Mandi Wicks the Director of SBS’s Audio and Language Content said the competition received 4,000 entries from around the country, representing 80 different languages.
“We had individual entries and then we had whole [school] classes enter as well. We were overwhelmed by the number of entries,” Ms Wicks told SBS News.
Education Minister Dan Tehan, who attended the National Languages Competition awards ceremony on Wednesday, shared his own experience learning Spanish for a diplomatic posting in Central America and the opportunities it opened for him.
He said the learning of languages in Australia was essential for regional relations and trade.
“We have to understand the cultures of the countries that are our near neighbours, we also have to make sure that we can understand and engage with them, because economically they’re vital to us,” he said.
SBS Language competition winners revealed
$11 million investment in languages
According to 2016 data around 11 per cent of Year 12 high school students study another language.
Dr Nicholas Farrelly, Associate Dean of the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, on Wednesday announced the university was investing $11.6 million over five years in expanding the number of Asian and Pacific languages on offer through online learning.
The new funding will focus on less commonly studied Asian languages such as Thai, Tetum and Mongolian.
“This is an investment being made at a time when other Australian universities have struggled to maintain their language portfolios,” Dr Farrelly said.
For 11-year-old Harneep Kaur, another winner in the competition, the future career prospects stemming from speaking another language are far from her mind.
For her, learning Punjabi is about staying connected to her family and culture.
“I went [to India] last year, and I could speak Punjabi and write there so I could communicate with other people and my relatives,” she said.
"It's good to know Punjabi. Because then I can keep the generations going and spread it and more people will speak it," she added.
The other winners include Summer Frisch, age 14, who learnt Italian; Kelsey Booth, age 16, who learnt Mandarin; and Georgia Leyendekkers, age 23, who learnt Indonesian.