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A TESOL Symposium on Keeping Language Diversity Alive

Alice Springs Convention Centre

Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Featured Speakers:

  • Joseph Lo Bianco
  • Veronica Perrurle Dobson (with possible additional speaker to be announced)
  • Stephen May
  • Program update: In Memory of Dr. R. Marika

Closing Session: Michael Christie

Registration Information
Registration Form (PDF)
Register Online - Secure Online Registration

The TESOL Symposium on Keeping Language Diversity Alive is sponsored by

2008 TESOL Symposia Global Sponsor

2008 TESOL Symposium Sponsor

TESOL acknowledges and appreciates the assistance of the
Australian Council of TESOL Associations (ACTA).


This one-day symposium explores the complex issue of keeping indigenous and other community languages alive. Four experts investigate the reasons for language decline and extinction and discuss the processes of language maintenance and their importance for maintaining the expression of community, culture, and sense of identity.

This TESOL symposium provides an opportunity for English language teaching professionals to learn from and interact with leading experts in the field and their colleagues in the region. The speakers will share their work and research on keeping language diversity alive to help participants further develop insights and skills. In the morning, each speaker will present highlights of their work and perspectives on the topic. After a break for lunch, each speaker will then lead an afternoon breakout session. During the closing session, another leading expert will summarize the topic, and the speakers will address participants' questions and comments. TESOL will publish and mail the speakers' papers and final proceedings to participants after the symposium.

The Australian Council of TESOL Association’s (ACTA) conference, “Pedagogies of Connection: Developing Individual and Community Identities,” will be held July 10–12, 2008, in Alice Springs. ACTA chose the theme of the TESOL symposium and scheduled the symposium for the day before the ACTA conference to highlight the dynamic relationship between English language teaching and language diversity. For more information about the ACTA conference, visit ACTA’s Web site,


July 9, 2008

8:30 am–9:30 am

Check in/Tea and Coffee

9:30 am–9:45 am

Welcome and Opening Remarks (General Session: Ellery A&B)

Shelley Wong , 2008-2009 President, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.

Misty Adoniou , President, Australian Council of TESOL Associations

9:45 am–12:00 pm

Featured Speakers: Introductory Presentations
(General Session: Ellery A&B)

Organizing for Multilingualism: Ecological and Sociological Perspectives
Joseph Lo Bianco

Keeping Language Diversity Alive: Perspectives and Practices from Central Australia
Veronica Perrurle Dobson

TESL and First Languages: Rights, Roles, Responsibilities
Stephen May

12:00 pm–1:30 pm

1:30 pm–3:15 pm

Featured Speakers: Concurrent Discussions

Organizing for Multilingualism: Ecological and Sociological Perspectives (Ellery A&B)
Joseph Lo Bianco

Keeping Language Diversity Alive: Perspectives and Practices from Central Australia
Veronica Perrurle Dobson

TESL and First Languages: Rights, Roles, Responsibilities (Ellery D)
Stephen May

3:30 pm–4:30 pm
Closing Session, Questions & Comments (General Session: Ellery A&B)
Michael Christie


Registration fees (includes program fees, materials, lunch and refreshment breaks)

Pre-registration Fee
(Register by June 25, 2008)

On-site Registration Fee
(Pay on site—space available basis)

Registration Fee

US$ 35

US$ 35

Pre-registration Options

Choose one of the three registration options below:

  1. Register and pay online using TESOL's secure online registration system with credit card (VISA, Master Card, or AMEX).
  2. Register by mailing or faxing TESOL symposium registration form to TESOL.

    Payment can be made by check or international money order (payable to TESOL; using a U.S. Bank and in U.S. dollars), or credit card (VISA, Master Card, or AMEX).
  3. Register by e-mail to (please provide complete contact information), then pay onsite US $35 (or 35 AUD).

If you have any questions about registration, please contact TESOL at or +1-703-518-2528. Please note that all participants must directly register for this event with Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL).


Alice Springs Convention Centre
93 Barrett Drive
Alice Springs
Northern Territory 0870
Tel: +61 8 8950 0200


Directions from Alice Springs Airport to Alice Springs Convention Centre:

  • Distance: about 12 km (9 miles), or 16 minutes
  • Head northwest on Roger Vale Drive toward Old South Road; turn right at Deepwell Road; slight right at Stuart Highway; slight right at Gap Road; turn right at South Terrace; turn right at Stephens Road; turn left at Barrett Drive

Directions from downtown to Alice Springs Convention Centre:

  • Head southeast on Gregory Terrace toward Hartley Street; turn right at Leichhardt Terrace; turn left at Tuncks Road; turn right at Barrett Drive

Upon arrival at the Alice Springs Convention Centre, go to the registration area in the foyer outside the Ellery Room.


Listed below are several hotels near the Convention Centre. Participants should contact the hotels directly for rates, availability, and reservations.

