Language walk encourages understanding

The Dante Musica Viva choir sings al fresco

CANBERRANS from a diverse range of linguistic communities yesterday joined together on a Language Walk across Commonwealth Bridge to mark the UNESCO-designated International Mother Language Day.

The Language Walk The Language Walk begins

Weekday commitments had prevented the enthusiastic supporters of mother languages from observing the official day, February 21, proclaimed as International Mother Language Day by UNESCO in November 1999.  The day recognises students in 1952 East Pakistan who lost their lives when demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as a national language.

The traditional Welcome to Country was conducted by Caroline Hughes, director of the CIT’s Yurauna Centre on behalf of the People, who draw applause when she announced that the centre was starting to conduct classes in the Ngunnawal language.

The Dante Musica Viva choir sings al fresco

The Neapolitan dialect featured in the entertaining Dante Musica Viva Italian choir renditions of “Funiculi Funicula” and “O Sole Mio”, performed under the watchful eye of conductor, professor Francesco Sofo.

Dr Emma Campbell, representing the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, revealed that she was a Chinese and Korean speaker, while the ACT Minister for Multicultural Affairs Rachel Stephen-Smith, before declaring the walk open, spoke of the richness of Canberra as a multicultural and multilingual city. Both speakers then joined everyone else in the walk.

The 2km walk, which saw participants wearing traditional and colourful outfits to celebrate their language identity, ended near Stage 88 in Commonwealth Park where walkers were treated to a free sausage sizzle, dancing and singing from several communities and activities for children.

This is the fourth year that the Canberra-based International Mother Language Movement has organised this event, which they believe has already become a fixture on the ACT cultural map.

Now celebrated all around the world, Mother Language Day raises awareness of the value of all languages, especially endangered languages, in a multilingual and multicultural context. In Australia, for long a monolingual country, it also encourages cultural understanding which facilitates trust and mutual respect across all communities.





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