Archive for the ‘Language policy and planning’ Category.

You’ve got a skin name- so use it! Promoting language diversity in the field – MLIP blog March 2017

MLIP blog March 2017

Ruth Singer recaps the March Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub (MLIP) a monthly discussion group.

On 1st March 2017, Alex Marley (ANU/Wellsprings) led a discussion on promoting language diversity in the field. The announcement for the discussion session looked like this:

You’ve got a skin name- so use it! Promoting language diversity in the field

As linguists, we are occasionally called upon to provide professional advice and consultation to government or community organisations. However, how our advice is received, implemented or interpreted can be disappointing and frustrating.

Continue reading ‘You’ve got a skin name- so use it! Promoting language diversity in the field – MLIP blog March 2017’ »

MLIP recap July 2015: Language in education in multilingual contexts: beyond ‘mother tongue’ education

A recap of last night’s Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub, by Kellen Parker van Dam (La Trobe University).

The topic of MLIP was ‘Language in education in multilingual contexts: beyond ‘mother tongue’ education’ and the discussion was led by Felix Ameka (Leiden University).

Topic and description as posed by Felix Ameka in the original MLIP announcement:

Linguists promote the benefits of “mother-tongue” education, especially in the first years of primary education. Linguistic human rights advocates argue that if a child is not taught in their first language, then the child’s basic linguistic human rights are violated (e.g. Babaci-Wilhite 2014). However the notion of the ‘mother tongue’ is inappropriate in highly multilingual contexts (see e.g. Lüpke and Storch 2013). In these contexts, children can be disadvantaged by ‘mother tongue’ policies in education that favour the use of a single standardised language in education. I will discuss the case of Ewe-speaking children in Sokode, Ghana who use a colloquial Central Ewe variety at home and struggle with the standard Ewe used in the school. I advocate a multi-lectal, multilingual, multi-modal approach to language in education that eschews an opposition between so called exoglossic national languages and local indigenous languages.
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Human rights, language rights and the Northern Territory Government

Rumour has it that the Northern Territory Government is proposing to scrap the one remaining linguist position in the southern part of the Northern Territory. This position has been going since the mid 1970s, and the occupants have worked with Indigenous people and schools to create shared understandings of Indigenous languages, of the needs of school-children for understanding what happens in the classroom, of the needs of Indigenous teachers for support and training. They have produced amazing materials in Indigenous languages for classrooms, curriculum materials and reference documentation, some of which is archived and available in the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages.

Rumour also has it that the reason for scrapping the position is because there is “no need for any linguistic expertise in Central Australia and the Barkly schools”.

But rumour doesn’t have it that the kids have all staged a revolution and started speaking Standard English.
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Sunlight on IMLD 21 February 2014

Posters 'Language Walk' 21_2

A perfect blue sky and cool summer weather for Australia’s first International Mother Language Day (IMLD) 2014 walk. We walked from Reconcilation Place across the Kings Avenue Bridge to a Canberra park, where people sang, ate sausages, jumped on a bouncy castle, read poems in Bangla and Telugu, and generally had a good time. People from all sorts of backgrounds – Nigeria, Spain, Bangladesh, and Chris Bourke, ACT’s first Indigenous member of parliament.

This is the first time our heritage Indigenous and immigrant languages have been celebrated in this way, and it’s a great initiative of Canberra’s IMLD group.

Elsewhere in the world..

The Dhaka Times writes about the life and death of Rafiqul Islam, the man they say really pushed for the recognition of IMLD (Ekushey).

The Cherokee Nation honoured Cherokee translators who “work with technology companies, museums and universities to translate everything from documents to programs” and also a recent project to add Cherokee on Microsoft’s Office Online.

In Canada a private members bill has been introduced to get the government to recognise IMLD.

Sadly, in Iran Umid Niayesh reports: “
Tens of Iranian Azerbaijani cultural activists have been arrested in the city of Ahar in the East Azerbaijan province of Iran ahead of International Mother Language Day, the Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP) reported on Feb. 20. The report has published names of some 60 arrested civil activists which were gathered in a home in Ahar.
Ebrahim Rashidi and Abbas Lesani who have been arrested several times due to their civil rights and mother language activities are among the arrested persons.”

And sadly in Kushtia in Bangladesh there was vandalisation of a Shaheed Minar monument built in memory of the mother language protesters whose deaths on 21 February 1952 led to this day being chosen for IMLD.

And to add to the gloom, back in Australia, we have the draft report
Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory
. It is written by Bruce Wilson, director of a company ‘Education Business’. Major recommendations are that Indigenous students in the Northern Territory should be taught in English right from the start, and that for secondary schooling children from remote communities should go to boarding schools in the few big cities. The report does not tackle the fact that both strategies have been tried in the past, and have not worked. Munanga has posts detailing his concerns. You can send in a submission relating to this draft report. Submission deadline is 4.30 pm March 9.

