Mal Brough and the English debates

Geoff Pullum posted at Language Log about comments by Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Mal Brough (see also posts at ELAC, by Kimberley at LongRoad and by Jangari.

There are three further points worth making here.

First is that one of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the right to education in, and the right to use one’s own language. Australia is a signatory of this Declaration.

Second, as noted in the comments at ELAC (Transient Languages and Cultures), remote Aboriginal schools already teach English. Bilingual education was abolished in 1997 and no schools are Language-only.

Thirdly, it’s worth remembering that there are about 450,000 Aboriginal people in Australia, but fewer than 10% speak an Indigenous language. About 30% of Aboriginal people live in urban areas, another 35% live in rural and regional centres (what used to be country towns), and the remainder live in remote areas [source, ABS, from memory]. As you might expect, the vast majority of speakers of Indigenous languages live in the remote areas. So, statements like “Aborigines need to learn English” overlooks the fact that the great Aboriginal people already speak English! If the White population had the same level of multilingualism that most Aboriginal communities have, we wouldn’t be having this sort of argument in the first place.

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One response to “Mal Brough and the English debates

  1. Pingback: Pullum Weighs In (updated) « matjjin-nehen

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