Learning languages opens our minds

9 July 2020
Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence, recently graduated with a Diploma of Languages (Korean Studies) at the very university he leads.

Dr Spence commenced the part-time diploma in 2016 and completed it three years later in 2019. Already fluent in Italian and having studied French and Chinese, Dr Spence decided to study Korean because his wife and her family are Korean.

Studying languages is a rich and fulfilling immersion into another culture.
Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence

“We can all benefit from studying another language and learning from other cultures. This is particularly true at the moment as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. During this time when countries are understandably closing their borders and becoming more isolationist, there is incredible value in opening our minds to other cultures,” Dr Spence said.

“If we look to how South Korea initially managed the outbreak of the coronavirus, there are important lessons for us to learn, arguably not only about effective management of a virus but also the benefits of a culture that values the collective good of the society.”

Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence greeting in Korean

All University of Sydney graduation ceremonies are currently on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, however Dr Spence said he is looking forward to celebrating his graduation with family and friends when it is safe to do so.

“Every university Vice-Chancellor should have a chance to be a student in their own institution, it gives you a great insight into the student experience. This year I’ve had even more reason to be proud of our staff as they have managed the quick transition to online learning in an extraordinary way; we have also been impressed by our students’ agility and dedication to learning,” Dr Spence said.

“Graduation ceremonies are a significant milestone for our students, and we are working on ways to allow the class of 2020 to celebrate their achievements.”

University of Sydney's Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence

University of Sydney's Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence


Head of the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sydney, Professor Yixu Lu, congratulated Dr Spence and said studying at university is not just about training for a profession.

“Studying a language will introduce you to different people, places, cultures and ideas that can change your way of looking at the world and enrich your life significantly. It will challenge your mind and exercise your brain and tongue like never before,” said Professor Lu.

Asian languages are the most popular languages at the University of Sydney, especially Japanese, Korean and Chinese. The number of students studying Korean in Australia has been increasing gradually.

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