Sunday, December 26, 2010

WA needs a holistic approach to languages!

 The ACT is currently seeking comments to a draft ACT languages policy discussion paper: Submissions close on 28 February 2011 which is one week after International Mother Language Day 2011!

I had a quick look at the document and found great information:
The ACT Languages Policy discussion paper is founded on four overarching principles:
Celebrating more than one language!
  1. Language is an element of human rights
  2. Language is closely linked with personal and cultural identity
  3. Language is an essential tool in the social organisation of a community
  4. Language is the basis of cognitive and educational development

The draft document refers to the following international and national agreements as a framework:
  • National Policy on Languages (NPL), 1987
Features: National bilingualism, language as a right
Focus:competence in English, maintenance and development of languages other than English, provision of language services,opportunities for learning second languages
Features: Language as a resource, cultural diversity
Focus: English for all, support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages, second language for all, language services for all
Reviewed in 1997 by Ojars Rugins
Features: Focus on economic needs — trade and tourism
Focus: Asian languages taught: Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indonesian 
This policy has already been evaluated,
Features: Teaching of English language from early age with external testing to national standards
Focus: standardised testing of English language skills reported.
Features: Language related issues addressed 
Focus: individuals’ names, religion, community life and non-government organisations
economic life, administrative authorities and public services, independent national institutions,
judicial authorities, deprivation of liberties

Plus these other relevant Australian documents
Well done officials and the many people passionate for language learning in the ACT who contributed to the draft policy document!!!

I think it is time for a holistic approach to languages in Western Australia. We have a WA Charter of Multiculturalism that does not mention language learning but just acknowledges differences in languages spoken with a major emphasis on community harmony but without commitment to support language learning and language maintenance. More information on language services for migrants.

The Western Australian Language Services Policy 2008 is another policy that does not mention language learning but is about accessibility to WA Government services for non-English speakers through interpreters and translators. Check the 2009-2010 report card. The WA Health Department has an additional health languages services policy but I am not sure whether that has already been finalised. Here is a draft version.

I think it is time to open the eyes of WA officials and politicians regarding the benefits of language learning! What about a petition to the WA parliament?

What do you think?

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