Sunday, 2 September 2007

Multiculture + & -

Sometimes, we're a very open-minded and multicultural country, and I get all proud and choked-up about that, especially on Australia Day Skyshow where we see our European and American aircraft and helicopters, with an Australian flag printed in some Aussie shop on Korean cloth and dyed with Chinese dyes, illuminated with light globes that were probably made in India. The scents of a dozen countries' favourite perfumes wafts over, we eat satay sticks and cotton candy washed down with a Coke or Dr Peppers, find soft spring rolls and paratha side by side with cheese kranszky and bratwurst and pies and sausage rolls and pasties.

Kids are meanwhile running around waving little plastic Australian flags made in Hong Kong, attached to glow sticks that came from who knows where - little Asian and Indian and African and Arabic and Caucasian kids ranging in age from toddling right up to the elder and more pissed versions of themselves. And then the fireworks made with ancient Chinese techniques by cool multinational teams of firework builders are set up and launched expertly by pyrotechnicians using the latest software running on laptops assembled in China or somewhere similar using parts from all over. And our world is, for that brief beautiful half hour, united into one voice, one roar, one bellow of appreciation and awe after another.

But this article claims that that's it - that's where integration stops - when it comes to our phones, we want them to talk back in Australian English please! Actually I think we don't care about an Aussie accent, as long as it's an understandable one. I think the research article overthinks it a bit and attaches too much significance to the wrong things. I also think that whoever researched may have wanted us to sound a bit more parochial than we are, that there's some agenda in there.

Because, I'm wondering if they surveyed a true cross section of Australians or just our English-speaking European-descended white Australians. That would do it, but that is not the only section of our population, not by a long chalk these days. By not telling us exactly what groups that sample was composed of, I tend to disbelieve the whole study.

Some of our citizens have a lot of trouble understanding the Aussie accent and if a few of them were surveyed the survey might have come out differently indeed. Also, I doubt that anyone would like the thought of jobs going offshore, and that might be more of a contributing factor than "well, they talk funny!"...

What we could really do, if we really cared, and really really wanted to do something about it, is to have our help desks right here in Australia (what a radical thought!) and pay them what they're worth. And train them so that they could do a job that a villager in a third world country can already do. You know?

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