U.S. English Foundation Research



Language Research

5. Costs: What does it cost in terms of money, time and government resources to police the country’s language restrictions?

Updated (December 2007)


At the time when Europeans started settling in Australia, around 250 indigenous languages were spoken on its territory and much of them have been lost over the years. Today there are only 20, and fewer than 3,000 people speak an indigenous language in New South Wales.

To reverse the situation, the government in the state of New South Wales decided to make learning of an aboriginal language available to all students at schools with a large proportion of students from indigenous families.

In New South Wales, all students have to learn a second language, and this policy being pioneered by the state government aims to make indigenous languages the main option, along with Chinese and French.

Rob Randal of the New South Wales Department of Education says that so far, 5,000 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students are learning an indigenous language local to their area.

He says the reception to the language courses has been striking, adding that one school had a 12 percent suspension rate a year before the language was introduced. The following year, suspensions dropped to zero.

Randal says there has been also a 25 percent increase in attendance at the school, and he hopes this enthusiasm will help eliminate the achievement gap between indigenous and non-indigenous students.

Furthermore, many teachers believe that this policy can make a real difference to how Aboriginal children perform in school. Currently only 33 percent are completing high school – which is less than half the national average.

Michael Walsh, a linguist at the University of Sydney, says revitalizing languages can help people like Australia’s Aborigines recover their lost identity.

Source: The Voice of America, News, December 4, 2007 by Nicola Fellhttp://www.voanews.com/english/2007-12-04-voa15.cfm

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