Language and Social
Inclusion: unexplored aspects
of intercultural communication
Simon Musgrave & Julie Bradshaw
School of Languages, Cultures and Communication, Monash University
Workshop: Linguistic Diversity & Social Inclusion (Macquarie University, October 12 2012)
1. “A Stronger, Fairer Australia”
2. Aspects of inclusion
3. Connectedness and belonging
4. Acts of social inclusion
5. Future directions – widening the questions
“A Stronger, Fairer Australia”
 Australia - Social Inclusion Board advises the Government “on ways to
achieve better outcomes for the most disadvantaged in our community
and to improve the social inclusion in society as a whole”.
 Key issues include jobs, economic issues, homelessness
 Policy document 2009, “A Stronger, Fairer Australia” – a social
inclusion strategy emphasizing economic aspects of inclusion (and
exclusion – the discourse treats these as mutually-defining
 Language and culture : few mentions
 language – 7 mentions
 culture – 12 mentions (but several refer to e.g. ‘recovery-oriented
culture amongst services’)
‘Language & social inclusion’ in the
document : 3 areas mentioned briefly
1. Language (i.e. English L1) development in early childhood (pp. 27-28)
includes note : “there are children in Australia who only speak
English, but are reported as not proficient in English. These
children are likely to be developmentally vulnerable on all the
AEDI [Australian Early Development Index] domains” (SFA p.
28; no sources for claim)
– i.e. semilingualism (Aboriginal English?), & cf. Piller & Takahashi
(2011) on ideology of linguistic discreteness in social inclusion
2. Investment in language learning centres in secondary schools (i.e.
LOTE for mainstream children)
3. A project in a Western Sydney primary school developing language
(i.e. English), literacy and numeracy skills for ESL learners (4 out of 7
mentions of language in the document)
‘Language & social inclusion’ in the
policy document
 Assimilatory and economic aspects of policy are foregrounded
 ‘Language’ means English, normatively viewed.
 Ideology of monolingualism informs social inclusion policy (cf.Piller and
Takahashi 2011)
 NO mention of home languages other than English – just an implied
deficit model
“ A strength based approach”
 One passage advocates a strengths-based approach:
“respecting, supporting and building on the strengths of individuals,
families, communities and culture. … Recognising the varied and
positive contributions of people from culturally and linguistically diverse
backgrounds will be an important feature of the social inclusion
approach.” (p72)
 BUT there is no evidence of recognition of the linguistic implications of
Linguistic and cultural inclusion
 We ask: what would a truly inclusive policy look like if it took a
linguistically informed approach to social inclusion?
 Begin by asking “inclusion in WHAT”?
– (cf. discussion in Piller and Takahaski 2011)
 Social inclusion policy has a default assumption of assimilation to an
imagined community (cf. Anderson), the mainstream, and particularly
the nation state.
 BUT Piller and Takahashi note that inclusion/exclusion are enacted at
local level.
Inclusion in what?
 Steinert (2003) : sees various dimensions of exclusion as independent
– Political (i.e. citizenship)
– Economic
– Social (isolation)
– Cultural (education)
 More useful formulation: Piller and Takahashi (2011) see economic
issues as the core of inclusion, nested within a level of human
development, and more peripherally, a sense of participation or
 While we acknowledge the priority given to economic factors, our
interest is in the linguistic aspects of participation and belonging.
Cf. Han (2011) paper on Church participation
Inclusion in what?
 Inclusion in the social sense means becoming part of the
(a?) social fabric
 BUT that fabric may be varied and complex
 Individual’s lived experience of social inclusion may also
depend on multi-layered connections:
– nuclear and extended family ties
– links with others of shared linguistic and cultural
– affiliations with
• wider common interest groups
• religious groups
• work colleagues
Dimensions of social inclusion
 ‘belonging’ v. ‘connectedness’ (Crisp 2010)
– belonging involves becoming an insider within a group, organisation or a
somewhat less structured network of people with common attributes or
beliefs (i.e. community of practice)
– connectedness relates more to participation in societal organisations or
social networks
 While network diagrams may show patterns of connectedness, belonging is
more nuanced.
