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Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages

Framework

Structure

Pathways

To cater for differences between the ecologies of languages and the communities who are owners and custodians of those languages, and to cater for students who come from a variety of learner backgrounds, the Framework has three pathways:

  • First Language Learner Pathway (L1)
  • Second Language Learner Pathway (L2)
  • Language Revival Learner Pathway (LR).

This approach recognises that the two key variables are ‘the learner’ and ‘the nature of the language’.

The Framework is designed to be flexible in use for developing language-specific curricula and programs. Aspects of the content and achievement standards from the various learner pathways can be selected, adapted and modified in ways that best suit a particular language, to ensure that the curriculum and subsequent programs are appropriately pitched and to recognise the nature of the language, the nature of the learners and the context of learning.

First Language Learner Pathway (L1)

Languages studied in the First Language Learner Pathway (L1) are typically used in spoken form as the language of everyday communication by whole communities across all generations.

Typically, but not exclusively, L1 programs will occur on Country/Place and will have constant involvement from a variety of speakers from the community. A key expectation in the L1 pathway is that of students having opportunities to interact with Elders and particular places on Country/Place.

Learners are typically Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children who have learnt the language from their families as a first language and continue to use it naturally at home and play. Students may have varying skills in other languages, including varieties of English.

The First Language Learner Pathway provides students with an opportunity to study a first language at school. For these students, having the opportunity to learn their own language at school supports their cognitive development and signals recognition of the value and status of their language and ways of using and understanding language. Learning and using one’s own language at school also meets a widely held community aim to strengthen students’ identity and their connection between their families, community and Country/Place.

YANKUNYTJATJARA

Wai, ngayulu pukul mula waaka nyangatja ikuntananyi nganampa wangka wiru, nganampa Wapar pulka tjuta munu Ananguku ara tjuta.

Wangka nganampa pulka mula kutjuliku.

Palya alatjika.

Hello, I am very pleased to see this work is recognising our beautiful language, our Ancestral stories and our Aboriginal ways.

Our languages are very important for everyone.

Thank you very much

Karina Lester, Mobile Language Team, University of Adelaide

Students develop language skills to expand the domains of use in the language. This includes developing skills in registers and genres not normally encountered in their family and home community; in effect, this may involve the students in the creative development of new registers/genres, vocabulary and expressions in the language. As well as continuing to develop, extend and strengthen oracy, a key feature of the First Language Learner pathway is the development of written literacy.

The curriculum content and achievement standards in the First Language Learner Pathway are generalised in order to cater for the range of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages that may be learnt as a first language. The curriculum content and achievement standards will need to be adapted when developing language-specific curricula, and will need to be modified if the program occurs off-Country.

Second Language Learner Pathway (L2)

Languages studied in the Second Language Learner Pathway (L2) are typically languages used in spoken form as the language of everyday communication by whole communities across all generations.

The second language learner pathway has been written on the assumption that learning will occur off-Country, involving students who are typically not from the language community and having little or no experience of the language and culture. They are introduced to learning the language at school as an additional, new language.

The language chosen for curriculum development should have a sizeable set of resources in a variety of media, such as local documentaries, bilingual narrative and descriptive texts, and educational materials in print and digital form. Learning is enriched and authenticated by interaction with visiting Elders and community speakers, and where possible visits to Country/Place. Information and communications technologies provide additional resources to support a range of language and culture experiences.

The Second Language Learning Pathway provides students with an opportunity to study a language that is structurally very different from English and one from a culture quite distant from the English-speaking mainstream. This develops a deeper appreciation of the nature and diversity of languages and cultures, and supports the acquisition of knowledge and skills necessary to learn and understand an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language and its cultural context.

For students who are from the language community but who did not grow up speaking the language, it is an opportunity to reaffirm their cultural identity through learning the language of their community.

The curriculum content and achievement standards in the Second Language Learner Pathway are generalised in order to cater for the range of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages that may be learnt as a second language. The content descriptions, content elaborations and achievement standards for the Second Language Learner Pathway will need to be adapted for use with the particular language being taught and will need to be modified if the program occurs on-Country or if the learners are from the language community.

Language Revival Learner Pathway (LR)

The Language Revival Learner Pathway (LR) provides opportunities for students to study Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages that are being revived by their owners or custodians and are in various stages of revitalisation, renewal and reclamation.

LR covers a much broader range of language types and ecologies than either L1 or L2, and the vast majority of Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages are included in the LR category.

