Top 5 Language Hotspots

Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages has identified roughly twenty Language Hotspots and has begun pilot expeditions to two Hotspots in 2007 (Central South America and Northern Australia) with ones planned for a further three Hotspots for 2008.

National Geographic –

Dr. Greg Anderson and Dr. David Harrison at the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages define hotspots as concentrated regions of the world having the highest level of linguistic diversity (see right), the highest levels of endangerment, and the least-studied languages. Rather than simply counting languages, Hotspots take into account the number of language families (which we call “genetic units”) represented in an area to calculate linguistic diversity.

Language Hotspots are areas that are urgently in need of action and should be the areas of highest priority in planning future research projects and channelling funding streams. Language Hotspots represent areas where we find a concentration of three logically independent factors, a high average level of endangerment, a high degree of linguistic diversity (calculated on the level of language family not individual language) and a low average level of prior documentation.

The Language Hotspots list became a major research agenda for 2005-2006 for Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Aboriginal Australia holds some of the world’s most endangered languages. Many languages in the south and east of this Hotspot have been lost already, and more will soon follow. Aboriginal groups are small and scattered because of a history of conflict between white settlers and aboriginal groups. Many aboriginal groups did not survive this contact, while many others only barely survived and struggle to maintain language and culture.

Indigenous Languages Programmes

Indigenous languages programmes in schoolsThe national project which is the subject of this report is directed towards strengthening the quality of Indigenous languages programmes in schools. The purpose of the project is to provide a snapshot of the current national situation in Indigenous languages education in Australian schools.

The target groups to benefit from the Project are:

  • teachers and speakers of Indigenous languages who are delivering programmes in Australian schools and those wishing to deliver such programmes;
  • Indigenous and school communities wishing to introduce, improve or expand the delivery of Indigenous languages programmes in their schools; and
  • policy makers and programme officers from State and Territory education jurisdictions wishing to introduce, improve or expand the delivery of Indigenous languages programmes in their schools.

The (former) Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) contracted the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to undertake the project. It is one of several national projects funded through the Australian Government’s School Languages Programme (SLP). These national projects support the implementation of the National Statement and Plan for Languages Education in Australian Schools 2005-08, developed through the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). The National Statement and Plan was endorsed by all Ministers of Education in March 2005.

The National Statement and Plan affirms the value of all languages, including Australia’s Indigenous languages. The Indigenous languages project is the first phase of support for Indigenous languages programmes delivered in Australian schools. The outcomes will inform further action undertaken at a national level.

The project should also be seen in light of several other national policies and current developments.

First, the project supports implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy (AEP), which was instigated in 1990 and which continues to form the foundation of all Indigenous education programmes. One of the national goals enunciated in the AEP is “to develop programs to support the maintenance and continued use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages.”

Second, the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 (Amended 2005), which provides the legislative basis and appropriate funding for Indigenous viii Executive Summary education programmes, notes that “developing programs to support the maintenance and continued use of the languages of Indigenous people” (p.5) is one of a number of strategies aimed at achieving equitable and appropriate educational outcomes for Indigenous people.

Third, current discussions regarding the development of a National Curriculum provide a timely forum for considering the place of Indigenous languages in school curricula.

Finally, this project is particularly pertinent given the intention of the Australian Government to become a signatory of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) which reaffirms the right of Indigenous peoples to have access to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.