Vol. 30:2 (2007) ► pp.21.1–21.17
Our (not so) polyglot pollies
The present article reports on research conducted during late 2004 on the language abilities of Australia’s parliamentarians and a parliamentary debate in 2005 on languages in Australia. A small questionnaire was administered to all members of the nine legislative structures of Australia comprising six states, two territories and the one Federal parliament. This is the first such survey in Australia. While the response rate was uneven, from good to poor, the survey does shed light on the range and number of languages other than English spoken by Australia’s parliamentary representatives, where their language capabilities were gained, how proficient they estimate themselves to be, and in what settings their language skills are used. The paper includes a comparison between these Australian data and equivalent, though slightly less sketchy, data from the UK. The article concludes with the text and debate of a recent private members’ bill on languages and makes comments on the responses in light of the language abilities of the parliamentarians.
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