If the Modern Greek language is to be preserved in Australia for years to come, Professor Anastasios Tamis urges changes must be made.
A new study into the teaching and learning of Modern Greek across Australia has revealed that the current approach and methods used are no longer adequate for maintaining the future use of the Greek language down under.
Professors Anastasios Tamis and Michael Tsianikas are the academics responsible for the study, which looks at all facets of Modern Greek education in Australia from 1997 to 2014, including the attitudes of parents and students.
The study revealed a number of compelling findings, one of which was the insufficiency and inadequacy of the teaching time allocated to language learning.
“We are devoting very limited time for Modern Greek teaching and learning, which has now been reduced almost to 95 minutes per week on average in both government and independent schools,” Professor Tamis told Neos Kosmos.
“It is humanly impossible, even if you are dealing with the most genius students, to teach any language in that time, let alone Greek, which necessitates 2,600 hours to learn,” he says.
Further findings showed that teachers are not well-accustomed with electronic teaching methods, which doesn’t allow for a contemporary interactive learning experience.
Other contributing factors included the attitudes of parents, their willingness to use Greek in the family home and the time they are willing to devote to their child’s education.
However, one of the biggest changes that must be made is the perception of Greek as a community language.
“The fallacy is that Greek is not a community language. Greek is not just a language spoken by the Greeks. As I say to my students, if you want to speak good English you have to learn Greek. This is how we should portray the language to the outside world,” he says.
The 91 pages of the study give an insightful view into the state of Modern Greek in Australia’s diaspora, with the contributing knowledge of Greek educators across the country.
Professor Tamis revealed he was not surprised by the findings.
“It’s a consequence of the actual historical, social and economic grievances of our community, and of course it is also the consequence of the lack perhaps of systemic thinking and policies about the future,” he explained.
“If you were to travel to Collins Street you will find out there are many heritage buildings there from the 18th and 19th centuries and the government is investing millions of dollars to preserve them, to make them look nice. The same thing has to happen with the Greek language.”
Prior to 2009 academics estimated that the Greek language would still have a strong base of usage within Australia until the year 2025. However, due to the economic crisis that has plagued Greece, and the estimated 80,000 Greeks that have migrated to Australia, another 10 to 15 years has been added to its expected lifespan.
Despite the findings, there is still hope for Modern Greek.
Professor Tamis proposes that “a real round table discussion must take place” with educators, institutions and community leaders to decide on future movements for the language, where modern technology should be encouraged and the amount of time students spend on language and the frequency of classes be increased.
Greek Australian parents are also urged to play their part and should to be made aware that Greek must return home as a family language.
“Unless we use those four elements I don’t see how the language is going to survive beyond 2040.”