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Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 13:40 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 13:40 | SYDNEY

Authentically Australian, even in Spanish

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25 June 2009 11:30

Good news that the King and Queen of Spain have become the first foreign visitors to Australia to have an indigenous element incorporated in their official welcome. I argued the case for making our welcome ceremonies 'authentically and memorably Australian' in an op-ed in The Australian in January last year. 

While we are on the Royal Visit, you have to hand it to the PM. He means what he says about the importance of foreign languages, bursting into Spanish during his speech welcoming the visitors. This isn’t his first foray into the language, by the way. He used it during a tour of a children’s relief project run by the Sisters of Mercy in Peru last year. 

I'm told that on seeing the advance text of that speech a few hours earlier, one of the travelling Australian officials worried: 'But the Prime Minister doesn’t speak Spanish'. 'Correction,' replied one of the PM’s loyal staffers: 'The Prime Minister doesn’t speak Spanish yet.'

Interestingly – and welcomely for those of us who worry about our national language capability — our politics seem to have entered an era of competitive linguistics. Last month at the Lowy Institute, in his first major foreign policy speech as Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull broke into Mandarin himself at several points, ending with a robust paraphrase of Chairman Mao: 'Aodalia renmin zhan qilai le' – the Australian people have stood up.

Photo by Flickr user catorze14, used under a Creative Commons license.

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