Local Shifts, Global Change: Arabic-English Bilingualism in Australia

By:
Dr. Ken Cruickshank
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Arabic is the main language after English in NSW, Australia’s largest state. Macro-sociolinguistic evidence indicates high levels of maintenance of spoken Arabic but shift of written Arabic to English (Clyne and Kipp, 1999). Such a picture masks the diversity and rapid change in language practices in the communities. The changes include the segmentation and growing racism and divisions in Sydney and other cities linked with the effects of global changes in media, technology and travel.

This paper draws on findings from a six-year ethnographic study of Arabic-speaking families in Sydney, Australia (1995 – 2001) and a subsequent study of technology-mediated literacy practices (2005). The study involved work with 20 families and then a focus on five case study families with children at local schools. The study found a complex patterning of Arabic-English language and literacy practices and wide differences in what counted as reading and writing in school and community contexts. The paper is not making an argument in tradition of the ‘melancholia of language shift’ (Harris, 2002) but rather a case for exploring the effects of change in language contact studies and bilingualism.

Marginalisation from the mainstream linked with growing community religious and cultural awareness parallel the rapid growth of international media and the ‘bilocale’ lives of many Arabic speakers (Appadurai, 1996, Clifford, 1997): these tensions are inevitably affecting language and literacy practices.


Keywords: Bilingualism, Literacy Practices, Arabic
Stream: Language, Linguistics, Globalisation, Ethnicity, Difference, Identity, Immigration, Refugees, Race, Nation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Ken Cruickshank

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of  Wollongong
Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Ken Cruickshank is a Senior Lecturer in TESOL in the Faculty of Education at Wollongong University. His latest publications are Teenagers Literacy and Schooling (2006) published by Routledge and ‘Arabic-English bilingualism in Australia’ in the Encyclopaedia of Language and Education (2006) (Vol. 5 Bilingualism, Jim Cummins editor) published by Kluwer.

Ref: H06P0455