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27 November 2012

Listening to languageHow can the way we communicate improve our wellbeing and the quality of life of people around us?

This is the question national and international linguistics experts will be considering at a University of South Australia symposium, Rethinking Wellbeing: Perspectives on language, education and health.

The symposium, which is being presented by the Research Centre for Languages and Cultures, will examine the latest research findings of the impact of languages in areas including health care, social wellbeing, and education, especially literacy and learning.

From shortening the length of time patients stay in hospital, to increasing mental flexibility and reinforcing family bonds, the benefits of language are profound, says research centre director, Associate Professor Angela Scarino.

“Language is so pervasive and useful, yet its value has become invisible. The symposium is designed to demonstrate the role of language, in the contexts of improving wellbeing, in health and education,” says Associate Professor Scarino.

“In education, language is crucial to learning. Language also influences success in learning.

“For a migrant child who learns English in Australia, the ability to speak this language will improve their life chances, creating opportunities for success that will contribute to their wellbeing.

“If that child’s home language is taught at school, he/she will realise that the home language is also valued; and this can help to reinforce their sense of identity and make them feel proud, again adding to their confidence and wellbeing.”

Symposium topics to be covered will include also Aboriginal education and language and wellbeing in Aboriginal education and health.

The symposium will indicate how, in the area of health, language affects peoples' experience at every point – in treatment and care, from diagnosis to recovery. One of the speakers at the symposium, has undertaken research which indicates a decrease in the duration of hospital stays by patients who have been cared for and consulted by health professionals in their own language.

 “Evidence suggests that language can contribute to people feeling better and healing more rapidly,” says Associate Professor Scarino.

 “It’s fascinating to consider that peoples’ life chances hinge on the use of language in so many areas.”

“The symposium and public lecture will seek to sensitise people to the crucial role of language.”

The symposium will be held on December 3-4 and a public lecture will be held on December 3 from 5.00 pm – 6.30 pm at the Bradley Forum, Hawke Building, City West Campus.

Contact: Angela Scarino office (08) 8302 4775 email angela.scarino@unisa.edu.au

Media contact: Will Venn office 8302 0965 email Will.Venn@unisa.edu.au

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