Schools teaching the Language Revival Learner Pathway (LR) will most likely be located broadly within the geographical region of the language and culture, sometimes in towns and cities and other times in rural and remote regions. Classes will likely include students who relate closely to the language and culture as well as students with varying degrees of affiliation with the language and culture, including some with no connections to the language and culture. A key expectation in the LR pathway is that students have opportunities to interact with Elders and particular places on Country/Place.

Proper Language revival process needs that cultural knowledge, the cultural context and the underpinning knowledge, to make it make sense. There’s no point in talking about that tree, unless you really understand what that tree means. So yes, we’re doing Language revival, but that underpinning knowledge is really important to that Language revival.

Doris Paton, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages – Gunnai Language teacher

The Language Revival Learner Pathway draws on the Australian Indigenous Languages Framework (AILF) and takes into account key variables such as: how much is known about and documented for the language; the extent to which languages are used or remembered, ranging from languages no longer spoken (owners often use the term ‘sleeping’) to those spoken fluently by members of the older generations; and the extent to which languages have been reintroduced into the community of owners and custodians.

These variables give rise to the following broad categories of language revival:

  • Language Revitalisation: where there are fluent L1 speakers (typically members of the older generation) but intergenerational transmission of the language has been interrupted. In this case, younger generations may understand some of the language and may use some words and phrases but they do not speak it as their first language. Examples of revitalisation languages include: Walmajarri in the Kimberley, Yindjibarndi in the Pilbara, Meriam in the Torres Strait, Dyirbal in north-eastern Queensland, Wubuy (Nunggubuyu) in Arnhem Land, and Adnyamathanha (Yura Ngawarla) in the Flinders Ranges. .
  • Language Renewal: where there are a number of adult speakers who use the language to varying degrees in the community, but not ‘right through’, and where other language resources are drawn upon. Examples of languages being renewed include: Noongar in south-west Western Australia, Gumbaynggirr on the north coast of New South Wales, Ngarrindjeri on the Lower Murray Lakes in South Australia, Djabugay in the Atherton Tablelands in northern Queensland and Yugambeh in southern Queensland. .
  • Language Reclamation: where language revival by necessity relies primarily on historical documentation of the language in the absence of active community knowledge of it. Examples of reclamation languages include: Kaurna from Adelaide, Narungga from the Yorke Peninsula, Dharuk or Eora (Iyora) from Sydney, Yuwibara from central Queensland, Wemba-Wemba and Woiwurrung from Victoria, and Awabakal from the Newcastle area in New South Wales.

Reviving our languages connects us to our country, to our Old People, to our stories, and our belonging to each other and our ways of knowing. Reviving our language is our connection and understanding of who we are, it isn’t a revival for now, it is our future generations to come.

Doris Paton, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages – Gunnai Language teacher

A number of factors and variables need to be considered when developing a language revival curriculum:

What is known and documented about the language

Many languages may only be known from wordlists, which are typically of widely varying quality. Some may have sketchy grammars; others may have recorded texts from which some grammar may be extracted; some, which have slipped from everyday use, may have audio and film resources. In the case of poorly documented languages where speakers no longer exist and sound or film resources were never made there will be many gaps to fill. Source materials will need to be interpreted through comparison with each other and with closely related languages, if indeed documentation of such languages exists.

Where there are still speakers of the revival language, fewer gaps will need to be filled and fewer assumptions will need to be made, because the remaining speakers will be the arbiters of what is correct or not. It is not unusual in such cases to have widely differing opinions about what is right, which may simply reflect underlying dialect differences or language change. Where a language is only known from written, historical records, there will be more need for interpretation and the application of historical and comparative linguistics in rebuilding the language, with the understanding that the revived language will most likely never match precisely the original language in structure, vocabulary and usage.

The extent to which languages are used or remembered

Revival languages also differ in relation to the extent to which they have been re-introduced into the community of owners and custodians, for example:

  • the range of functions for which the language is now used (for example, private conversations, written communication, digital messaging, social media)
  • the extent of its use in the public domain (for example, public speeches, Welcomes to Country, Acknowledgements of Country, naming various public entities and institutions)
  • its use in educational programs (for example, at school or post-school level, in community schools, involvement of non-Indigenous as well as Indigenous people)
  • the degree of development of contemporary resources (for example, alphabet books, dictionaries, grammars, learner’s guides, readers, animations, radio shows, television shows, websites with online language lessons, phone apps).

