To the untrained ear, it may sound like these Mater Dei year 10 students are speaking in code.
In April, the four students and their teacher, Kristy Fuller, joined 52 other students from all over the world, in completing an intensive two-week immersion program in Japan.
Living with a Japanese family, they learnt history, culture, and language.
“I think studying the language while they were in the country really did make the experience more authentic,” Ms Fuller said.
They say the experience should be mandatory for other Australian high schoolers, and they’re not the only ones.
Following the release of Gonski 2.0 last year, there has been a lot of talk about the subjects that should be made compulsory for Australian students.
Teachers from all over the world have weighed in on the required methods to improve Australia’s standardised test results, and have overwhelmingly agreed with Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg’s recommendation that all students be taught a second language.
But data from the last census reveals the number of English-only households in the nation has remained constant, only fallen from 76 per cent in 2011, to 72 per cent in 2016.
Mater Dei’s Japanese language students say many of their peers do not see the need to speak another language because they so rarely hear any other languages around them.
“I don’t think we see it as that important in Australia to learn another language, but when you go overseas it’s really very obvious how much it helps,” said Miah Russell.
Harrison Foley agrees with his classmate, saying Australian teens often neglect the study because they believe they have no use for a second language.
“I think we’ve grown up in a place where it’s fine if you don’t speak another language, but in other countries it’s really important to learn a variety of languages,” Harrison said.
The world’s educators cannot agree on which language would be most beneficial to Australian teens, and neither can the four Mater Dei language students. Though, they do agree a European language would be the easiest.
“German, French, or Spanish would probably be the best because that way you don’t have to learn a whole new alphabet,” Alice McLoughlin said.
“But then, we’re sort of closer to Asia, so something from there is probably the most useful,” said Matthew Murphy.
When it comes to language learning in Australia however, it seems the onus remains on immigrants.
This year’s federal budget carried the additional caveat that says newly arrived migrants must have proficiency in English before they are granted job search assistance.
“It isn’t exactly fair that we expect everyone else to know English when we won’t even try to learn another language,” said Miah Russell.
“It definitely should be made compulsory to learn another language, probably from year three or four at school,” said Matthew Murphy.