to Australia after living overseas for many years. Finally I was going to be able to work in Australia and have time to pursue my interests outside work! But the allure of study at ANU was too great an opportunity to pass up, so I enrolled in a Masters of Asian and Pacific Studies to continue my Chinese language learning.
I began studying Chinese when I was 12 years old, so it is definitely a labour of love (and often frustration) for me to keep studying the language. I lived in China between 2014 and 2016, and since leaving, have always sought out opportunities to keep practicing. So in between a busy work schedule I’ve been attending class, sitting tests and submitting assignments as a part-time student in the hope that I can maybe get slightly closer to almost bettering my language skills.
2. What do you find unique and useful about the courses you’ve studied/are studying?
The calibre of teaching here is inspiring. Having studied my undergraduate degree elsewhere and completing two study abroad programs, I can say that teachers are instrumental in keeping students engaged and passionate about what they’re doing. I’ve been impressed by the level of care and attention my teachers have shown so far, and the diversity of knowledge and experiences that they bring to class. It’s very important to have cultural and historical knowledge to complement the language you are learning, and I have been impressed by the amount of cultural studies incorporated into the syllabus.
3. Name one interesting fact or word/expression you love in the languages you’ve learned and those you’re currently studying.
I really enjoy using Chinese exclamations, such as aiyo/aiya. It is mostly used to express exasperation or shock, and is really fun to say. Hit your elbow—“aiya”! Spill your coffee—“aiya”! Sales person calls you for the fifth time in a row—“aiyooo”. Interestingly, I think this exclamation isn’t just used in Chinese—it’s also used in parts of India and Sri Lanka to say “oh no”. I also learned French during my undergraduate degree and studied for a year in France. I was shocked and endlessly pleased to discover that the French do indeed say “ooh la la” on a regular basis.
4. What, according to you, is the future of language education?
I see a real need and push for real-world experiences. I often hear from people who have studied a language at school or university who still don’t feel they can converse with native speakers. So, I think there will be a greater focus on integrating speaking practice and flexible learning in the future. More opportunities and incentives to practice outside the classroom means that students gain greater confidence and a much deeper understanding of how language is used in different contexts. That’s why global programs, online learning, language exchange groups and engagement with pop culture are so very important.
5. How do you think you’re going to use your language education in the future?
What are your plans? I hope to return to China someday. It has already given me so many opportunities. I studied there, worked there, lived in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen, travelled all over and made lifelong friendships. I now get to encourage students to study languages as part of my role here at ANU, so it feels a bit like I’ve come full circle. The worst and yet the best thing about learning a language is that you’re never really ‘finished’—there is always more to learn! More Chinese, more French, more languages! I do also have plans to learn another language next year through the CHL’s online language education platform. It’ll either be Thai, Burmese or Tok-Pisin. I have a little bit of knowledge of Thai because I lived in Bangkok for a while, but the other two seem very interesting, because they’re cultures that I know very little about.
6. Anything else fun or interesting you’d like to share about your language education experience?
When I first started studying languages at a university level, I thought that I might work as a translator or in government, but it didn’t occur to me just how important foreign languages are to all kinds of workplaces. I have worked in real estate, manufacturing, sales, writing and education—and I have used my Chinese and French skills in all of those workplaces. As someone who grew up on a farm in country South Australia, I went from living in a town of 60 people to living in a city of 25 million. Learning languages literally changed my life and gave me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.