Issues of monolingualism: A new expression of Neo-Colonisation? The ideological underpinnings of language education in Australia: The case of New South Wales




language education in NSW, language curriculum monolingual mindset, neoliberalism, liberal status quo in language education, economic capital, sociocultural capital


In recent decades, the drift toward English monolingualism has been a significant concern in Australian multilingual education. Despite Australia being multicultural and linguistically diverse, extensive research has shown that the nation is still adversely affected by a persistent ‘monolingual mindset’. Potential weaknesses regarding multilingual education have been long addressed but no satisfactory countermeasures have been implemented.

A recent challenge to the conceptual underpinnings of the ‘monolingual mindset’ have emerged in the last half-century from the neoliberal marketisation of education. Discouragement of multilingualism and multiculturalism may be related to Australia's ‘liberal status quo’, in which language education has not been provided with adequate structural support from Australia’s liberal government and society. While Australian language educators have made continuous efforts to maintain ethnic minority ‘community languages’ within this context, these efforts will seemingly remain ineffective if a monolingual mentality is permitted to remain at a structural level. Recently, a neoliberal challenge has been levelled to make such structural changes, with the privatisation of education encouraging the learning of minority languages and cultivation of ethnic identities. However, political problems are raised by this response, which risks stressing ethnic conflict and political tensions. This paper investigates the issues around Australia’s liberal ‘monolingual mindset’, the structural causes for its discouragement of language learning and the strengths and weaknesses of its responses.

This paper utilises a qualitative approach to analyse documents relevant to current language syllabi in New South Wales. Through critical discourse analysis, thematic categorisation will reveal the values and interests contained in these documents. New South Wales has been chosen as a reference for other Australian states and territories regarding language planning and education due to its rich multicultural and multilingual makeup. This study is intended to motivate further inquiry into what may motivate students to pursue future language studies.

Author Biography

  • Lingling Zhang, The University of Sydney

    Lingling Zhang is a dedicated language-teaching professional with a research interest in the interplay between multilingualism and identity. She holds a first-class honours degree in education from The University of Sydney, specialising in Spanish, French, and TESOL. Currently working as a high school language teacher in Sydney, Lingling is also a prospective student at The University of Cambridge pursuing a master's degree in research in second language education. Her research interests include second language acquisition, bilingualism, and language teaching methodologies, with a particular focus on how bilingualism/multilingualism shapes identity and classroom behaviours.


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Original Research

How to Cite

Zhang, L. (2023). Issues of monolingualism: A new expression of Neo-Colonisation? The ideological underpinnings of language education in Australia: The case of New South Wales. Journal of Language Teaching, 3(4), 20-32.

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