Archive for the ‘Indigenous language education’ Category.

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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Dry-dock launch of ‘Kochlinger’

kochlinger
On Thursday I had a most pleasurable time launching a new book on Australian languages and linguistics at the terrific annual conference of the Australian Linguistics Society in Newcastle (thanks Newcastle organisers!). Here goes for ALS’s first ever dry-dock launch… for Harold Koch and Rachel Nordlinger’s co-edited book (2014) The languages and linguistics of Australia: a comprehensive guide.

Australia has a long and interesting history of developing new kinds of books about language areas. In the nineteenth century we had compendia of vocabularies across Australia or parts – by Edward Curr (Curr, 1887), George Taplin (Taplin, 1879) and Robert Brough-Smyth (Smyth, 1876). This was followed in the early twentieth century by Wilhelm Schmidt’s pan-Australia classificatory work (Schmidt, 1919), and later Arthur Capell’s new approach to Australian linguistics (Capell, 1956). Then Norman Tindale produced his map and bibliography in 1974 (Tindale, 1974). In 1976 Dixon edited a collection of papers by lots of different linguists addressing the same grammatical topics (Robert M.W. Dixon, 1976). A flurry of different types of books appeared in the 1980s—from R M W Dixon and Barry Blake’s editing of short grammar handbook series (e.g. Dixon and Blake, 1983), the handbook series for geographic areas with vocabularies and bibliographies which Jim Wafer initiated (e.g. Menning and Nash, 1981). Then there were overview books (Blake, 1987; Dixon, 1980; Yallop, 1982). In 1993 Michael Walsh and Colin Yallop produced their edited collection of chapters on different topics in Indigenous languages (Walsh and Yallop, 1993). That book became the mainstay of courses on Aboriginal languages and was affectionately known as ‘Wallop’.
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The 2014 ARC Cup

An astonishingly good ARC Cup run for Indigenous Australian languages. Onya! Good news for horses from PARADISEC, ELAC blog contributors and the new Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

Amidst this joy, deep sympathy to the many people working in linguistics who put in terrific projects that didn’t get funded.

This is the field for Indigenous language work as I see it – if I’ve missed anyone, lemme know.
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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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Hurry! Job as linguist in Barkly and Alice regions of Northern Territory – deadline extended to Monday 16 June

Short-term job – forwarded by Susan Moore – for more information contact her; tel: (08) 89511662 e: susan.moore@nt.gov.au

Northern Territory Department of Education
Job Title: Senior Language Resource Officer
Designation: Senior Professional 1
Work Unit: School Education South
Position Number: 19164
Responsible To: Manager Learning and Performance

Primary Objective
Support the delivery of vernacular and English language programs in the context of Indigenous Languages and Cultures Programs and Indigenous education as appropriate to the region.
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Who gives a Gonski for Indigenous education?

Who gives a Gonski for Indigenous Education?

Answer: three Australian states and the Australian Senate which yesterday passed the Australian Education Reform bill, aka the Gonski plan.

This is a wonderful achievement. Funding based on children’s needs. At last, schools with lots of disadvantaged Indigenous children can get funding by right and not by favour. We owe great thanks to Julia Gillard and Peter Garrett for making this happen.

The Opposition doesn’t give a Gonski in theory, the Labor leadership spillers didn’t give a Gonski in practice. Five states and territories haven’t signed up, violating Paul Keating’s maxim “Never stand between a premier and a bucket of money”? Why? Cynicism suggests that they don’t want to commit to transparent spending of state money on disadvantaged schools, when they could be pork-barrelling constituents in other ways and in other electorates.

The Australian Education Reform Bill is the visionary policy that should [have won/win] the Labor Party the next election.

International Mother Language Day 21 February 2012

Large or small, Indo-European or Inuit, endangered or killer, let’s celebrate our mother tongues on UNESCO‘s International Mother Language Day!

We don’t all die for language rights, like the Bangla-speaking students of the University of Dhaka who were killed on 21 February 1952, protesting the then Government of Pakistan’s decision to promote Urdu as the sole national language. But we CAN support this year’s theme which is yes! “Mother tongue instruction and inclusive education”.

UNESO IMLD 2012 poster

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’ »

Yan-nhaŋu in the National Year of Reading

What a good decision in today’s Australia Day honours to make Laurie Baymarrwangga Senior Australian of the Year 2012! Read Claire Bowern’s post for an appreciation of her and her work documenting the Yan-nhaŋu language and getting it written down. She sounds a delightful person.

2012 is also National Year of Reading. Everyone with a reading-scheme in their revolver will be lobbying the government for funds to smelt and fire their silver bullets. Will the glitter of silver blind officials to the evidence as to whether they can hit the target?

How about for a change we read Yan-nhaŋu, Warlpiri, Enindilyakwa, Arabic, Vietnamese…? And for an even greater change, fund the production of reading material and decent language enrichment programs in these languages? Which brings me to a quibble about the description of Ms Baymarrwangga’s achievements:

Speaking no English, with no access to funding, resources or expertise, she initiated the Yan-nhangu dictionary project. Her cultural maintenance projects include the Crocodile Islands Rangers, a junior rangers group and an online Yan-nhangu dictionary for school children.

‘initiate’ is a slippery word, which then slithered into the ABC report as’establishment’.

Another is her establishment of the Yan-nhangu dictionary project, without any funding, resources, expertise or the ability to speak English.

This is a dangerous inaccuracy. Others were involved in the Yan-nhaŋu dictionary work who had access to resources. Ignoring their contribution lets governments off the hook. They want us to believe that love is all you need to maintain a language and create an online dictionary for it. Not schools, not interpreters or translators, not curricula or interesting stuff to read, not web-hosting or software, not linguists or programmers, nothing that needs paying for. Certainly nothing that would cost as much as some of the silver bullet reading-schemes.

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.