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Language and Social Inclusion: unexplored aspects of intercultural communication. Simon Musgrave & Julie Bradshaw School of Languages, Cultures and Communication, Monash University Workshop: Linguistic Diversity & Social Inclusion ( Macquarie University, October 12 2012 ). Overview.

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language and social inclusion unexplored aspects of intercultural communication

Language and Social Inclusion: unexplored aspects of intercultural communication

Simon Musgrave & Julie Bradshaw

School of Languages, Cultures and Communication, Monash University

Workshop: Linguistic Diversity & Social Inclusion (Macquarie University, October 12 2012)

  • “A Stronger, Fairer Australia”
  • Aspects of inclusion
  • Connectedness and belonging
  • Acts of social inclusion
  • Future directions – widening the questions
a stronger fairer australia
“A Stronger, Fairer Australia”
  • Australia - Social Inclusion Board advises the Government “on ways to achieve better outcomes for the most disadvantaged in our community and to improve the social inclusion in society as a whole”.
  • Key issues include jobs, economic issues, homelessness
  • Policy document 2009, “A Stronger, Fairer Australia” – a social inclusion strategy emphasizing economic aspects of inclusion (and exclusion – the discourse treats these as mutually-defining complementaries)
  • Language and culture : few mentions
  • language – 7 mentions
  • culture – 12 mentions (but several refer to e.g. ‘recovery-oriented culture amongst services’)
language social inclusion in the document 3 areas mentioned briefly
‘Language & social inclusion’ in the document : 3 areas mentioned briefly
  • Language (i.e. English L1) development in early childhood (pp. 27-28)
    • includes note : “there are children in Australia who only speak English, but are reported as not proficient in English. These children are likely to be developmentally vulnerable on all the AEDI [Australian Early Development Index] domains” (SFA p. 28; no sources for claim)
    • i.e. semilingualism (Aboriginal English?), & cf. Piller & Takahashi (2011) on ideology of linguistic discreteness in social inclusion policy
  • Investment in language learning centres in secondary schools (i.e. LOTE for mainstream children)
  • A project in a Western Sydney primary school developing language (i.e. English), literacy and numeracy skills for ESL learners (4 out of 7 mentions of language in the document)
language social inclusion in the policy document
‘Language & social inclusion’ in the policy document
  • Assimilatory and economic aspects of policy are foregrounded
  • ‘Language’ means English, normatively viewed.
  • Ideology of monolingualism informs social inclusion policy (cf.Piller and Takahashi 2011)
  • NO mention of home languages other than English – just an implied deficit model
a strength based approach
“ A strength based approach”
  • One passage advocates a strengths-based approach:“respecting, supporting and building on the strengths of individuals, families, communities and culture. … Recognising the varied and positive contributions of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds will be an important feature of the social inclusion approach.” (p72)
  • BUT there is no evidence of recognition of the linguistic implications of this.
linguistic and cultural inclusion
Linguistic and cultural inclusion
  • We ask: what would a truly inclusive policy look like if it took a linguistically informed approach to social inclusion?
  • Begin by asking “inclusion in WHAT”?
    • (cf. discussion in Piller and Takahaski 2011)
  • Social inclusion policy has a default assumption of assimilation to an imagined community (cf. Anderson), the mainstream, and particularly the nation state.
  • BUT Piller and Takahashi note that inclusion/exclusion are enacted at local level.
inclusion in what
Inclusion in what?
  • Steinert (2003) : sees various dimensions of exclusion as independent
    • Political (i.e. citizenship)
    • Economic
    • Social (isolation)
    • Cultural (education)
  • More useful formulation: Piller and Takahashi (2011) see economic issues as the core of inclusion, nested within a level of human development, and more peripherally, a sense of participation or belonging.
  • While we acknowledge the priority given to economic factors, our interest is in the linguistic aspects of participation and belonging.

