On ‘Crisis’ and the pessimism of disciplinary discourse in foreign languages: An Australian perspective

Joshua Brown, Marinella Caruso, Klara Arvidsson, Fanny Forsberg-Lundell


This article investigates how the disciplinary discourse on the contemporary state of foreign languages in universities hastily refers to these disciplines as being in ‘crisis’. This practice is nearly as old as the Humanities itself, and has been employed periodically since at least the 1940s. Despite a period of increasing foreign language enrolment in the first decade of the twenty-first century in Australia, calls of ‘crisis’ came from across the languages sector. In tracing the use of the term ‘crisis’, we show how the sector has long been characterised by such alarmist terminology, even when reality suggests otherwise. The article traces this usage in the recent disciplinary discourse in foreign languages. A topical report of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, which shows increased language enrolment over the period 2002-11, leads one to believe that things at universities may not be as bad as first thought. This finding has implications for language enrolments not just in Australia, but around the world.


language disciplines; crisis; disciplinary discourse; language enrolment; languages; foreign languages

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ISSN: 2000-3560