2019 Lectures in Linguistic Diversity
When: Tuesday, June 11, 2:00-3:00pm, AHH 1.602
Who: Kerry Taylor-Leech, Griffith University
Title: Translanguaging and identity: Creating safe space for Samoan language and culture in an Australian a’oga amata
Abstract: Logan City, a diverse, fast-growing metropolis in southeast Queensland, contains pockets of significant social need. Thirty-two percent of its under-eights are considered vulnerable in one or more Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) domains. Logan’s large Pacific Islander population faces special challenges, the main one being a lack of clear pathways to Australian citizenship. The financial and social insecurity that can accompany extended temporary residence deters many of these families from taking advantage of early childhood education. Consequently, their children lose ground early, being less prepared for formal schooling than those who attend kindergarten. Children of Pacific Islander heritage are also categorised as speaking English as an additional language, but data on these children are not disaggregated to distinguish Pacific languages. Thus, many of these children miss out on language and literacy support at school.
In 2018, Hosanna Logan City Church and Goodstart Early Learning established an immersion kindergarten (a’oga amata) catering for children of Samoan heritage. Our research explored the extent to which the a’oga amata was supporting heritage language and culture, building positive Samoan identity, and enhancing children’s school readiness. In identifying how the educators mediated languages and learning, I reflect on the challenges they faced, the functions for which Samoan was used, and the translanguaging strategies we observed. I make a case for purposeful translanguaging and creating safe space for young bilingual learners (cf. Conteh & Brock, 2011). I also consider the achievements of the a’oga amata and speculate on its long-term prospects.