Some languages have only just begun their journey of revival, while others have advanced to a point where initial generations of new first language speakers are beginning to emerge as parents use the revived languages with their children.

For languages with limited documentation, English or another community language might be used in a complementary fashion in school programs, for example, to fill in for missing words or expressions. Alternatively, language owners and the general community may decide to sidestep these gaps altogether and entirely avoid the use of English or other languages for these purposes.

Implications for developing language specific curricula and language programs

The curriculum content and achievement standards in the Language Revival Learner Pathway are generalised in order to cater for the range of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages that may be learnt within this pathway.

The Language Revival Learner Pathway is pitched approximately at middle-of-the-range revival languages; that is, those that no longer have fluent first language speakers but have sufficient resources, including a grammar and dictionary, to enable a comprehensive, cumulative, rigorous and meaningful teaching program to be developed. Where there are major gaps in knowledge or documentation relating to a language, consideration needs to be given to how far the curriculum content and achievement standards can be realised and sustained for long-term, cumulative learning. An Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander cultural studies program may be a better option under circumstances of severe constraint.

Many teaching and learning programs will use the LR pathway for languages that have few, if any, speakers and associated language community. It is conceivable that over time a language functioning well in revival mode could develop a sufficiently substantial speech community across all generation levels for it to be taught in either the L1 or L2 pathway. Until a revival language achieves this critical mass, however, the recommended learning pathway is LR.

The willingness and interest that comes from the kids to learn my language fuels my motivation. I’ve had a couple of students from other classes approach me and ask to teach their class Kaurna too, because their siblings go home speaking the language and teach it to their families.

The children absolutely love it when I speak only in Kaurna – when it sounds natural and fluent. You can see the amazement on their faces. They want to be able to speak like me, and so conversing smoothly in Kaurna has become our main focus. It is so empowering.

Ngai Kaurna Warra wangkama, wakwakurna purtinthi. Parna Kaurna Warra numa nakunthi, warra marltawiltarnima. Parna murki nakunthu! Parna padlurninthi ngairli wangkatitya. Kaurna Warrarlu taingiwilta ngaini yungkunthi.

Taylor Power, Kaurna language teacher, Gilles Street Primary School, with Kaurna translation assistance from Rob Amery, Head of Linguistics, University of Adelaide

The content descriptions, content elaborations and achievement standards for the Language Revival Learner Pathway will need to be adapted when developing a language-specific curriculum.

Language-specific curriculum development for languages that are being revived, still have first languages speakers, are regaining fluent speakers, or have substantial resources, could consider some aspects of the content and achievement standards from the First Language Learner or Second Language Learner Pathways . The L2 pathway could be used as a basis for curriculum development. In these instances, content descriptions, elaborations and achievement standards would need to be adapted and modified to ensure that the curriculum is appropriately pitched and to reflect the nature of the language, the nature of the learners, and the context of learning.

The following table provides a summary of the three learner pathways.

Table 1: Summary of the three learner pathways

First Language Learner Pathway

  • Language spoken right through — full linguistic code
  • Substantial range of speakers across all generations
  • Language used as the language of community
  • Learners typically Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children who have learnt the language as a first language
  • Curriculum written on the assumption that L1 programs will occur on-Country/Place

Second Language Learner Pathway

  • Language spoken right through — full linguistic code,
  • Substantial range of speakers across all generations
  • Curriculum written on the assumption that L2 programs will occur off-Country/Place and learners are typically not from the target language community

Language Revival Learner Pathway

  • Languages being revived by their owners and in various stages of revitalisation, renewal and reclamation
  • Learners who relate closely to the language and culture as well as learners with varying degrees of connection to the language and culture and some with no connections
  • Curriculum written on the assumption that LR programs will typically occur broadly within the geographical region of the language and culture
  • Curriculum pitched approximately at middle-of-the-range revival languages

NGARRINDJERI

Ngul! Nginti elun piltenggi, platjinggun po:rli. Ngumawi thunggaril piltenggiru-warrun. Kili-um yunti-warrun ngumawi ru:wangk wunyi kaltjar. Tarnaulo kulyulainkun ngang-el-inti wunyi yarnd-el-inti.

Remember! You are a strong, proud Ngarrindjeri child. Your language makes you even stronger. It connects you to your country and culture. So never be ashamed of who you are and where you come from.

Phyllis Williams, Ngarrindjeri language teacher and Elder and Mary-Anne Gale, support linguist.

