international year of languages

Australian website for International Year of Languages 2008 Another ACSSO project has seen the light of day, this one focused on Australian information, resources and activities associated with the United Nations having declared 2008 the International Year of Languages.

While there is, of course, an international site for the International Year, and the Australian Council of State School Organisations and its private school equivalent the Australian Parents Council have already established the Languages in Education site, ACSSO decided to establish an Australian site, to aggregate information on, provide online resources for and promote community activities that emerge from Australians’ celebration of the International Year of Languages 2008.

In Australia, we are incredibly fortunate to not only have more than 200 of the world’s languages represented among our citizens, but also more than 60 indigenous languages still extant somewhere in the country.

At the same time, we have to acknowledge that Australia is failing dismally to build a multilingual society based on this wealth of language.

Almost all of our public systems – including education – are deeply entrenched in a monolingual mindset that ignores our enormous potential for becoming a multicultural society.

And those 60-odd Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are all that remains of the more than 300 used before the Europeans came.

This is one of the bitterest legacies of 11 years of federal conservative rule – not only did the Howard Coalition government fail to build on both our multi-ethnic and ancient indigenous languages and cultures, it actively set about oppressing and silencing them.

It would be easy to list other horrors that John Howard wrought upon us – the egregious and deliberate sacrifice of truth and accountability in government springs to mind – but as a child of immigrant parents who feels an affinity with, respect for and deference to the original people of this ancient continent, it is the conscious strangling of the Australian multicultural society that hurts me the most.

Perhaps a website like this one won’t make much difference by itself, but if we support enough initiatives like this, maybe the combined efforts will take us in a different direction, one in which Australia determines its rightful role as a crucible for the modern global society.

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