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Sep 20, 2012

Polyglot pollies where you least expect them: Gold Coast's multilingual mayor

...perhaps Queensland's reputation for slightly loopy politicians is a tad unfair. Kevin Rudd is nothing if not impressive in the way he can scuttle off to China and chinwag in the local lingo. I couldn't think of any other Australian pollies capable of such professional displays of bilingualism. Until I discovered this...

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Greg Dickson writes…

When it comes state v. state ridicule, Queensland is second only to Tasmania in being the butt of the nation’s jokes. The situation isn’t helped by a series of colourful and all-too-frequently ridiculous pollies including Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Pauline Hanson, Bob Katter and Barnaby Joyce. Can-do Campbell Newman is fast doing what he can join that elite group too.

But perhaps Queensland’s reputation for slightly loopy politicians is a tad unfair. Kevin Rudd is nothing if not impressive in the way he can scuttle off to China and chinwag in the local lingo. I couldn’t think of any other Australian pollies capable of such professional displays of bilingualism. Until I discovered this… (you can turn captions on if you want subtitles)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0Pr5Cqmb7w&feature=youtu.be&a[/youtube]

Tom Tate is the mayor of the Gold Coast, Australia’s sixth largest city. The Gold Coast, like the rest of Queensland, doesn’t really have “sophisticated” written all over its reputation. But if being multilingual is a sign of sophistication (and we definitely think it is) then Mayor Tate is right up there. He speaks English, Lao and Russian in addition to his mother tongue, Thai, and he’s just put out a promotional video spruiking his home turf – all in fully fluent Thai.

Our efforts to promote and explain things like the latest government report on Indigenous languages is part of a broader belief that Australia should take greater pride in our language diversity and harness our language potential, whether that be Indigenous languages or migrant/foreign languages. Tom Tate is a great and surprising example of how beneficial, and just plain cool, it is when that language potential is harnessed.

And before any readers are tempted to leave comments about English becoming a threatened language in Australia, it’s worth pointing out that Thai speakers comprise a total of 0.2% of the Australian population and the majority speak English well or very well.

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