Australia Native Language Bailout
“Australia has pledged 7.8 million US dollars this year to help save more than 100 indigenous languages which are in grave danger of dying out,” AFP reports.
Arts Minister Peter Garrett said the money would be spent on translation services, tests for children and a feasibility study for a national centre for Aboriginal languages. “These languages are… a significant part of Australia’s heritage and we must ensure they are protected for the benefit of future generations,” Garrett said. “A focused and coordinated national approach is critical to safeguard indigenous culture and save these unique languages.”
Australia has 145 languages and dialects with 110 at risk, according to a 2005 report, as they are often spoken only by small groups of over-40s. About 30,000 people are currently studying indigenous languages around the country.
Why? These languages are dying out because they’re no longer useful, presumably because the tribal cultures have assimilated into Australia’s English-speaking culture.
I’m all in favor of historical preservation. It would be worthwhile to preserve any of these languages that exist as written languages for the sake of future historians and anthropologists. Ditto recordings of native speakers speaking their language. If that cost $7.8 million equivalent, it would probably be a good investment.
But spending the money for the sake of having dying languages continue on as inefficient secondary means of communication strikes me as horribly counterproductive. Much better to learn both English and a second actually-spoken language (Chinese comes to mind given Australia’s geography).