Community languages matter! Challenges and opportunities facing the community languages program in New South Wales

22 Jan 2009

More than 32,000 children, every Saturday, join a Community Language School class in one of 494 locations over New South Wales, conducted by one of the 2347 language teachers in one of 44 different languages. A parallel situation occurs in all the other Australian states and territories. Yet, despite decades of research into the educational, cognitive, linguistic and cultural benefits of multilingualism, the teaching of Community Languages in Australia is at a crossroads. Almost a decade ago Baldauf et al. (1998) had already pointed out that the wider Australian community was still not fully persuaded of their value: while surveys report general support for the learning of languages, this doesn’t translate into significant mainstream status, sustainable funding, systematic coordination and administration, and adequate resourcing. The economic and social benefits of multilingualism, central to the development of a languages policy in the 1980s (Lo Bianco 1987), are no longer taken for granted.

This scoping study was funded by The NSW Community Languages Schools Program, The NSW Federation of Community Languages Schools and The University of Western Sydney

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