Within many cultures, particularly Italian and Greek, language plays an important role as does family structure where family solidarity is more important than individual advancement (Smolicz, 1992). Within the families, relatives are ‘close knit’ and the collectivism of extended family is an important part of the family structure (Smolicz, 1994). In relation the religion, some groups do not have the added reinforcement of an independent religious institution such as the Greek Orthodox or the Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox (Smolicz, 1992).While there are profound differences between Anglo-Irish Catholicism and Italian Catholicism, they do share the centralised religion and the language used in religious devotions supports this core value (Smolicz, 1994 ) . However, there are some examples where other core values do not have a direct relationship with language; Many people who follow Jewish believes strongly may not be able to speak Hebrew or any of the other Jewish-developed dialects; an Irish nationalist may not be able to speak Gaelic; Muslims practice their faith in countries all over the world and worshipers do not all speak the same language (Smolicz, 1992).Australia is one of the most multicultural societies in the world.
Ethnic groups are intertwined into Australian society. Australia has become more and more culturally diverse since the influx of immigrants after the Second World War (Smolicz, 1994). Large ethnic groups in Australia include Greek, Italian, German, Polish, Hungarian, Arabic and more recently an influx of Asian immigrants.
Within this plural society, maintenance of a minority groups language is based upon structural and cultural factors (Chiro, 2001).Structural factors include migration characteristics, size of minority language group, concentration of group and degree of intermarriage within the ethnic group (Chiro, 2001). Factors that are associated with the core values of the minority language group comprise of culture and history of the groups presence of language supporting other core values and ethnocentrism of the minority group (Chiro, 2001). Aspects associated with the inter-relationship between the majority and minority group include the overlap of core values, social acceptability of the minority by the majority and the language policies of the majority group (Chiro, 2001).The importance of languages as a core value has affected the level of language maintenance of minority groups within Australia. The 1996 census of language shift towards English in the first generation showed that eastern European Orthodox cultures including Greek, Lebanese and Turkish as well as many Asian cultures had very little language shift while migrants form northern, central and western Europe were among those with the highest level of shift towards English (Clyne & Kipp, 1997). These results give an indication to the extent of emphasis language is given within certain cultures.
Those with lower shift rates are groups who view language ad the most important core value of their culture (Clyne and Kipp, 1997). As language is a core value of culture, it is clear that the English language is a core value for Anglo-Australians and other English-speaking countries. Many of the core values of Anglo-Australian society are common with those of other English-speaking countries such as America, Canada, England and the British Isles. Each country places a different level of emphasis on the English language, yet it is always a core value as language allows humans to convey culture.For England, it has allowed the conveyance of literature by Shakespeare and Dickens, it has allowed America to convey the right to freedom of speech, independence and democracy. Values shared by Anglo-Australians and other English speaking cultures are family, education, the democratic political system, religious freedom, individualism, independence and self-reliance, economic pluralism and freedom to express ideas on improving the function of society (Smolicz, 1992). Many of these values of Anglo-Australians are derived from the British heritage of the majority group.
An utterly new Australian culture was not invented when white settlers arrived in Australia, rather Australians lived their lives with ‘resonant echo’ of their British ancestors (Smolicz, 1992). English is an international dialect which allows Australians and other English speaking countries to communicate with great ease. Within Australia, English is the “lingua franca”, the dialect used for communication between people of different tongues. English is also the most commonly spoken language for business in Australia and the world .However, within a multicultural society such as Australia, there is a risk of complacency about the need for Anglo-Australians to ‘cross linguistic bridges to other cultures’ by learning languages that are spoken within Australia as well as languages of geopolitical, economic or trade importance (Smolicz, 1994).
It is also important for the minority groups of Australia to maintain their dialects as a way of preserving their culture (Batorwicz, 1994). The most effective way to maintain these ethnic languages is for children to be educated in them within schools.It is paramount for Anglo-Australians to understand that while English is an integral part of Australia, other languages can co-exist within a framework of shared values (Smolicz, 1994). Language is the only core values that members of different groups in society can share without jeopardising their own language.
Different languages can co-exist within a society as they are not competing with each other unlike religion or family (Smolicz, 1994). Both the minority and majority groups need to adjust to the commonly shared and accepted values of Australia’s multicultural society, thus improving Australia’s cultural development.(Smolicz, 1992).
It has been shown that ethnic groups do differ with respect to the emphasis they give their native tongue, as shown by the examples given in this essay. It has also been shown that the English language constitutes a core value of Anglo-Australian culture as well as other English speaking cultures. Furthermore, for the prosperity and survival of ethnic languages in Australia, ethnic languages and culture must be accepted into the education system and become part of a multicultural Australian system of shared belief and values.