Arts in the pub – Save a language, before it is too late

Published 04 March 2014

By tradition the pub has always been a place for discussion, often using forms of language which were rarely used at home. Next week in Armidale the second round of UNE’s ‘Arts in the Pub’ will use that great venue of expression to talk about language.

Focusing on two very different topics, linguistic experts from the University of New England, Dr Elizabeth Ellis and Dr Mark Post will both be presenting.

Growing up in a bilingual home, which is commonplace in metropolitan areas is increasingly becoming the way of life for many regional children. Dr Elizabeth Ellis will be talking about ‘Bilingualism in the Bush’ and why growing up speaking more than one language is good for children.

Dr Ellis says many children from culturally and linguistically diverse families who migrate to Australia lose their first language as they learn English.

“Losing that  first language can cause a disconnect in family relations, reducing individual identity and even limiting employment-related skill potential. In comparison children who are raised in a bilingual home can do better socially and academically,” Dr Ellis said.

From the impact of losing one cultural language to the challenge of losing several thousand languages forever, Dr Mark Post who has spent time in some of the remotest places on Earth studying and describing disappearing languages will discuss his fieldwork on tribal languages in the Eastern Himalayan frontier.

“Currently there are about 7,000 languages spoken around the world today. Of that number, at least half of these are to some degree in danger of becoming extinct over the next hundred years.

“In the Eastern Himalaya, there are probably around fifty or sixty languages spoken, most of which are almost completely undescribed. If we are to stand any chance of helping to maintain these languages the first step is being able to describe and record them. That process also allows us to learn things about the nature of human language that we simply wouldn’t otherwise be able to learn.

The ‘Arts in the Pub’ series is an informal, fun way to hear from experts from a diverse range of fields. The evening kicks off at 7pm on Tuesday 4 March, upstairs at the White Bull and entry is free. All are welcome, so come along and learn something at the pub!