Sequences of learning

The Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages is written in the bands Foundation – Year 2, Years 3–6 and Years 7–10. In the absence of pedagogical evidence across the country for all these languages, these broad bands of learning provide maximum local flexibility in curriculum development.

Strands, sub-strands and threads

The content of the Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages is organised through two interrelated strands that realise the four aims. The two strands are:

  • Communicating: using language for communicative purposes in interpreting, creating and exchanging meaning
  • Understanding: analysing language and culture as resources for interpreting and creating meaning.

The strands reflect three important aspects of language learning:

  1. communication
  2. analysis of aspects of language and culture
  3. reflection that involves, for example,
    1. reflection on the experience of communicating
    2. reflection on comparative dimensions of the different languages used by students (for example, the first language in relation to the second language and self in relation to others).

A set of sub-strands has been identified within each strand, which reflects dimensions of language use and the related content to be taught and learned. The strands and sub-strands do not operate in isolation, but are integrated in relation to language use for different purposes in different contexts. The relative contribution of each sub-strand differs for described languages, pathways and bands of learning.

The following table provides a brief description of each of the strands and sub-strands.

Table 2: Relationship between strands and sub-strands

Strand

Sub-strand

Description

Communicating:

Using language for communicative purposes in interpreting, creating and exchanging meaning.

1.1 Socialising

Interacting orally and in writing to exchange ideas, opinions, experiences, thoughts and feelings; participating in planning, negotiating, deciding and taking action.

1.2 Informing

Obtaining, processing, interpreting and conveying information through a range of oral, written and multimodal texts; developing and applying knowledge.

1.3 Creating

Engaging with real and imagined experience by participating in, responding to and creating a range of texts, such as stories, songs, dances and paintings and visual designs.

1.4 Translating

Moving between languages and cultures orally and in writing, recognising different interpretations and explaining these to others.

1.5 Identity

 

Exploring and expressing their sense of identity as individuals and as members of particular speech communities and cultures.

1.6 Reflecting

Participating in intercultural exchange, questioning reactions and assumptions; considering how interaction shapes communication and identity.

Understanding:

Analysing and understanding language and culture as resources for interpreting and shaping meaning in intercultural exchange.

2.1 Systems of language

Understanding the language system, including sound, writing, grammar and text.

2.2 Language variation and change

Understanding how languages vary in use (register, style, standard and non-standard varieties) and change over time and place.

2.3 Language awareness

 

Analysing and understanding the general nature and function of language and culture, focusing on areas such as the changing relationship of languages and cultures over time, and the ability of new media and technologies to shape communication.

2.4 The role of language and culture

Analysing and understanding the role of language and culture in the exchange of meaning.

2.5 Role of language building

 

Analysing and understanding language building as a means to extend the potential of the language in the areas of vocabulary, expression and discourse, and developing knowledge of linguistic techniques such as collecting, describing and recording language.

The sub-strands are further differentiated according to a set of ‘threads’ that support the internal organisation of content in each sub-strand. These ‘threads’ are designed to capture: (1) range and variety in the scope of learning; and (2) a means of expressing progression of content across the learning sequences.

The following table provides a brief description of each of the strands and sub-strands.

Table 3: Summary of threads across the three learner pathways

Strand

Sub-strand

Thread

L1

L2

LR

Communicating

1.1 Socialising

Socialising/interacting

Socialising/interacting

Socialising/interacting

Taking action/collaborating

Taking action/collaborating

Taking action/collaborating

Developing the language of schooling

Developing language for classroom interaction

Developing language for classroom interaction

1.2 Informing

Obtaining and using information

Obtaining and using information

Obtaining and using information

Conveying information

Conveying information

Conveying information

1.3 Creating

Participating in and responding to stories, song, dance and visual design

Participating in and responding to stories, song, dance and visual design

Participating in and responding to stories, song, dance and visual design

Creating and performing

Creating and performing

Creating and performing

1.4 Translating

Translating/interpreting, transcribing and explaining

Translating/interpreting and explaining

Translating/interpreting and explaining

Creating bilingual/multilingual texts

Creating bilingual texts

Creating bilingual texts

1.5 Identity

 

People, kinship and community

Expressing identity

Expressing identity

Country/Place

 

 

History/Story

 

 

