October 12, 2015

Enhancing English intelligibility to support participation of multilingual speakers in Australia.

Today Helen Blake had her PhD endorsement session. Helen's PhD proposal is titled: Enhancing English intelligibility to support participation of multilingual speakers in Australia. Sarah Verdon and I are her PhD supervisors. The purpose of Helen's research is to investigate the impact of multilingual speaker’s intelligibility in English on their participation in Australian society and to provide insight into whether intelligibility enhancement has an effect on that participation. 
Helen about to present her endorsement session with her supportive audience

Helen's PhD will consist of 8 papers which have been designed to address the following research questions:

  1. What is the relationship between spoken English proficiency and participation in Australian society (e.g., employment, education and access to services)?
  2. What are multilingual speakers’ perceptions of the impact of their English proficiency on their participation in society?
  3. Which multilingual speakers seek intelligibility enhancement?
  4. Can an intervention for intelligibility enhancement improve multilingual speakers’ intelligibility in English?
  5. What are the experiences of multilingual speakers who participate in intervention for intelligibility enhancement?
  6. What recommendations for practice in intelligibility enhancement can be made as a result of the preceding studies? 
Helen's proposed research is significant because it will provide insight into multilingual speaker’s participation in Australian society at a time when Australia’s economy is benefiting from international students, Australia’s multilingualism is increasing and international asylum seekers escaping conflict and persecution and government policies on immigration are renewing debate around migration, assimilation and cultural diversity in Australia and around the world. Over half a million (503,081) migrants arrived in Australia between the 2006 and 2011 censuses and 67% of them reported speaking a language other than English at home (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013b). 
Helen's research also addresses three of five priorities identified in the government’s Strategic Research Priorities: Planning framework for research in Australia’s national interest:

  • Priority 2. Promoting population health and wellbeing: Identify strategies to maximise social and economic participation in order to build resilient communities.
  • Priority 4. Securing Australia’s place in a changing world: Develop a comprehensive understanding of the Asia Pacific region including cultural, demographic and social change.
  • Priority 5. Lifting productivity and economic growth: Identify the skills required to effectively engage with our region and the world and how to develop them. (Department of Industry and Science, 2013). 
Helen's celebratory lunch with fellow PhD student Ben Pham
and supervisors Sarah Verdon and Sharynne