APG5043 Language and multilingual societies

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APG5043 Report topics and instructions

For this task you should discuss ONE of the below topic in the light of sociolinguistic theory and academic literature. You are being asked to give expert advise on a topic: as such you should not simply repeat common-sense understandings of the topic that you might find in the media/ online, but should critically evaluate those understandings in the light of what academic literature (especially that written by sociolinguists) has to say on the topic. It is expected that you will go beyond the set readings for the unit in writing your essay and will refer to the Monash library’s extensive online resources in answering your topic (https://guides.lib.monash.edu/search).

Your report should pretend that you are writing to a government department or agency. Apart from in Topic 2, you can choose the national context that you are writing in/ about and should tailor your advice to the situation in that country/ context. You should, however, consider international evidence in formulating your report/ recommendations: this agency is interested in what is international best practice, not just what has already been trialled in their context. They also value your expert opinion and ability to extrapolate from wider literature/ theory, so you should feel free to introduce them to key thinking/ theory and explain sociolinguistic concepts to them that are necessary to move beyond common-sense understandings of these issues

Note:  When submitting your assignment please write the full topic (not simply “topic 1”) at the start of your essay (e.g. on a heading page). This greatly simplifies the process of allocating them for marking and also helps you stay on-track/ not forget an aspect of the question as you are drafting your essay.

As the final (and largest) piece of assessment for this unit, the essay relates to all the learning outcomes of the course, but particularly to outcomes 4:

  1. Engage in informed debate on matters of theoretical and practical significance in the areas of language and society, language education, language purism and language planning.

Topics – choose ONE from the following six options:

  1. Choose a country where language activists are lobbying to change/ add to the official languages of the country. Imagine you have been hired by the country’s government to provide advice on this issue. What advantages and disadvantages are commonly discussed for changing/ adding to the official language in your chosen country? Which of these are actually likely to occur and are their other unintended consequences that government needs to be aware? On balance do you recommend a change in policy, and if so to what?
  2. Provide an evaluation of the ‘English-only’ approach used in Aboriginal classrooms in Northern Territory schools. For instance, is this an effective way of teaching Aboriginal Australian students English? Why or why not? What alternatives may have been tried in Australia or in other contexts and to what degree of success? What recommendations would you make to the Northern Territory education department about practice going forward?
  3. Imaging you have been hired by a law reform commission to discuss the linguistic issues faced by defendants who do not speak the language (variety) commonly used in the courtroom. For this report you should discuss the issues as they pertain to a particular type of defendant (e.g. Hispanic immigrant, Aboriginal Australian) in a particular legal context (e.g. Australian criminal proceeding, US civil proceedings), though you are welcome to bring in relevant examples/ academic literature from other contexts. Discuss what might be done to ameliorate these issues and your recommendations to the commission for action.
  4. In Australia and elsewhere one hears the complaint that migrants and refugees need to “learn to speak English better” if they want to find jobs and prosper. Imagine you have been hired by a national government of your choice to provide advice on this issue. Evaluate the (socio)linguistic literature on the language needs for employment of EITHER skilled migrants OR refugees and the particular language learning challenges your chosen group may have. On the basis of your findings what recommendations would you have for government about how best to support the language needs of this cohort?
  5. Imagine that you have been approached by the Deputy Vice Chancellor for education at a university of your choice, who is concerned about balancing equity and professionalism when it comes to assessing students’ language use in assignments written in English. Choose a type of student (e.g. someone from a working class background, an L2 speaker of the language of assessment) and evaluate the linguistic issues they might face and different approaches that teaching and assessing might take to addressing these issues. On balance how much weight should the university place on students showing mastery of Standard/ Academic English in their writing and what principles would you recommend underpin their assessment practices going forward?
  6. Imagined you have been approached by a Maternal and Child Health Service* wanting more information about how best to support families bringing up children to be minority language speakers. In your report explore which family language policies and practices are most likely to be successful and any other important factors that will impact on success. The service is particularly keen to hear your advice about how to respond if parents are concerned that their child’s English language skills are not developing well, and whether minority language use is still a good idea in this situation.

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