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How to analyse language hierarchies in bilingual picturebooks

Watch this video of Nicola as she analyses the language hierarchy in a Māori-English bilingual picturebook.
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[Māori greeting] Kia ora koutou and welcome to week three of the Power of Picturebooks. This week we are looking at how languages are used in bilingual picturebooks. You are going to have an article to read, you are going to listen to an interview with a bilingual picturebook author, and you are going to have a chance to analyse a bilingual picturebook of your own choice. To help you with that I am going to read a bilingual picture book to you now and show you how I would analyse the way the two languages are presented in it. [Lifts up book] this book is called Kanohi, my face by Kitty Brown and Kirsten Parkinson from Reo Pēpi Publishing. Here we go.
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[Nicola reads book] At the end there is a pronunciation guide for Te Reo Māori. This picturebook features Te Reo Māori and English. Te Reo Māori is the indigenous language of New Zealand and you are going to learn more about that in the interview with the bilingual picturebook author later in this week. This book has a little sticker on it saying “get started with Te Reo Māori” and it was written to help parents use Te Reo Māori at home. There are quite a few efforts in New Zealand to revitalise Te Reo Māori which is and endangered indigenous language.
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If we look at the way the text is presented, it is really interesting to see which language comes first, what size the different fonts are, and what characteristics there are of those two different fonts. If we look at these we see that Māori comes first and English comes second. Immediately Māori is given more status on this page. The size of the type used for Māori and English is different; Māori uses a larger font. Again this gives is more status than the text with smaller font. The Māori text is bold whereas the English text is not bold. Bold text is also an indication of a heading or something that you need to look at first.
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So in three different ways, the Māori language on this page is given more status than the English language on the page. In New Zealand, the English language is the dominant language and Māori is used also, but by fewer people, so you might expect that English would come first and Māori would come second. But because this book has been purposefully written to support using Māori at home, you can understand the reason that Māori is given first, made larger, and made bold to give it more status on the page.
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It is really interesting to look at those three aspects of the way languages in bilingual books are presented to learn more about the status of the languages in the county where the book is published but also the purpose of the book. I hope that this analysis will help you when it comes to looking at a bilingual picturebook from your context later in this week’s activity. [Māori farewell] Ka kite.

In this video Dr. Nicola Daly reads and then analyses the language hierarchy in a bilingual picturebook featuring English and te reo Māori. She suggests ways for you to analyse a bilingual picturebook which you may choose to share.

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The Power of Picturebooks

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