New developments for schooling in the shifting langscapes in Queensland, the north-eastern state of Australia, are bringing understandings of the complexities of contact language ecologies into the education space (Angelo & Carter, 2015). Language contact and language shift have been major processes shaping the present day mosaic of language ecologies of the many different Indigenous peoples here. Yet given the extent of these shifting langscapes, it is noticeable that schooling had not had a commensurate focus on working with these language ecologies: There had been no consistent attention given to the English-lexified contact languages which have often served as a community vernacular, nor to the traditional languages which have been less spoken, nor had the national standard variety of English been systematically taught. When these language ecologies are invisible in the schooling system, then so are students’ existing multilingual capabilities, and their language learning pathways as they add to their repertoire. From a pedagogical point of view this is hardly optimal (Miciak et al., 2014; Migge et al., 2010; Siegel, 2007; Wheeler, 2016). From a system point of view, it is difficult to rationalise and operationalize what can appear to be otherwise conflicting agendas (e.g. concerns with student achievement in the standard language and calls for language revitalization for traditional languages). These are, however, typical facets of the shifting langscapes that arise from language contact situations, along with the contact languages themselves (in Australia English-lexified) which are often “invisible” due to lack of recognition.
This paper illustrates the new methodologies involved in a “three-way strong” approach, the new “3Rs”: Recognizing, Respecting and Responding to the three kinds of languages represented in each shifting langscape (the English-lexified vernaculars, the traditional languages and standard English), It also presents the successes and challenges of a system-wide uptake (and maintenance) of these concepts as there are ongoing tensions occurring as the generalist field of education meets more specialist linguistic understandings. This paper is timely as education jurisdictions in Australia and many parts of the world ponder how to identify and effectively service the language learning needs and aspirations of Indigenous and immigrant student populations in their shifting langscapes.