Australia

Winners of 2019 SBS National Languages Competition honoured at Sydney ceremony

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The winners of the 2019 SBS National Languages Competition have been announced and honoured at a ceremony in Sydney.

The winners of the 2019 SBS National Languages Competition have been announced at a ceremony in Sydney.

The competition, run by SBS Radio and which aims to celebrate language learning across Australia, received nearly 3,600 entries.

Australians of all ages were asked to submit images and text describing how learning a language positively impacts their lives.

Melbourne student Adam Wahby won the Age 8-12 category.

Adam, whose parents are from Lebanon and Egypt, said he has been speaking Arabic and English since he was born.

Melbourne student Adam Wahby, 9, won the 8-12 years category with his Arabic drawing.
Melbourne student Adam Wahby, 9, won the 8-12 years category with his Arabic drawing.
SBS

He impressed judges with his drawing, which the said illustrated how learning a new language connects the past to the present and future.

"I wanted to learn Arabic because I actually enjoy Arabic. I enjoy doing role plays with my friends and dialogues," Adam said.

Felicity Nop took out the prize in the Age 13-15 category for her efforts to learn French.

Felicity was born in Australia to parents from Cambodia.

Her father lived in France for several years, which prompted her interest in the language.

Felicity Nop, 15, learned to speak French.
Felicity Nop, 15, learned to speak French.
SBS

"I've only been there once but I could not speak to anyone because none of them spoke English and I really wanted to be able to talk to them," she said.

"It's a very fun language to learn."

Lidia Veljanovski won the Age 18+ category, learning Macedonian in order to better communicate with her grandmother.

Hana Laan (Filipino) won the Age 4-7 prize, while Nehal Nafcy (Bangla) took out the Age 16-18 category.

Keeping Indigenous languages alive

In the United Nations International Year of Indigenous languages, the competition also received more submissions from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages than ever before.

Mandi Wicks, SBS Director of Audio and Language Content, said the competition was thrilled to be promoting Indigenous languages.

"We were very excited this year to have 14 Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander representatives in the languages," she said.

"As the most multilingual broadcaster in the world, we wanted to support that."

The competition received entries from all states and territories, spanning 96 languages, including Indonesian, German, Japanese and Auslan.

More than one-fifth of Australians speak a language other than English at home, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

After English, the most common languages spoken are Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, and Vietnamese.

Tasmania has the highest rate of people speaking only English at home at 88 per cent, while the Northern Territory has the lowest rate at 58 per cent.

Representing Education Minister Dan Teehan at the award ceremony was federal MP Julian Leeser.

Liberal MP Julian Leeser (left) at the awards ceremony
Liberal MP Julian Leeser (left) at the awards ceremony
SBS

Mr Leeser said the government wants to improve early language learning, especially for Indigenous languages.

"There is the early language learning program (Early Learning Languages Australia) which is encouraging young people to learn languages in 13 different languages from foundation right the way up to year 10," he said.

"This year is the year where we are focusing on Indigenous languages, so Minister Teehan and Minister (Ken) Wyatt have put aside some funding to preserve and promote Indigenous languages."

The SBS National Languages Competition 2019 is supported by Community Languages Australia and First Languages Australia and sponsored by the Australian National University.

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