I wish to expand on Bianca Hall's comments (Sunday Canberra Times, January 26) and also Jonathan Christley's (The Sydney Morning Herald, January 27) account about migrants learning English in Australia, following Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells' statements.
The 510 hours of English language training may seem generous to taxpayers providing the funding. However, classroom learning is not always ideal for adults who have social and economic priorities, feel intimidated and find the instructional materials boring.
Anyone who has started learning a language will admit it is always harder than they expected, and takes longer. Because the mastery of 300 words is inadequate for anyone's lifestyle. Ideally, everyone would have the equivalent of Shakespeare's vocabulary - 31,000 words.
So, without including reading or writing, the difficulty ESL learners face is to achieve:
(a) Memorisation of a collection of words.
b) Knowing how to string them together to make sense.
(c) Appropriate pronunciation in order to understand and be understood.
(d) The ethnicity-based nonverbal cultural conventions, which can result in your being socially ''included'', or ''excluded'' if you get them wrong!
We might accept cultural differences to the extent of having separate male and female classrooms. (Even conduct classes in learners' homes - which I have been involved in.)
We now know more about how the brain functions and how this relates to language learning. So we can design a curriculum that not only maintains the learner's motivation, but also makes her/him a more autonomous, continuous learner outside the classroom.
Elaine Flynn, Page
Jacki Weaver spot on
Jacki Weaver is a worthy recipient of the Raymond Longford award for lifetime commitment to acting, and is also right to lament the general lack of national enthusiasm for Australian-made films. A reason for this is that there is a healthy percentage of the viewing public who desperately want to love and support home-grown productions, but often find our native fare too depressing, cryptic or explicit. I have zero interest in films about outback serial killers, delinquent drug users, or promiscuous yuppies.
But if a local film company can produce the next Man from Snowy River, The Dish, Balibo or Storm Boy, then it will have my patronage.
Peter Waterhouse, Craigieburn, Vic
Need answer post-haste
The Adaminaby post office was transferred to a new site on December 1, 2012, and the Adaminaby community is still awaiting the restoration of the facilities of bill-paying and banking, which were available at the previous site. More than 13 months have passed.
Like myself, residents of the Adaminaby district need to make a round trip of 100 kilometres to attend to the facilities that have been lost at the Adaminaby post office, such as bill-paying and banking.
Australia Post has been slow in calling applications for a new licensee. I have taken up the matter with Peter Hendy, member for Eden Monaro, Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications, and Ahmed Fahour, general manager of Australia Post. None of those gentlemen have acknowledged my letters, let alone come up with the solution.
Not very efficient!
Leigh Stewart, Adaminaby
Headlong into a typo
Sorry Peter Stanley (Letters, January 28), I lost the careen/career fight more than 20 years ago. My theory is that some sloppy North American typesetter spelt ''career'' incorrectly and North Americans have followed this ever since. It now is recognised in the Oxford Dictionary, ''to rush headlong'' etc. If our American friends use it then so do our PCs and the fact that you and I may deplore it matters little.
Patrick Ryan, Turner
A ''Cri de Coeur'' (altered from French, ''Cri du coeur'', cry from the heart) on page 2, a ''faux pas'' (but is it really an error to eat pizza with a fork?) on page 15, and in between one can read about French President Francois Hollande's affairs, ''arriving on a chauffeur-driven scooter'', sharing some ''croissants'' with another unofficial first lady and denying the ''liaison'' (''All the President's women'', Sunday Canberra Times, January 12, p14).
Bougainville and La Perouse must be celebrating this Frenchised Australian English.
Noelle Roux, Chifley
Catalogue of errors
The software upgrade of the ACT Library software over two days last week failed. How could a major service provider badly stuff up such an important thing as a software upgrade to their online presence?
The timing was dreadful - just before a long weekend. In system management terms, upgrades would normally only be carried out at a time when maximum resources are available to recover from problems - not just before a national holiday.
The testing of the upgrade must have been abysmal - basic errors such as internet web error 404, cutting off services to the catalogue and myaccount online services. Such an error shows basic internet failure and a flawed methodology from a user's perspective.
What happened to the roll-back plan to recover from such failures and restore services?
And to cap it all - not even an apology on the home page, only some technical text saying the upgrade has failed - but you can still check out books in the library buildings!
Only if this technical link is then clicked is there a very weak apology, almost as an afterthought - ''Thank you for your patience. We apologise for any inconvenience.''
