Review: Disrupted (Festival of Ideas) – Sunday 30th July


Day Two of the Disrupted Festival of Ideas is almost at a close! Here is a quick review of the two sessions I attended today. The weather was much better than yesterday’s miserable conditions, so there was quite a queue at the front door when I arrived there this morning. Who knew that a library doesn’t open until 10am on a Sunday. đŸ˜‰

Talk the Talk – 10:15am – 11:00am

Talk the Talk is a weekly radio podcast on the science of language, broadcast on RTRFM (92.1 FM). This week the team were at the State Library of Western Australia’s Disrupted Festival of Ideas for a live session of their show. Find previous podcasts (and likely today’s session eventually) here:

One great aspect of live radio shows is the capacity for audience participation. This session was no exception. From the initial game of linguistic fact or fiction to a lesson on the aboriginal dialect Yawuru, this session directly engaged the audience in some way all the way through. The guest speaker was meant to be Kylie Bracknell, but unfortunately she couldn’t make it. Her seat was filled in by Dalisa Pigram, a teacher of and advocate for the Yawuru language.

I rather enjoyed this session. The atmosphere was great, and the discussion skillfully directed. It was also very interesting. I will definitely be listening in on the Talk the Talk podcasts each week from now on.

Why Language Matters – 12:00pm – 1:30pm

This discussion wasn’t quite what I was expecting from the write-up of the panel, however it was interesting enough. In many ways it was a repeat of topics and accounts from the previously discussed session Talk the Talk, but perhaps a little bit more in-depth due to a longer time period. However, two of the four panels were the same in each session, so perhaps this was to be expected.

Chiefly discussed in this panel was why language matters, and why/how dying languages should be conserved. This turned out to be a quite controversial topic, with a few of the panelists almost tip-toeing around who should have the rights to learn, speak, or teach a heritage language, as well as how far it can be changed to accommodate cultural shifts and technological advancements in the society the language now exists in. For example, as one panelist touched on, how can we maintain the purity of a heritage language when they have no words for items and processes we see, use, and work around everyday – such as traffic lights?

What seemed to be the main consensus was that language is identity; that is, it is a way to develop and maintain self-sovereignty. It was interesting to learn that in areas where the local native dialect is taught in schools and homes and as such is acknowledged suicide rates are almost abolished and general health improves. As the panel facilitator stated, ‘people know when they are being oppressed’.


If you didn’t end up making it today, the State Library of WA is live-streaming panels for a little while longer on their Facebook page.

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