Cf. Han (2011) paper on Church participation

inclusion in what1
Inclusion in what?
  • Inclusion in the social sense means becoming part of the (a?) social fabric
  • BUT that fabric may be varied and complex
  • Individual’s lived experience of social inclusion may also depend on multi-layered connections:
    • nuclear and extended family ties
    • links with others of shared linguistic and cultural repertoires
    • affiliations with
      • wider common interest groups
      • religious groups
      • work colleagues
dimensions of social inclusion
Dimensions of social inclusion
  • ‘belonging’ v. ‘connectedness’ (Crisp 2010)
    • belonging involves becoming an insider within a group, organisation or a somewhat less structured network of people with common attributes or beliefs (i.e. community of practice)
    • connectedness relates more to participation in societal organisations or social networks
  • While network diagrams may show patterns of connectedness, belonging is more nuanced.
    • ‘Belonging’ has identity implications and needs discursive analysis to tease out.
  • Social inclusion policy may attempt to enhance connectedness, but belonging is beyond top down approaches, and relies on situated engagement through language.
examples from current policy
Examples from current policy
  • Connectedness is linguistically supported:
    • Interpreters are available for e.g. medical and legal
    • Government documents are available in translation
  • Belonging is supported but not always with linguistic resources:
    • Government supports community activity based on ethnolinguistic groups
    • SBS provides access to media and entertainment in various languages
      • Belonging NOT connectedness – e.g. homeland news in native language, main (Australian news) in English
    • Cf. Yates 2011 on difficulties in forming English-based networks
    • Linguistic basis of belonging discouraged in at least one case: bilingual education in NT
inclusion include
Inclusion / include
  • Shift from a nominal form, “inclusion” to a verbal framing of “include”
  • Focus on a process or series of processes in which people construct identity through performing “acts of identity” (Le Page and Tabouret-Keller 1985), in relation to imagined communities.
  • Allows examination of the participant roles associated with the process of inclusion:
    • who or what includes whom,
    • in what,
    • how and why does this happen,
    • using what language or languages?
processes of inclusion
Processes of inclusion
  • Involve communication between diverse groups
  • Static aspects e.g. dependence on shared understanding of key cultural terms
  • Dynamic aspects e.g. membership of a group is linguistically mediated and dynamically negotiated
  • Example: a group of immigrants from South Sudan living in Melbourne hold their weekly church service in Arabic (Musgrave and Hajek, 2009).
    • What factors led to this decision about language use?
    • How did these people balance their identity as non-Muslim Sudanese against the desire to include as large a community as possible in their worship?
  • South Sudanese Christian focus group members want Arabic language maintenance for 2nd generation but classes are run through mosques (Bradshaw et al. 2008)
  • Evidence suggests linguistic assimilation is not enough
    • Recent migrants to Australia and Canada with high English proficiency converge less than earlier generations (cf. discussion in Piller & Takahashi 2011)
  • Inclusion which is not solely assimilation means intercultural communication
  • In super-diverse communities (Vertovec 2007) the dimensions of intercultural communication may not simply radiate between minority and mainstream but between changing and transforming communities of practice (e.g. Speakers of Sudanese Arabic in church or mosque).
a tentative conclusion
A tentative conclusion
  • What can be an evidentiary basis for linguistic aspects of social inclusion policy?
    • focus on the immediate and local
    • immigrant groups are important, but research cannot be limited to them
    • range of processes examined must acknowledge:
      • connectedness AND belonging
      • inclusion in social processes beyond the mainstream
  • We need to examine “the daily habits of perhaps quite banal intercultural interaction” (Sandercock 2003, in Vertovec 2007:1045)

Language and Social Inclusion

  • Anderson, Benedict (1991) Imagined communities : reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso
  • Bradshaw, J., A. Deumert and K. Burridge, (2008) Victoria’s Languages: Gateway to the World.Melbourne: VITS Language Link
  • Crisp, Beth R. (2010) Belonging, connectedness and social exclusion. Journal of Social Inclusion1 / 2: 123 – 132.
  • Le Page, R.B. & Andree Tabouret-Keller (1985) Acts of Identity:Creole-based approaches to language and ethnicity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Musgrave, Simon & John Hajek (In press) Minority language speakers as migrants: some preliminary observations on the Sudanese community in Melbourne. To appear in International Journal of Multilingualism.
  • Piller, Ingrid and Kimie Takahashi (2011) Linguistic diversity and social inclusion. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 14/4:371-381.
  • Steinert, H. (2003) Introduction: the cultures of welfare and exclusion. In H Steinert and A Pilgram (eds), Welfare policy from below: struggles against social exclusion in Europe. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing.
  • A Stronger Fairer Australia (2009) Launched Jan 28 2010. Available from, accessed 12/10/2010.
  • Vertovec, Steven (2007) Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies 30/6: 1024-1054.