A new Language Laboratory at The University of Western Australia is working to overcome discrimination and bias against people based on their accents and language.
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro, who is the Director of the Language Lab, said language was the ultimate social glue.
“Language allows us to communicate with each other, highlighting our nature as social beings,” Dr Rodriguez Louro said.
“It also has an important connection to our history, community and culture.”
She said language and accents were sometimes incorrectly referred to as ‘broken’ and were an easy way to discriminate against others.
The Language Lab, based in UWA’s School of Social Sciences, brings together linguists and language experts, including First Nations researchers and experts in Australian Indigenous languages.
“Until we understand that no language or accent is inherently ‘better,’ we will not be able to fully embrace diversity and inclusion in our society,” Dr Rodriguez Louro said.
She said language and pronunciation had been used to bring people down but could also build them up.
Dr Rodriguez Louro and Honorary Research Fellow and Nyungar scholar Glenys Collard, who has 35 years’ experience in the area, worked with the Heart Foundation on a health awareness and training video fully scripted in Aboriginal English.
She said they planned further projects which would make information more accessible to more people.
“Our people need to be included in conversations and decisions about their lives and their health”, Ms Collard said. “The only way forward is to work together”.
Dr Rodriguez Louro is also an Australian Research Council Fellow, a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary and Vice-President of the Australian Linguistic Society.