Lasseters Hotel & Casino (part of the Convention Centre complex)
93 Barrett Drive
Alice Springs NT 0870
Tel: 61-08-8950-7777 or 1-800-808-975
Fax: 61-08-8953-1680
Web site:

Crowne Plaza Alice Springs (short walk from the Convention Centre)
82 Barrett Drive
Alice Springs NT 0870
Tel: 61-08-8950-8000 or 877-227-6963
Fax: 61-08-8982-3822
Web site:

Novotel Outback Alice Springs (less than 1.3 km (1 mile) from the Convention Centre)
46 Stephens Road
Alice Springs NT 0870
Tel: 61-8-8952-6100
Fax: 61-8-8952-1988


Organizing for Multilingualism: Ecological and Sociological Perspectives

It is widely believed that language shift resulting in the extinction of minority languages is rapidly accelerating in all parts of the world and that language revival, maintenance, and retrieval efforts have not been entirely successful. In 1994, UNESCO estimated that 90% of the world’s languages could be extinct by the mid 21st century. In this paper I review two broad approaches to reviving threatened languages and discuss the state of theory and practice in language planning to support languages. Although many view globalisation and the Internet as an unmitigated disaster for language diversity, the situation is in fact far more complex. Both provide tools for linking dispersed and small language communities across distance and offer some prospects for new forms of community that can play a positive role in supporting language diversity. Strenuous efforts in devising new or invigorating old forms of community, social intimacy, education, and literacy practices need to be explored. Through organisation and social arrangements that make multilingualism natural, communities will keep language diversity alive by simultaneously participating in wider social networks and maintaining local, language-based identities.

Joseph Lo Bianco is Professor of Language and Literacy Education at The University of Melbourne and Associate Dean (International) in the Faculty of Education. He wrote Australia’s first national policy on languages in 1987 and has been an invited consultant on language policy, bilingualism, indigenous and immigrant languages, and antiracist and multicultural education in several countries across Asia and Europe.

His recent books include Australian Literacies (with P. Freebody, 2001); Australian Policy Activism (with R. Wickert, 2001); Voices From Phnom Penh, Development and Language (2002); Teaching Invisible Culture (with C. Crozet 2003); and Language Policy in Australia, (Council of Europe, 2004). He has also edited a special issue ofLanguage Policy titled “The Emergence of Chinese” (2007), and he has written the multilingualism chapter in the 2008 UNESCO World Report on Cultural Diversity. In preparation are an edited volume on English and identity in China and a volume on intercultural perspectives in language education.

Keeping Language Diversity Alive: Perspectives and Practices from Central Australia

Eastern and Central Arrernte is a language with 1500-2000 speakers spoken in and around Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. In this presentation, Veronica Perrurle Dobson, a widely respected Arrernte Elder, describes her work as a linguist and educator promoting and maintaining the Arrernte language. She has worked on a variety of projects focused on keeping language diversity alive, including teacher education, curriculum development, traditional healing, and environmental education.

Veronica Perrurle Dobson is a widely respected Arrernte Elder and noted translator, interpreter, researcher, linguist, educator, teacher, and author. In her work promoting and maintaining the Arrernte language, she draws on her own cultural knowledge and that of other Elders and senior healers in the Arrernte community around Mparntwe (Alice Springs) in Central Australia.

She earned the national Language Achievement Award in 2004 from the Federation of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Languages. She has a long history in linguistics, teaching children, adult education, curriculum development and advocacy. She has worked with the Van Leer Foundation-funded Arrernte Early Childhood Curriculum Project, and the National Framework for Accrediting/Teaching Australian Languages in Senior Secondary Schools, a groundbreaking project focused on bringing Indigenous language education to mainstream schools.

Veronica co-compiled the Eastern and Central Arrernte to English Dictionary, published by IAD Press, one of the most comprehensive dictionaries of an Australian Aboriginal language. She is also the author of Arelhe-Kenhe Merrethene - Arrernte Traditional Healing (IAD Press, 2007), in which she documents the use of plants and other natural products for medicinal purposes by Arrernte people.

TESL and First Languages: Rights, Roles, Responsibilities

Approaches to TESL have had an ambivalent, often overtly hostile relationship toward students’ first languages. The result has been, all too often, that students' first languages have been constructed as obstacles to learning and specifically devalued or excluded from the teaching and learning process.

This paper argues that the pedagogical grounds for such an approach are weak and spurious, and are more the product of an overarching, often unquestioned ideology of English monolingualism.

In contrast, the presentation explores what rights might or should be attributable to English language learners (ELLs) in relation to their first languages, the role(s) first languages might play in TESL classrooms, and the ethical responsibilities we have as TESL teachers to foster linguistic diversity while still discharging our primary pedagogical task of teaching English.

