It is true that English is the official language and the language of the majority of Australians, yet according to the 2001 Australian census, out of 20 million Australians, five million don’t have English as their first language. According to reports, among this number, there is significant volume of people who cannot speak and or write English effectively.
Prime Minister John Howard, who from time to time puts the spotlight on Australian Muslims, this time, slammed Australian Muslims by asking them to learn good English in order to fully integrate with Australian values.
He never defines if he means something other than what people already know about Australian values and which are taught at school to younger generations such as: family values, community harmony, national heritage, liberty, justice, fraternity, mateship, national identity, history and a diverse multiculturalism.
Australia is a mixture of people from almost every faith in the world. Australia is a secular and multicultural society. Its diversity in culture, faith and the richness of languages spoken are its true values. In Australia more than 100 languages are spoken. Nevertheless, language in any social environment is nothing more than the expression of human communication through which knowledge, belief and behaviour can be experienced, explained and shared.
As a matter of fact, with globalisation, cultures and different social practices are so jumbled that people are not worried about the medium of communication. But more importantly, in Australia, language has never been a factor in the assessment for Australian nationality.
Knowing the language of the majority is a basic need. Command over any language comes through the social environment and it is a common that immigrants from non-English speaking backgrounds take the matter seriously and feel worried about their English. Over the period of time they improve their English language skills and feel proud of their achievements.
Australian-born children of migrants commonly speak English even with their parents without any pressure. If we go back in Australian history, the parents and grandparents of most of the leaders in the government today were speaking languages other than English and today it is their only language.
No doubt having good English is in the interests of every individual. It enhances communication with other Australians but it doesn’t illustrate the degree of loyalty to social values.
A nation is recognised by its kinship. A nation is formed by the coming together of cultures, faiths languages and history. A nation is acknowledged by economic and political togetherness.
Multicultural Australia is only about 40-years-old: the process of integration and assimilation is still in progress. The Australian Government promotes and spends huge funds on promoting nationalism and therefore politicians and leaders must also promote multiculturalism.
Australia will continue to enjoy high reputation in the world as long as it is multicultural.
It is hard to believe that John Howard did not realise the composition of Australian society when he warned Muslims about their competency in English. Maybe he did not realise that Muslims make up only 2 per cent of the Australian population. He never raised the English language issue for the other many communities which are much bigger in size than Muslims and whose English is noticeably much poorer than Muslims.
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