Promoting Hindi in Australia


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Workshop discusses challenges and accomplishments in supporting the language

By Rekha Rajvanshi

Hindi in Australia has come a long way and as a Hindi teacher, poet and writer, I have witnessed its journey from community schools in 2002, to Saturday schools and now, in mainstream schools.

An eventful journey

In the mid-80s, a few community schools in Victoria and NSW began teaching Hindi as a language. In the 90s, the language was included as a subject in HSC under CCAFL in Victoria, followed by NSW. The Victorian School of Languages in Victoria (1994) and Saturday School of Community Languages in NSW (2007) started offering Hindi as a subject from year 7 to 12.

In 2011, ACARA, the newly formed National Curriculum Authority released its proposal curriculum. Hindi was not included in the first stage; only two national priority languages Chinese and Italian were included. At the second stage, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish language were given importance; while at the third stage Arabic, Modern Greek and Vietnamese were included, but Hindi was still not considered. The outraged Hindi speaking Indian community, concerned individuals and groups in Australia took action by sending letters to ministers and campaigned to collect 10,000 signatures on a petition to support Hindi in Australia. In a satisfactory conclusion, Hindi was added to the national curriculum, along with four other languages.

Hindi courses are currently offered at the Australian National University (ANU) in ACT and at La Trobe University in Victoria. University of Sydney decided to conclude Hindi language from its undergraduate course in 2009, but still offers the language to adults through the Centre for Continuing Education.

Moving into mainstream

‘Hindi in Australia’, a national level Hindi workshop was organized on July 17, spearheaded by Dr. Peter Friedlander, Hindi-Urdu Lecturer at ANU. The aim of the workshop was to consider the possibilities of taking Hindi further into mainstream schools, having a centralized Hindi website, developing Hindi resources, provision of teacher training and refresher courses in Hindi. The two session workshop was well-attended and covered topics of critical relevance to promotion of the language here.

The first session included a discussion on the draft curriculum of Hindi with ACARA’s senior project manager (languages) Suzanne Bradshaw speaking about the process and structure of curriculum development. Ms Bradshaw stated that ACARA, being a curriculum writer, cannot introduce Hindi in schools. This has to be done by mainstream school principals and is based on demand from the community.

Dinesh Srivastava, one of the leading pioneers of Hindi in Victoria, presented a comprehensive view of teaching the language since 1986, when the first Hindi school was introduced in the state. He and his team developed the CCAFL Hindi (Collaborative Curriculum and Assessment Framework for Languages, Australia) syllabus, and prepared textbooks with funding from the Victorian School of Languages.

Mala Mehta, founder of IABBV Hindi School in Sydney in 1987, the oldest of its kind, participated through teleconferencing and spoke about her journey with the language. She stated that learning two or more languages enhances skills and knowledge, and helps students in other subject areas too. She also recounted her efforts in getting Hindi accepted into mainstream schools.

Colin Avery, Principal of Rangebank Primary School in Victoria has been to India and loves its tradition, culture and languages. Stating that Hindi is one of the most scientific languages of the world, he addressed why he decided to introduce Hindi in his school and the advantages and challenges following this decision.

Frank Mertino, Principal, Victorian School of Languages (VSL) introduced his institution, advising that it now offers 50 languages in 40 campuses across Victoria. Hindi in VLS was included in 1993 and the first Hindi exam was conducted in 1994. Mr Mertino advised that because of the increase in Indian population in Australia, now is a good time to promote Hindi.

Harpreet Kaur, Hindi teacher at Narabundah College in ACT talked about the challenges she faces in her school and requested help for resources.

Santosh Gupta, founder of the Hindi School in Canberra, spoke about his school and the importance of such workshops in promoting Hindi.

Dr. Ian Woolford, Hindi Lecturer at La Trobe University talked about the important issues in teaching Hindi in a foreign land, and his presentation was impressive.

The second part of the workshop included sessions on Hindi in media and Hindi literary activities in Australia.

Kumud Merani – Executive Producer, SBS Radio spoke about the origin and use of Hindi in media, which is constantly changing to reach a wider audience.

I was the last speaker of the day. As a Hindi poet, writer and tutor at the University of Sydney CCE, I spoke on literary activities in Australia. My presentation included a collation of published works from Hindi writers and poets across Australia, with emphasis on four literary works of importance: ‘Boomerang-Australia se Kavitaen’,Guldasta’, my AUSIT award winning Hindi translation of the Aboriginal Animation films ‘The Dreaming’, and the translation of David Walker’s book ‘Anxious Nation’ into Hindi as ‘Udvigna Rashtra’ by Dr. Amit Sarwal and his team in Melbourne.

Dr. Friedlander concluded the workshop with a proposed plan to develop a centralized website to store Hindi related work in Australia and the need for having national level workshops and conferences in the future.

The workshop successfully raised some of the important concerns Hindi in Australia is facing at the moment, which can also be addressed via similar workshops in future.

The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia

Promoting Hindi in Australia

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