Surely the ACT Library can do better than this - both technically and from a public relations viewpoint.
R. Erskine, Gowrie
MP doesn't make sense
So, Dr Andrew Leigh believes that people on welfare working for the dole is a bad thing and will increase unemployment.
How does that compute? Common sense would tell you that anyone receiving a handout and doing nothing in return creates an incremental mentality of low self worth.
Surely doing something worthwhile (even sweeping streets) in return for welfare payments will have a far more positive outcome than simply sitting on one's backside waiting for one's handout from the taxpayer.
Surely taxpayers deserve as much for their support.
Brendan Ryan, O'Malley
Defence unfairly targeted over sexual misdemeanours
I cannot understand why the media and the public show such outrage at sexual misdemeanours by the Defence Force (in particular ADFA) and other similar institutions, but none towards universities. Indeed, rape rates headlines in many circumstances, including that an Australian uni student was raped in Sri Lanka. (Canberra Times, January 27). How dare Sri Lanka allow such a thing? I am not saying that these instances should not be reported, nor should Defence and other similar institutions be held to anything but a zero-tolerance standard. What concerns me is that on January 15, Stephanie Anderson reported that ''Unis are quiet on sexual assault, harassment statistics'' - a stonewalling cover-up by the unis I think. A National Union of Students' survey of 1549 women in 2011-12 showed 31 per cent saying they had experienced non-consensual sex - by most definitions that equals rape. Seventeen per cent said they had been raped.
In sharp contrast, Elizabeth Broderick, the sex discrimination commissioner, indicated a 1.6 per cent incidence of serious sexual assault of female ADFA cadets. Where is the moral outrage and why are the universities not being brought to account by the media, by governments and by society with the same vigour applied to others?
Phil Gibbons, Flynn
Not all it seems
The recent discovery of what appears to be an image of a kangaroo on an early Portuguese manuscript has been considered by some to be evidence that the Portuguese discovered Australia (''16th-century manuscript could rewrite Australian history'', January 16). However, they could have seen a kangaroo without getting as far as Australia. Tree kangaroos are native not only to the rainforests of far north Queensland, but also New Guinea. Portuguese and Spanish explorers had reached New Guinea by the mid-1500s.
Stuart Henderson, Farrer
Here's an idea for Lara Giddings to put forward at the Tasmanian election. Why not offer off-shore detention facilities for the yobs who deliver king-hits to innocent people? There are many uninhabited offshore islands around Tasmania that would be suitable and Tasmania has experience in administering penal settlements. Ms Giddings could copy and charge $1000 per month in visa fees for mainlanders using the facility, and $7000 for snoopy journalists who want to report on conditions. Tasmania could surely undercut the current rate of detention on Nauru and Manus Island, now running at $1 million per annum per detainee.
If Tasmania became the receptacle of all those found guilty of such crimes throughout Australia it would probably solve Tasmania's debt problems, and help with the high unemployment figures as well.
K.L. Calvert, Downer
Booze a taxing problem
Your article suggesting Australia Day is the ''National day to get drunk and violent'' (CT, January 24) lies in interesting juxtaposition to one of the two large adverts for cheap liquor in your paper. When I was in my late teens and early 20s in Britain, a bottle of spirits (750ml) cost an average day's pay and was, thus, completely out of my reach. Now the same amount is around an hour's pay. No wonder there is a rise in drunkenness and the violence that it seems to entail. Perhaps taxing alcohol by volume, and at a high rate, would be a real deterrent.
John Rogers, Cook
I must wholeheartedly commend Gordon Dickens (Letters, January 27) for his call to inject more ''positivity'' into Australia Day celebrations. While I am not a particular fan of blind jingoism, it seems Australia Day is fast becoming a day of cultural cringe combined with finger-waving do-gooders trying to perpetuate a culture of self-loathing, deprecation and middle-class guilt.
Perhaps Australia Day could be the holiday set aside to celebrate what we have, rather than what we haven't got, and leave the other 364 days for bellyaching and whingeing.
Gordon Williams, Watson
Gums no salvation
Bob Salmond (Comment) is right to be concerned about the danger posed by gumtrees in a bushfire-prone area. Most adults would have experienced what happens in the backyard when you add a little liquid hydrocarbon such as kerosene to a small fire, for example the barbecue. The effect is a bit like an exploding balloon as a sheet of flame leaps out. The same thing happens when the green foliage of a eucalypt is heated to flashpoint by a wood fire or fiery blast. Eucalypts are noted for the oil content of their leaves - eucalyptus oil - and particularly vulnerable to high-temperature bushfires. More information and awareness is needed about the flashpoint of species used for tree planting in bushfire-prone areas.
