Code-switching and Indigenous workplace learning: cross-cultural competence training or cultural assimilation?
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For more than two decades, within numerous spheres of education, code-switching (CS) - moving competently between two languages or dialects - has been promoted as a useful, if not necessary, skill for Australian Indigenous students to develop. (The term "Indigenous" in Australia usually refers to (mainland) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Since the participants in our study were all Aboriginal, the terms "Indigenous" and "Aboriginal" are used interchangeably.) Linguistically in enables them to maintain communicative links with their home communities and to navigate non-Indigenous language environments. In schools and training organisations the development of CS often focuses on the verbal aspects of language (for example: "what does that mean in your English"? or "How do we say that in Standard Australian English"?), but CS also encompasses the nonverbal. In this chapter we consider the cultural nuances that underpin the development of competent CS and its associated behaviours: what training organisations often refer to as 'soft skills'. In doing so, we examine the vexed question of whether the development of these soft skills constitutes competency in cross-cultural communication or whether it is another guise for assimilation.
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