About four times as many Year 12 students are studying European languages as those doing Chinese and Indonesian, despite Australia's future being linked firmly to its northern neighbours.
Latest School Curriculum and Standards Authority figures show that despite a slight increase in foreign language enrolments, only about 200 Year 12 students are enrolled in Chinese and Indonesian, compared with more than 850 doing French, Italian or German.
The most popular Asian language was Japanese, with about 350 students.
Asian Studies Association of Australia president Jain Purnendra said it was becoming increasingly important for more Australians to speak Asian languages - particularly Chinese.
But the way senior school timetables were designed left little scope for students to continue learning a language in Years 11 and 12.
Murdoch University professor of South-East Asian studies David Hill said the low interest in Indonesian was sad for WA's economic future at a time of increased investment in that country.
"We are going against the world trend," he said. "In most countries in our region students at school would be required to do at least two languages and in many cases, three languages."
Mercedes College is doing its bit to promote languages with a week of cultural activities, including making Chinese dumplings and a visit by five students from Perth's sister city Hangzhou.They won the Perth trip in a competition that tested their English proficiency and knowledge of WA.
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