Ralph Sedgley, O'Connor
No excuse to cut spending
The fact that the ACT has the most educated and highly skilled parents of any jurisdiction should not be used as an argument to support a reduction in education spending (''Business calls for cuts to ACT health and education costs'', January 27).
We pay taxes for the services rendered by our governments and there are many who would pay more if there was a guarantee that the additional funds would be channelled into education, health, community and social services. The fact that a child is embedded in an educated family does not guarantee that child will succeed without the best education resources we can provide and should expect from our governments. The same rule applies to a child growing up in the home of a small business person … they will not pick up business acumen by osmosis but need the high standard of our quality public education system to add substance and a broader world view to establish a true understanding of the principles of business and life. That's why we can't afford to cut education costs.
W. Book, Hackett
Jury's out on how to dispense true justice
Poor ''Mary Thompson''! (Times 2, January 27, p1). With the tools available to her as a juror and the permissible evidence there is no way she or any other juror could find out if ''he did it''. Neither was that her task. Her duty was to decide on the evidence presented whether the prosecution has proved the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. If it failed to do so it does not mean that the accused did not do it - it simply means the prosecution has not discharged its duty. The evidence permitted to go to a jury usually does not contain all the facts available. To find out if ''he did it'', she would need better tools, such as police or investigators have in some European systems.
Sue Schreiner, Red Hill
Juries are a necessity that in our system can be dispensed with by the accused. In France you have three judges. One sums up the prosecution evidence. One does the same with the evidence of the defendant. The third is neutral and acts as an arbiter. There are six people on the jury. They have a duty of care to the defendant.
I wonder how the Eastman case would have gone under that system. It definitely would not have been such a shambles.
Howard Carew, Isaacs
Jennifer Saunders says (Letters, Jan 28) ''there has been much research and investigation into how juries work''.
In fact, there has been very little research on juries. Research has mainly been confined to mock cases, and it is a moot point whether the findings can be generalised to real cases with real jurors.
Peter Marshall, Captains Flat
To the point
LIFE WITHOUT GROG
Barry O'Farrell is probably right to try to wean people off grog. But of course the alternative to inebriation is to learn to live with reality. And as T.S. Eliot pointed out, humankind cannot bear very much reality.
Michael McCarthy, Deakin
MATTER OF CONVICTION
S.K. Chatterjee (Letters, Jan 28) is right to say our first migrants arrived by boat in 1788. But migrants decide to come to Australia; convicts had no choice.
Lorraine Ovington, Fisher
Roger Dace of Reid (Letters Jan 28) justifies the theft of Aboriginal land by stating ''If the English hadn't exploited this great land it would have been the Dutch, Portuguese or French.'' I'm glad I don't live in Reid. If I accidentally left my front door unlocked he might rob my house and justify it by saying that if he didn't steal from me someone else would.
Rodney Campbell, Calwell
What an unbelievably insulting assertion by Roger Dace that Aboriginal people are ''in the business of being indigenous''. How dare he trivialise people's identities? His sort of attitude is what continues to feed and keep racism alive, and that is what underpins indigenous disadvantage.
C. Shipp, Tuggeranong
With all the changes going on in our society in respect to marriage certification and advances in IVF techniques, perhaps we should review the regulatory details required for the registration of an individual's birth.
Thomas Middlemiss, Deakin
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
If the Australian Crime Commission is so successful in stopping organised crime, why do its statistics show access to illicit drugs and the price to purchase them remain unaffected?
Paul Cubitt, president, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
WHO STARTED IT?
Labor's Andrew Leigh MP says the closure of the Australian Valuation Office is ''ideological'' (CT 25 Jan, p2). Does he forget that Labor privatised the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas, Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, etc!?
R.S. Gilbert, Braddon
If the Tax Office sacks 900 workers (''Australian Tax Office nets $430m from the rich,'' January 26), and if, as the article reports, the Office recoups $10 for every $1 spent, does that mean the government is about to save us roughly $150 million in wages but lose $1.5 billion in revenue that would otherwise be recovered from wealthy companies that cheat on tax?
Julian Robinson, Narrabundah
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