Mount Lawley College of Advanced Education
Place of Publication
Mount Lawley, Western Australia
Teachers of migrant children experience a great many difficulties in trying to understand and resolve their pupils' language problems. One basic problem is all too familiar: the teacher speaks English and the migrant child does not understand it or only understands it to some, rather limited, extent. Another problem area: the pupil picks up some English in the classroom, on the playground and out in the street but speaks it with a peculiar accent and peppers it with phonemic, grammatical and semantic errors. The child's deviations from the generally accepted patterns of English (i.e. the prevalent variety of English spoken in this country) originate in the language of the home, that is the child's vernacular. The English-speaking teacher is normally unfamiliar with the latter. Ideally, he or she would like to learn a foreign language spoken in the class but more often than not this is easier said than done. Very often there is not just one foreign language spoken in the class. Quite commonly there is a bunch of, say, Italian children mixed with Portuguese, Macedonians, Maltese, Greeks, Serbs, Croats, Turks, Burmese, Bengali, Lebanese and others. Such a Babel will of course discourage the most zealous teacher from learning one or another foreign language.
Our teachers need some assistance in diagnosing and remedying their migrant students' language problems. Mount Lawley College of Advanced Education being strongly involved in various aspects of migrant education, we not only recognized this need but also tried to do something about it in our linguistics courses by highlighting some salient features of the main migrant languages in contrast to English. The present Serbo-Croatian sketch is a makeshift summary of some of the problems arising from Yugoslav speakers' hardships in learning or speaking English. Before completion, it was discussed with practising teachers who had had some experience with children from Yugoslav families. Considered useful, the booklet has now been made available to all interested. Like sketches of other migrant languages will hopefully follow.