But anyway, the couple of hours in the sunlight celebrating IMLD were great.

Hopes and dreams

On Thursday I had an interesting time in a sleek-looking conference room at Parliament House with the House of Representatives Inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities. The terms of inquiry cover learning English and learning Indigenous languages. Lots of people have put lots of time and thought into their submissions and appearances (available online). They are a fascinating snapshot of current concerns, hopes and dreams. (A couple contain not-so-subtle touting – gimme a gazillion and I’ll solve literacy/attendance/savethelanguage, but they’re the exception).

So I was answering questions about my submission [.pdf] on language learning in Indigenous communities. Here goes with points that I wanted to make, and then what I remember of questions asked by the Committee:
Continue reading ‘Hopes and dreams’ »

Buttering parsnips in the Year of the Dragon

Three things to think about/do..

1. Creeping towards constitutional recognition
Section 127A Recognition of languages
The national language of the Commonwealth of Australia is English.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are the original Australian languages, a part of our national heritage

This is what was proposed in a report on recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution (You Me Unity. The report authors seem to think that many people will vote for this because they are worried about the loss of Indigenus languages. The national language bit is supposed to soften the doubters into accepting Indigenous languages.

And as well, the report authors want to add:

Respecting the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

Q. What is respect? A. Respect = Fine Words

Evidence from the report: “However, a separate languages provision would provide an important declaratory statement in relation to the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The Panel understands that a declaratory provision would be ‘technically and legally sound’, and would not give rise to implied rights or obligations that could lead to unintended consequences.”

Q. What are unintended consequences? A. = making Governments pay for decent education, translators, interpreters etc

Evidence from the report: “In relation to the second sentence of the first paragraph of the proposed ‘section 127B’, consultations with lawyers and State government officials indicated that an ‘opportunity’ to learn, speak and write English could give rise to legal proceedings challenging the adequacy of literacy learning. Similarly, the last paragraph in the proposal about recognising a ‘freedom’ to speak, maintain and transmit languages of choice could lead to argument about the right to deal with government in languages other than English. Such expressions would raise potentially contentious issues for all levels of government. The Panel has concluded that the potential unpredictable legal risks associated with these two sentences are such that they would not be appropriate for inclusion as part of a proposed constitutional amendment.”

Intended consequence: the language parsnips are not going to get buttered.

As a side-point, information distributed by the YouMeUnity mob [thanks Bruce!], include YouTube audios of a whole lot of translations into Indigenous languages and creoles of information attributed to Alison Page, a Panel Member, but read by language speakers:

“15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, namely Guringdji , Murrinh-Patha, Anindiyakwa , Arrernte, Kimberley Kriol, Pitjantjatjara, Wik Mungan , TSI Kriol, Warramangu , Walpirri , Yolngu, Kriol, Tiwi, Alywarra and Kunwinjku”.

The awful spellings of names of Indigenous languages in the report shows how little butter the parsnips are getting.

2. New resources
– From Claire Bowern
Claire has posted a call for material for the Australian part of ‘ElCat’, a new catalogue of endangered languages that will be launched (late February). She’s calling for links to sites about language programs [photos, videos, links to you-tube channels too!], “or if you’d like to include something about your language and what it means to you”. Hop over to Anggarrgoon to read the call and add your bit.

2. What I wish I could hop over to

– From Candide Simard
7th European Australianists workshop 2012
3-4 April 2012
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London

The European Australianists are happy to announce their seventh workshop to be held at SOAS, University of London, on 3-4 April 2012. The purpose of the workshop is to provide a venue for the presentation and discussion on current research on Australian languages. As in previous workshops a theme is suggested: “Contact phenomena in Australian languages”. However, participants are free to present papers not related to this theme, we welcome contributions relating to any aspect of Australian languages, from any perspective.

Multilingual mindsets are good, but not enough

The failure of language revivalists to get people to accept a standard language (here the Swiss language Romansh Grischun) is the topic of a sad little article by Deborah Ball in the Wall Street Journal. (Reprinted in The Australian 3/9/2011 but without the interesting graphics). Google led me to an earlier article on the same topic by Terence MacNamee in swissinfo.ch.

There are apparently five dialects of Romansh spoken in Switzerland. It is the usual insoluble problem. The number of speakers of the 5 dialects are small, so that it doesn’t seem economically viable to provide teachers and teaching materials for all 5. Not to mention the small pool of people to chat with and visit on holidays.

Solution (1) Choose 1 of the dialects and use that as the standard Romansh language – BUT no one will agree to accept someone else’s dialect.

Solution (2) Create a hybrid from all 5 – BUT everyone hates the hybrid as a bastard.

If language planners can’t keep a small language going in a country as multilingual and rich as Switzerland…

Endgame?