Endangered species? Less commonly taught languages in the linguistic ecology of Australian higher education

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Dunne, Kerry S; Pavlyshyn, Marko
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Hindi, a less commonly taught language in Australian higher education, was catapulted into the list of four strategically significant languages in the Commonwealth Government’s 2012 White Paper, Australia in the Asian Century. Hindi’s inclusion is, perhaps, predictable in view of the Commonwealth Government’s economic and trade agendas, though the White Paper itself provides no explicit rationale for its list of ‘priority Asian languages’ – Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese (Australia, 2012, pp. 15–16, 170). In particular, it makes no comment about the disappearance from the list of Korean, which had been thus classified under both the National Asian Languages and Studies in Australian Schools (NALSAS) Strategy and the National Asian Languages and Studies in School Program (NALSSP). The prioritisation of Hindi raises issues of ensuring the availability of a range of less commonly taught languages to meet national strategic and scholarly needs. This study reports on the availability of less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) in Australian higher education. The data for 2011 are compared with earlier surveys and we review the literature on language programs in Australia that comments on LCTLs. The strategies predominantly adopted to try and ensure the survival of endangered small candidature languages in the linguistic ecology of Australian higher education –utilising computer assisted language learning resources, online delivery and collaborative programs between institutions – are discussed, followed by a brief update on their success or lack of it. The issues relating to less commonly taught languages have not changed, yet there is merit in again raising thequestion of teaching them because of their importance in Australia.