“Living the language” – Aljazeera

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/livingthelanguage/2012/04/201241612291819363.html

Whilst searching the web for anything related to Australian aboriginal languages, I came across this which I found really interesting. As for the facts presented, I’m not entirely sure that all of them are correct – does Australia really have the highest rate of languge loss in the world? Were there only 750 000 aborigines at the time of the first fleet, or was it more like a million? I know this last point is open to debate, but I thought it was accepted to have been many more. Regardless, it’s a very interesting short video. Many of the topics brought up are relevant to what we have studied in class; language loss, revitalisation efforts, two-way education, aboriginal rights, the need for interpreters in many communities where aborigines don’t speak English, and so on. I found a few aspects to be of particular interest. Firstly, I thought that the way the interpreter reacted when presented was intriguing – before having studied this unit, I wouldn’t have known how to interpet his behaviour, where he seemed to be awkward and a bit hesitant about receiving praise for having worked in the hospital for nigh on 5 years and being very well respected; now I know that this is probably because for many aboriginal people, being singled out for praise or criticism in front of people brings “shame”. A small detail, yet one that we never learn about. Also, the topic of bilingual education I found pertinent, as it is a topic of hot debate right now, and I’m not entirely sure the view they presented is truly representative, though I hope that it is. The kids seemed to be very fluent with their language, and they seemed to receive a lot of instruction in whichever language they speak (or all of the main local ones, which is even better), yet this seems to be going against the current trend of reducing hours taught in their local languge with the NT government pushing for English to be the main language taught at school. I think this is a huge mistake (as do many others!) and it just causes more tension, as we are again imposing our laws and making judgements for what’s best for the aboriginal people for them.

Overall, an insightful video that summarises many current topics to do with aboriginal languages in Australia.

Padraic Quinn – LING366

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