1.6 Reflecting

Reflecting on intercultural experience

Reflecting on intercultural experience

Reflecting on intercultural experience

Understanding

2.1 Systems of language

Sound and writing systems

Sound and writing systems

Sound and writing systems

Grammar and vocabulary knowledge

Grammar and vocabulary knowledge

Grammar and vocabulary knowledge

Ways of communicating and creating text

Ways of communicating and creating text

Ways of communicating and creating text

 

Links between language, kin and land

Links between language, kin and land

2.2 Language variation and change

Variability in language use according to social and cultural context

Variability in language use according to social and cultural context

Variability in language use according to social and cultural context

The dynamic nature of language

The dynamic nature of language

The dynamic nature of language

2.3 Language awareness

 

Linguistic landscape and ecology

Linguistic landscape and ecology

Linguistic landscape and ecology

Protocols for working with Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages

Protocols for working with Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages

Protocols for working with Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages

2.3 The role of language and culture

The relationship of language culture

The relationship of language culture

The relationship of language culture

2.4 Role of language building

 

Maintaining and strengthening language

Maintaining and strengthening language

Processes and protocols of language building

 

 

Techniques of language building

Concepts, processes and text -types

Concepts

Concepts are the big ideas that students work with. The choice of the word ‘concept’ rather than ‘topic’ is deliberate: it marks a shift from description to conceptualisation. The curriculum invites students not only to describe facts or features of phenomena, situations and events but also to consider how facts and features relate to concepts or principles. For example, a description of a house can lead to a consideration of the concept of ‘home’ or ‘space/place’; a description of a landmark or waterway can lead to a consideration of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander concept of ‘Country/Place’ or ‘Kinship’. This shift is necessary because concepts lend themselves more fruitfully to intercultural comparison and they engage students in personal reflection and more substantive learning.

Language revival is listening to the land, language revival is understanding knowledge and language revival is our connection to ways of knowing. It is for the future generation to come.

Doris Paton, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages – Gunnai Language teacher

The key concepts for Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait islander languages and knowledge include:

  • Country/Place: links to land, water, sea, sky
  • Identity: individual, social, cultural
  • Relationships: family and kinship, skin, totem, moiety, sections
  • History/Story/Journey
  • Community life: past and present
  • Ecology: management of natural resources, land-care
  • Natural environment: seasons and cycles, topigraphical features of the region, land-forms, plants and animals, category systems, fire, water, night sky and stars, meteorological phenomena, tides and the moon, bush tucker
  • Built environment: artefacts, tools, shelters/houses and urban environments
  • Artistic expression: story-telling, music and dance, visual design
  • Health and well-being: physical, spiritual, mental; cultural safety, body parts, age, change and growth (social, emotional)
  • Language as system: sound, grammar, orthography, conventions in speaking, writing and signing, ways of communicating
  • Register, variation and structure: age-, gender-, and relationship-appropriate language use; regional variation; loans and cognates; creoles and young people’s talk; structural relatedness
  • Language ecology: language diversity, growth, endangerment
  • Language and cultural revival: language building, reconstruction, maintenance and development, advocacy
  • Cultural protocols: values, respect, reciprocity.

Language revival gives knowledge, it strengthens our ways of knowing, and connects our future generations to ways of thinking.

Doris Paton, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages – Gunnai Language teacher

Processes

Processes include skills (for example, listening, speaking, reading, viewing, signing, writing, performing, classifying, noticing), as well as higher-order thinking processes (such as, conceptualising, interpreting, reasoning, analysing, explaining, comparing, reflecting) and the processes of collecting, describing and recording language.

Text-types

Text-types include oral, written, visual and multimodal texts. Country/Place, sea and sky are also considered by Communities to be texts. The selection of texts is important because they define and reflect past and present, and linguistic and cultural identity, helping to make the people and experiences of a particular culture distinctive. They also provide opportunities for intercultural dialogue.

Curricula developed from the Framework for particular Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages may draw upon a variety of historical and contemporary types of text. Individual language teaching programs will benefit from incorporating a diversity of support and enrichment materials and experiences, community knowledge and individual expertise, all of which serve as texts.

Oral texts provide the rich experience and engagement characteristic of live performance, and may range from the relatively free forms of informal story-telling and yarning to the more canonically fixed forms of song and associated dance and ceremony. The performance of oral texts encourages interactive learning at all stages and for all orientations of language learning; they are the forms of expression in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures excel and which are intrinsic to their communicative structures and styles.

