‘Talking dictionaries and endless interpretation at lectures’: The monolingual mindset and the marginalisation of multilingual practices in Australia

Bodis, A. (Speaker)

    Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation


    This paper examines how the multilingual practices of international students studying in Australia are represented in the media. International students constitute a large segment of the Australian student population (31.1%) (Australian Government Department of Education and Training, 2018). While the English language proficiency of international students has received significant attention in the media and in research, their multilingual practices have not. Therefore, this study examines how the multilingualism of international students studying at Australian universities is understood and portrayed in the media. The data comprises the transcript and footage of Degrees of Deception, an episode of Four Corners, a prime time current affairs program in Australia. The episode, aired on 20 April 2015, focuses on declining standards at Australian universities touching on issues such as plagiarism and visa fraud, and attributing these to international students and their low language proficiency. To be able to explore audience engagement, the data also includes social media comments made to this episode Undertaking a thematic language ideological analysis, this study shows that English is presented as the norm and the use of languages other than English (LOTE) as constituting a deficit. Findings show that multilingual practices of international students are largely rendered invisible. Where the use of LOTEs is brought into focus, multilingual practices are evaluated negatively. They are either seen as threating academic performance or, even more insidiously, associated with illegal activities such as plagiarism and fraud. The language ideologies that facilitate these processes can be divided into two main groups: the first group justifies and valorises English as the only legitimate language in Australia, and the second one comprises interdependent ideologies that idealise first-language-users of English and devalue LOTE users. The results also show that the social media discussions serve to further amplify the language ideologies of the episode. The study adds to the literature by uncovering the way language ideologies – specifically the monolingual mindset and English native speaker bias – manifest in media representations of diversity in higher education.
    Event title16th International Pragmatics Conference
    Event typeConference
    LocationHong Kong, Hong Kong