« Foundation for Endangered Languages - OGMIOS newsletter | Blog home | Recognition for indigenous linguist »

business learning training articles new learning business training opportunities finance learning training deposit money learning making training art loan learning training deposits make learning your training home good income learning outcome training issue medicine learning training drugs market learning money training trends self learning roof training repairing market learning training online secure skin learning training tools wedding learning training jewellery newspaper learning for training magazine geo learning training places business learning training design Car learning and training Jips production learning training business ladies learning cosmetics training sector sport learning and training fat burn vat learning insurance training price fitness learning training program furniture learning at training home which learning insurance training firms new learning devoloping training technology healthy learning training nutrition dress learning training up company learning training income insurance learning and training life dream learning training home create learning new training business individual learning loan training form cooking learning training ingredients which learning firms training is good choosing learning most training efficient business comment learning on training goods technology learning training business secret learning of training business company learning training redirects credits learning in training business guide learning for training business cheap learning insurance training tips selling learning training abroad protein learning training diets improve learning your training home security learning training importance

Nick Thieberger has just drawn attention to an article today from "The Australian" about the impending extinction of Australian languages, based on a Worldwatch report.  "It is estimated that 90 per cent of the languages spoken by Australia's Aboriginal peoples will perish within the current generation".

This is timely, as over the last few months we have seen increasing attempts by representatives  of the Government to attribute the dreadful state of some Indigenous people to  policies assisting them to maintain their languages and cultures.

In fact, over the last century many Indigenous communities all over Australia have been shifting from speaking traditional languages to speaking English-based creoles or varieties of English.  I have
seen no studies to show that, (keeping remotenesss of location and availablity of jobs constant) this shift has been accompanied by greater access to jobs, wealth, health and happiness.  
(Please add comments with reference if you can think of any).

Bilingual education has been blamed for Aborigines' poor English. But most Indigenous schools in remote Australia have not, and never have been, officially bilingual.  They have been English-medium schools. There is no evidence to suggest that children from the English-medium schools have learned English and other school subjects better than the children from the bilingual schools, and consequently have better access to work.  There are places where such testing could be done, but it needs to be done by independent assessors without a vested interest in the success of one or other type of program.

Second, bilingual programs in Australia have by and large been transfer programs - that is, they are based on the premise that many children learn better through their first language, and that  this allows them to transfer their skills to the dominant language.  The children have been taught English as a second language, from very early on. 

Third, these bilingual programs have often been under-resourced and under threat - they are more  expensive to run than English-only programs.  Whether a school remains bilingual usually depends on the principal of the school - and often new principals want to make their mark by reversing the policies of their predecessors. (a case in point is a new principal in a school which until his arrival had a Kriol bilingual program.  He made a bonfire of the Kriol materials laboriously
created by the local school staff).

Whether bilingual education slows language loss really hasn't been tested either.  We can point to communities such as Yuendumu which have had long-standing bilingual programs, and children
are still learning Warlpiri as their first language.  But no longitudinal studies have been done considering language loss and maintenance in comparable communities with and without bilingual
education programs. 

What isn't in doubt is that communities are shifting away from speaking Indigenous languages, and that once children stop speaking these languages, the languages will disappear.  If there are benefits to this language shift, as the Government appears to be claiming, they certainly don't seem apparent right now. Bilingual education may not be the solution to language loss, but until a better solution appears, it certainly cannot be dismissed.

The Authors

About the Blog

The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.
More

Recently commented on

FAQ

Papua New Guinea FAQs from Eva Lindstrom Papua New Guinea (New Ireland): Eva Lindstrom's tips for fieldworkers

Australian Languages Answers to some frequently asked questions about Australian languages

Papua Web Information network on Papua, Indonesia (formerly Irian Jaya)

Hibernating blogs

Indigenous Language SPEAK

Langguj gel Australian linguistics and fieldwork blog

Interesting Blogs

Omniglot Writing systems and languages of the world

LingFormant Linguistics news

Language hat Linguistics news and commentary

Jabal al-Lughat Linguistics news and commentary on a range of languages

Living languages Blog with news items and discussion of endangered languages

OzPapersOnline Notices of recent work on the Indigenous languages of Australia

That Munanga linguist Community linguist blog

Anggarrgoon Claire Bowern's linguistics and fieldwork blog

Savage Minds A group blog on Anthropology

Fully (sic)

Language on the Move Intercultural communication and multilingualism

Talking Alaska: Reflections on the native languages of Alaska

Culture matters: applying anthropology Australian anthropology blog: postgraduates and staff

Long Road ethnography and anthropology blog - including about Australia

matjjin-nehen Blog on Australian linguistics, fieldwork, politics and the environment.

Language Log Group blog on language and linguistics

Links

E-MELD The E-MELD School of Best Practices in Digital Language Documentation

Tema Modersmål Website in Swedish with links to sites on and in many languages

Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project: Language Documentation: What is it? Information on equipment, formats, and archiving, and examples of documentation

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources a worldwide network of organizations, academics, activists, indigenous groups, and others representing indigenous and tribal peoples

Technorati Profile

Technology-enhanced language revitalization Include ILAT (Indigenous Languages and Technology) discussion list.

Endangered languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

Koryak Net Information on the people of Kamchatka

Linguistic fieldwork preparation: a guide for field linguists syllabi, funding, technology, ethics, readings, bibliography

On-line resources for endangered languages

Papua New Guinea Language Resources Phonologies, grammars, dictionaries, literacy, language maps for many PNG languages

Resource network for linguistic diversity Networking practitioners working to record,retrieve & reintroduce endangered languages

Projects

ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

DELAMAN The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network

PARADISEC The Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures

Murriny-Patha Song Project Documenting the language and music of public songs and dances composed and performed by Murriny Patha-speaking people

PFED The Project for Free Electronic Dictionaries

DOBES Endangered language documentation and archiving, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and sponsored by the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen.

DELP Documenting endangered languages at the University of Sydney

Ethno EResearch Exploring methods and technology for streaming media and interlinear text