Visual texts are also key texts to guide learning of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. These may include ephemeral works, such as ground paintings, tracks left by ceremonial dancers, body painting as well as visual design in more permanent forms worked onto stone, wood, canvas or sporting guernseys. These texts are often collaborative in origin, identifying specific knowledge of Country/Place, linking groups of people and transmitting knowledge to community, and, increasingly, to wider Australian and international audiences. Ground paintings, for example, are traditional expressions of the interactions between humans, History, ancestors, and the environment.

Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are known virtually only through written texts, usually in the form of archival material dating from previous generations when the language was more widely known and used. Present-day owners of these languages may choose to research the texts to retrieve what can be known about them. By so doing they seek to bring them back to a life and culture in which performance once more assumes its central role, and in which everyday forms of the spoken language can be adapted for contemporary life. For these programs in revival languages, historical texts form a crucial starting point for developing new language forms and uses, even though available written texts may vary greatly in detail and accuracy.

Archival material for revival languages, however, may be skewed by the interests, intentions and biases of original recorders and writers; for example, a language may have a substantial grammar recorded for it but large areas of missing lexicon, because it was not of interest to the original recorders. On the other hand, early literacy work with first-language speaker communities may have spawned a flourishing vernacular literacy rich in socialising and informing styles, for example, letter-writing, but little material describing the language structure.

Some languages may be spoken fluently only by the older generation, who therefore become the referenced authors of new texts that reflect changing social and educational conditions and needs, and where the purpose is to re-engage younger generations in acquiring their language, thus ensuring its survival. The role of Elders in these situations is fundamental.

Revival pathways developed for different languages will therefore potentially have access to a wide variety of texts on which programs can be based: some fixed in the archives and some living and ever-changing; some comprehensively descriptive of the internal structure and resources of the language but needing to be enlivened with conversational detail; and some voluble but masking underlying structures needed to generate new language for young learners.

Multimodal and digital media texts have assisted greatly in the transmission of Indigenous knowledge and taxonomies and in the artistic expression of contemporary personal and cultural identity, with a responsiveness often approaching the living nature of traditional oral transmission. There are interactive maps and seasonal calendars describing Country, digital animations depicting Story and Journey, and hyperlinked texts integrating several text-types, all available on personal digital devices small enough to travel with the learner. By engaging in these enhanced texts, learners develop a set of multiple literacies that support not only the learning and transmission of Australia’s precious linguistic heritage but the acquisition of techniques and attitudes to learning that boost learners’ achievements across the whole curriculum.

Language learning and literacy development

Languages play a crucial role in the educational experience of students and in the curriculum as a whole. Given the diversity of students in Australian schools, it is important to recognise that a range of languages is used either as part of the formal curriculum or as part of learners’ socialisation and experience in and out of school.

Learners bring to school their experience of their first language(s), the one(s) they use for initial socialisation in family or community. For the majority, this is English. For many others, it can be a range of different languages. Learners also encounter the language or languages of instruction at school. For most learners in Australian schools, this is English. For many students, this language of instruction is not the same as their first language. These students may learn through English as an additional language or dialect (EALD) programs.

In contemporary understandings of language acquisition and learning, importance is placed on the role of the languages through which individual learners socialise and learn. All learners have their own repertoires of linguistic and cultural experience and capabilities. These are variously developed by both the experience of schooling and broader social community experience. These repertoires are an integral part of each learner’s identity, of what they bring to the experience of learning an additional language as part of their school curriculum.

While the curriculum for languages primarily addresses the processes involved in learning languages, this learning cannot be separated from the development of learners’ more general educational experience and communicative repertoires. A relational and holistic approach to languages education and to learning and using multiple languages ensures that learners develop their overall language capabilities and knowledge, which impacts on their overall conceptual and communicative development.

In various kinds of bilingual programs, students are afforded an opportunity to learn through the medium of English and another language (learners’ first or additional language). These programs are of particular value in ensuring that learners continue to develop capabilities in at least two languages that are of value and relevance to them, in terms of conceptual development, communicative capabilities and identity formation.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities recognise the importance of literacy for their children. They support literacy education programs that are founded on the principle of establishing literacy in their children’s first language, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages used in their communities. Literacy in English is regarded as concomitant on first establishing students’ literacy in this first language. Although many bilingual programs in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are designed to help students’ transition into learning in English, their fundamental value is in the development of bilingual literacy. Strengthening the bilingual literacy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students contributes significantly to improving overall academic achievement and success.

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