Connecting second language learners

About the project

In this project upper secondary school students of Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin) and German come together with older speakers of the languages to share knowledge and goodwill across generations and cultures in Melbourne. Students from three schools in Melbourne are participating.

The research examines how these encounters between L1 and L2 learners across generations affect students’ language acquisition, intercultural knowledge and attitudes to ageing. It also assesses how these interactions affect older participants’ well-being, self-esteem, empowerment and sense of belonging.


The researchers are Dr Marisa Cordella (Faculty of Arts, Monash University), Chief Investigator and Spanish program coordinator; Dr Hui Huang (Faculty of Arts, Monash University), Mandarin program coordinator; Professor Colette Browning (Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University), Healthy Ageing researcher and Ms Ramona Baumgartner (Faculty of Arts, Monash University) Project and German program coordinator. The project was initiated by the late Professor Michael Clyne (Emeritus Professor, Monash University).

Partner organisations include the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, Independent Schools Victoria and the Council on the Ageing.

Significance and innovations

This study is innovative in creating an environment where the interests of different generations intersect. It assists in shaping future attitudes and interactions through shared language and culture.

This project’s innovative approach addresses several significant issues, including the lack of opportunities for second language acquisition, the discontinuum between monolingual and plurilingual Australians, and the isolation of older migrants.

Listen to audio and read transcripts from the “Golden Language Guru” award ceremony for project participants, 25 October 2010, Monash Staff Club, Monash University Clayton Campus.


Publications and presentations of results in journals and at national and global conferences, international collaborations, a detailed study component for the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), development of an intergenerational and intercultural model for other schools and communities in Australia and worldwide.

For more information on the project activities please visit our website.