– ‘Belonging’ has identity implications and needs discursive analysis to
tease out.
 Social inclusion policy may attempt to enhance connectedness, but belonging is
beyond top down approaches, and relies on situated engagement through
Examples from current policy
 Connectedness is linguistically supported:
– Interpreters are available for e.g. medical and legal
– Government documents are available in translation
 Belonging is supported but not always with linguistic resources:
– Government supports community activity based on ethnolinguistic
– SBS provides access to media and entertainment in various
• Belonging NOT connectedness – e.g. homeland news in
native language, main (Australian news) in English
– Cf. Yates 2011 on difficulties in forming English-based networks
– Linguistic basis of belonging discouraged in at least one case:
bilingual education in NT
Inclusion / include
 Shift from a nominal form, “inclusion” to a verbal framing of “include”
 Focus on a process or series of processes in which people construct
identity through performing “acts of identity” (Le Page and TabouretKeller 1985), in relation to imagined communities.
 Allows examination of the participant roles associated with the process
of inclusion:
who or what includes whom,
in what,
how and why does this happen,
using what language or languages?
Processes of inclusion
 Involve communication between diverse groups
 Static aspects e.g. dependence on shared understanding of key cultural
 Dynamic aspects e.g. membership of a group is linguistically mediated
and dynamically negotiated
 Example: a group of immigrants from South Sudan living in Melbourne
hold their weekly church service in Arabic (Musgrave and Hajek, 2009).
– What factors led to this decision about language use?
– How did these people balance their identity as non-Muslim
Sudanese against the desire to include as large a community as
possible in their worship?
 South Sudanese Christian focus group members want Arabic language
maintenance for 2nd generation but classes are run through mosques
(Bradshaw et al. 2008)
 Evidence suggests linguistic assimilation is not enough
– Recent migrants to Australia and Canada with high
English proficiency converge less than earlier
generations (cf. discussion in Piller & Takahashi 2011)
 Inclusion which is not solely assimilation means
intercultural communication
 In super-diverse communities (Vertovec 2007) the
dimensions of intercultural communication may not simply
radiate between minority and mainstream but between
changing and transforming communities of practice (e.g.
Speakers of Sudanese Arabic in church or mosque).
A tentative conclusion
 What can be an evidentiary basis for linguistic aspects of social
inclusion policy?
– focus on the immediate and local
– immigrant groups are important, but research cannot be limited to
– range of processes examined must acknowledge:
• connectedness AND belonging
• inclusion in social processes beyond the mainstream
 We need to examine “the daily habits of perhaps quite banal
intercultural interaction” (Sandercock 2003, in Vertovec 2007:1045)
Language and Social Inclusion
12 October 2012
Anderson, Benedict (1991) Imagined communities : reflections on the origin and spread of
nationalism. London: Verso
Bradshaw, J., A. Deumert and K. Burridge, (2008) Victoria’s Languages: Gateway to the
World.Melbourne: VITS Language Link
Crisp, Beth R. (2010) Belonging, connectedness and social exclusion. Journal of Social Inclusion1 / 2:
123 – 132.
Le Page, R.B. & Andree Tabouret-Keller (1985) Acts of Identity:Creole-based approaches to language
and ethnicity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Musgrave, Simon & John Hajek (In press) Minority language speakers as migrants: some preliminary
observations on the Sudanese community in Melbourne. To appear in International Journal of
Piller, Ingrid and Kimie Takahashi (2011) Linguistic diversity and social inclusion. International Journal
of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 14/4:371-381.
Steinert, H. (2003) Introduction: the cultures of welfare and exclusion. In H Steinert and A Pilgram
(eds), Welfare policy from below: struggles against social exclusion in Europe. Aldershot, Hampshire:
Ashgate Publishing.
A Stronger Fairer Australia (2009) Launched Jan 28 2010. Available from, accessed 12/10/2010.
Vertovec, Steven (2007) Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies 30/6: 10241054.

Language and Social Inclusion: unexplored aspects of