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How can we develop a passion for Asian languages?

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Sidney Myer Asia Centre - Yasuko Hiraoka Myer (YHM) Room Level 1

761 Swanston Street

Melbourne, VIC 3010

Australia

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How can we develop a passion for Asian languages?

An expanded capacity for Asian languages is widely regarded as crucial for Australia’s social, cultural, and economic future. Given Australia’s proximity to Asia, its growing Asian diaspora population, and its strong economic ties to several Asian nations, Australia at first glance appears well-positioned to develop excellent opportunities for learning and speaking Asian languages. Yet, according to many indicators, Australia is performing poorly on Asian language education. Indeed. there are now fewer opportunities to study some Asian languages at undergraduate level than was the case in the 1990s.

How can we develop a passion for Asian languages – both as individuals and as a society? How can institutions be leveraged to create more functional ecosystems for learning languages? And what can policy-makers do to improve the situation?

This seminar will explore these questions, with a focus on one of the most neglected (and arguably, most important) Asian languages – Hindi.

With more than 500 million speakers, Hindi is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world. Moreover, increased immigration from India has made Hindi one of Australia’s fastest growing languages. Yet, only a handful of Australian schools and universities offer formal Hindi courses. Panellists will discuss the poor state of Hindi education in Australia – as well as that of other Asian languages – and how the situation can be turned around.

THE PANEL

Richard Delacy, preceptor in Hindi/Urdu and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Harvard University. Richard is the author of Elementary Hindi, and also writes on Hindi’s place in Indian popular culture – in Bollywood and in contemporary literature.

Mala Mehta OAM, President Honorary/Founder Teacher of the Indo-Australian Bal Bharatiya Vidyalaya Hindi School, which has provided community-based Hindi classes in Sydney for more than three decades. Mala has been a tireless campaigner for the inclusion of Hindi within school curricula in Australia.

Meredith Clencie, Principal of the Grange P-12 College, Hopper’s Crossing, which introduced Hindi as its main language some four years ago. Meredith has worked to integrate the school’s Hindi program into a wider agenda for inter-cultural learning.

Joseph Lo Bianco, Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Joseph wrote Australia’s National Policy on Languages in 1987 and continues to be a key policy advisor on how language education can support diversity, reconciliation, and social integration.

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Sidney Myer Asia Centre - Yasuko Hiraoka Myer (YHM) Room Level 1

761 Swanston Street

Melbourne, VIC 3010

Australia

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