Saturday, December 17, 2011

CHOGM - Raising awareness on bilingualism

The most important event for Perth in 2011 was undoubtedly the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting or CHOGM that happened during the end of October. More than 50 Commonwealth leaders and the Queen visited and ensured the program was splendid. Arts, sports and culture featured alongside many official meetings. The outcome was a long statement titled: Time for urgent reform.

One of the strengths of the Commonwealth is the bond through the common law and a common language. The Commonwealth is  CELEBRATING
the shared experiences of history and language [Harare, par.3], similar institutions and aspirations and including peoples of many different races and origins, encompassing every state of economic development and comprising an unequalled variety of races, origins, cultures, religions, traditions and institutions of the world [Harare, par.(2)].

The only reform that found entrance into the media was the announcement that the rules for succession were now changed to allow a first born girl to become queen, abolishing the requirement for a male ruler.

Realising that the Commonwealth is overlooking the asset and strength of the diversity of languages  of its member states I took the opportunity to raise the issue of bilingualism at the CHOGM Speaker's Corner established in the People's Space in the Northbridge cultural precinct. The stage was removed from the audience by a water feature, but about 80-100 people sat on the amphitheatre steps and listened more or less attentively.
The terms and conditions had to be met and I had to outline the topic of my talk when applying for a time slot. I took the first slot after lunch on Friday 28 October to tell the world about the benefits of having more than one language. Starting with my own experiences I outlined the benefits and strategies of raising children in more than one language.
It was a bit daunting at first to talk before that many people, but my passion about the subject took over and the allocated 15 minutes passed in a flash.

I am pleased that I took the opportunity and hope that the world has taken notice. Unfortunately the queen was busy otheerwise and Colin Barnett was not available too, but still, I did my share. It was good fun too!
To change the monolingual mindset we need to grab any opportunity that arises to tell the story and make a convincing argument. Don't be shy, join in and promote the benefits of knowing more than one language!
And there were other messages too, such as this one on the steps os the auditorium opposite the speaker's corner!