Significant report on community languages in NSW being launched this week

A research paper which warns that NSW is squandering the potential economic benefit it gains from migrants’ language skills will be launched in Parliament House on November 12th.
What are languages worth? Community languages for the future of New South Wales is a joint research project and publication of Macquarie University’s Faculty of Human Sciences Multilingualism Research Centre and the NSW Federation of Community Language Schools Inc.
The paper will be launched by the NSW Minster for Education and Early Learning, the Hon Sarah Mitchell MLC, in the NSW Parliament at 6.00pm on Tuesday 12 November.

It says community languages are a means to “economic, social and cultural prosperity”. However, it warns that if we were to abandon our active community support for them we would be throwing away a valuable resource. It would “threaten our economic competitiveness, slow down integration, disrupt social cohesion impoverish our cultural lives”.
The paper also argues that: “Support for community languages is not a matter of preserving a heritage. It is an investment in a future in which bilingualism and multilingualism are likely to be the norm, and not the exception.”
Yet, the paper reveals that Australia lags behind the world in the number of hours devoted to languages in our schools and that NSW lags behind the other states. According to this research paper 35% of high school students in NSW are of non-English speaking background but only 12% of teachers are. Of those teachers who do know a language other than English, most of them speak European languages. To address this lack, it suggests that we strengthen the community language schools sector by better integrating the work of its schools into mainstream education.
The President of the Federation of Community Language Schools, Lucia Johns, said: “Our schools teach more than 80 community languages to more than 37 thousand children in 561 locations across the state.
“Our teachers need a pathway to qualifications that would allow them to take their knowledge and skills into the education system not just the community-based schools.
“There are, for example, 150 different languages in New South Wales with more than 50 speakers of each and more than a quarter of the residents of NSW use a language other than English at home “This new research paper says that all community languages have the same potential economic value if they are fostered in the community. “So, one of the challenges for NSW is to view language diversity, not as a problem to be solved by learning English, but as a potential economic strength.
“For example, language plays a significant role in the success of the state’s two largest export earners ”“ tertiary education and tourism.
“Government needs to argue the case that children who learn the first language of their migrant parents will not fall behind in studying English. In fact research shows they will do better.
“This publication will be an invaluable resource because it lists in great detail the locations and languages taught by the Federation’s member schools and provides politicians and community leaders with the arguments in favour of bilingualism”, Ms Johns concluded.
The research Paper will be launched at 6.00pm on Tuesday 12th November in the Strangers Room of the NSW Parliament between 6.00pm and 8.00pm (official proceedings will commence at 7.00pm).
Free hard copies of the publication will be available at the launch.

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