The linguistic situation in Australia today presents an intriguing case for sociolinguistic inquiries. Despite the recent waves of migration from non Anglo-Celtic regions, the majority of Australians today are primarily monolingual with English being the dominant language. More critical, perhaps, is the diminishing appeal of second language learning even among second generation speakers of the large ethnic communities. This is indeed ironic giving that prior to white settlement in Australia, the Aboriginal inhabitants were predominantly multilingual with more than 250 languages (and many of their dialects) spoken by the 300 000 original inhabitants at the time when Captain James Cook's ship reached Botany Bay in Sydney in 1770. Given the size of the post-War migration, it was not until 1987 that the Australian government adopted a formal national policy on languages becoming 'the first English-speaking country to have such a policy and the first in the world to have a multilingual languages policy' (Australian Alliance for Languages 2001: 2). This paper will discuss the historical context for multilingualism in Australia and the current trend in government policy and funding. It will provide insights into community language programs and the challenges of remaining viable and relevant in the current social and political climate. Statistical analyses will be used to highlight emerging trends and future prospects.
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Field of Research
200401 Applied Linguistics and Educational Linguistics