Stephen May is Foundation Professor and Chair of Language and Literacy Education in the School of Education and Research Professor in the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research at the University of Waikato, in Hamilton, New Zealand. In 2008, he will be a New Zealand Fulbright Senior Scholar based at Arizona State University, Teachers College, Columbia University, and City University New York, where he will be undertaking a comparative ethnographic study of successful school-based bilingual education programs.

He began his career as a secondary teacher of English and ESL in New Zealand and has subsequently taught in universities in New Zealand, Britain, the United Sates and Canada.

Dr. May has written widely on language and education, with a particular focus on addressing and accommodating cultural and linguistic diversity. Areas of particular interest and expertise include language rights, bilingualism and bilingual education, indigenous education, and multicultural education. To date, he has published seven books and more than 60 refereed academic articles and book chapters, and he has served on a variety of editorial boards.

With Nancy Hornberger he has coedited the first volume of the benchmark 10-volume Encyclopedia of Language and Education (2nd ed.), published by Springer in 2008. His widely acclaimed book, Language and Minority Rights (Longman, 2001), was shortlisted in 2002 for the prestigious British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Book Prize and has since been reprinted by Routledge (2008).


Michael Christie worked as teacher linguist in Arnhemland bilingual schools from 1972 until 1993, when he moved to Charles Darwin University in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. In 1994, he set up the Yolngu Studies program supporting Yolngu lecturers teaching and researching Yolngu languages and culture under Yolngu supervision. This program won the Prime Minister's award in 2005 for the best university teaching program in Australia. Since 2005 he has been investigating information technology and the intergenerational transmission of Aboriginal knowledge practices, Aboriginal philosophy and epistemology, and transdisciplinary research.

* Program Update - In Memory of Dr. R. Marika – Featured Speaker at TESOL Symposium

TESOL received the very sad news this week that Dr. Marika, one of the three featured speakers at the TESOL Symposium on Keeping Language Diversity Alive (July 9, 2008, in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia) passed away last weekend. She was 49 years old. In a letter this week to the President of TESOL’s affiliate in Australia (the Australian Council of TESOL Associations (ACTA), Misty Adoniou, 2008-2009 TESOL President Shelley Wong said, “On behalf of the TESOL Board of Directors, staff, and membership, I want to express my deepest sympathy and condolences to Dr. Marika’s family, friends, and colleagues, throughout Australia, and worldwide. Dr. Marika was truly a remarkable leader on many levels, in fields ranging from community development and advocacy to language teaching and research.”

TESOL staff working are with their counterparts in Australia to find an appropriate speaker (or speakers) who can fill in at the TESOL symposium in July. Please check back to this Web site for updates on the program…

A short bio of Dr. Marika and an overview of the presentation she was scheduled to give at the TESOL Symposium on Keeping Language Diversity Alive is enclosed below.

Dr. Marika is a woman of the Rirratjingu clan, daughter of Roy Dadaynga Marika. As Yirrkala Dhanbul Council chairperson in the 1970s, she guided Yirrkala through extremely tough times of change. Raymattja has extensive experience with outside academic and government institutions and is a 2007 Territorian of the Year, a council member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, and on the board of directors of Reconciliation Australia. She led the development of curriculum for the education of Yolngu youth as well as the teaching of Yolngu languages and culture to outsiders at Charles Darwin University, which also awarded her an honorary doctorate. Currently, she is Co-Director of the Mulka Project, based in Yirrkala, Northern Territory, Australia, which is introducing meaningful employment and empowerment to the Yirrkala community through use of digital media. She works with the young employees to help their literacy skills in both English and Yolngu, works on translation and documentation projects, and represents the community’s interests to outside institutions.

Keeping Culture and Language Strong Using Ancient Yambirrpa Fishtrap Metaphors

In 2005, we rebuilt the Yambirrpa (stone fishtrap) as an education workshop. This involved consulting and negotiating permission with the right people in the lead up to the workshop. All the students heard the dhawu (story) about the fisherman and the ancestors from the elders.

I will talk about how the Yambirrpa story is used as a philosophy of shaping Yolngu knowledge. It has powerful imagery and analogies that help shape the visions of the elders in everyday life, through reliving the culture of the past. Yambirrpa is also used as a metaphor of giving, sharing, and building strong relationships in the community and school. The fish trap is secure and sound so no fish can escape, like keeping the kids in the school together. The rocks can be seen as the foundation and the elders sitting there who hold that place together and look after the education interests of the school. This helps the school council and the teachers maintain and deliver strong Yolngu and ngapaki (non-Yolngu) education. We want our children to think cognitively and be prepared for the challenges they have to face in the future, to make future pathways under the guidance of those elders.

Registration Terms

Registrations will be accepted on a space available basis. Registration is limited to 200 participants.

Refund Policy

Requests for refunds of registration fees must be received by TESOL in writing by June 25, 2008 . Contact: e-mail; fax +1-703-836-7864; phone +1-703-518-2528

Special Services

Please inform TESOL at the time of registration if you require special services or assistance.