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Australia’s monolingual perspectives Can we do better? 3 examples Liz Ellis, University of New England.

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Presentation on theme: "Australia’s monolingual perspectives Can we do better? 3 examples Liz Ellis, University of New England."— Presentation transcript:

1 Australia’s monolingual perspectives Can we do better? 3 examples Liz Ellis, University of New England

2 1. Our national broadcaster does not trust us with other languages ABC: voiceovers not subtitles – Other languages are inaudible – Insulting and frustrating to those who speak them – Contributes to an ‘English-only’ mentality

3 2. Monolingual ESL/EFL programs Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) – Students: no L1 – Teachers: no L2 Paradox of monolingual teachers helping learners to become bilingual…

4 3. Abolition of bilingual education in the Northern Territory Pre 1788: 250 Indigenous languages Now: 70 – 80 remain, only 20 strong Importance of maintenance and revitalisation


6 Northern Territory Size of Germany and France combined 39% school students Indigenous 641 Aboriginal communities English as a 2 nd, 3 rd or 4 th language Many children start school with no knowledge of English


8 Bilingual education NT 1974 – 1999 Thriving bilingual education programs 1999 Abolished: outcry: partially reinstated 2008 NT Dept of Education edict: “....the first four hours of education in all Northern Territory schools will be conducted in English”

9 Ideological opposition by politicians and educational bureaucrats ‘bilingual’ frequently misunderstood ‘literacy’ confused with ‘English literacy’ ignoring of research on L1 literacy misunderstanding of “learning English” “learning IN English”

10 10 Teacher: “If you cut our bilingual programs these students will feel alienated, marginalised, estranged… NT Government official: “Speak English, will ya!” Alice Springs News 1999

11 A comparable scenario Your family moves to China Your child goes to school and joins a class conducted entirely in Mandarin The teacher does not speak English/German and has never learned another language There is no Mandarin-as-a-second-language support ???????

12 PS: don’t ask, don’t tell Some bilingual schools rebelled “…those schools have reached an agreement with the Education Department where they will be allowed to continue to teach bilingual as long as they keep off the radar and actually don't talk about it with anyone” – Transcript, ABC NT News 3.3.2010

13 ‘With one hand we take away from Indigenous children their right to learn and think in their mother tongue, and with the other we spend millions of dollars seeking to ensure that all Australian children can count to 10 in an Asian language before they leave primary school.’ Misty Adoniou, President of ACTA, the peak body for professional associations for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (media release, 14.11.08)

14 Monolingualism: is it really curable? [it] appears to be widely believed in Australia that foreign languages are essentially unlearnable to normal people, and that Australians have a special innate anti-talent for learning them (ALS/ALAA 1981:15 ) “the Australian born … suffers a mutation of the genes so he [sic] can never adequately learn a second language … for an Australian to have a second language is some kind of treason (Grassby, 1977:2) (former Minister for Immigration and champion of multiculturalism) 14

15 References ALS/ALAA: Australian Linguistics Society/Applied Linguistics Association of Australia (1981). "Languages in a core curriculum - a set of statements from the profession." Babel, Journal of the Australian Federation of MLTA 17(2 – 3) Devlin, B. (2009). Bilingual education in the Northern Territory and the continuing debate over its effectiveness and value. AIATSIS Research Symposium: Bilingual Education in the Northern Territory: Principles, Policy and Practice, Canberra, ACT. Available from: Ellis, E. (2006). "Language learning experience as a contributor to ESOL teacher cognition." TESL-EJ 10(1). Ellis, E. (2007). "Discourses of L1 and bilingual teaching in adult ESL." TESOL in Context 16(2): 5 - 10. Grassby, A. J. (1977). "The relevance of a multilingual approach to Australian education." Idiom XII( 1, Feb-March): 3 – 8. Simpson, J. H., J. McCaffery, et al. (2009). Gaps in Australia’s Indigenous language policy: dismantling bilingual education in the Northern Territory. Canberra, ACT, AIATSIS Discussion Paper no.24

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