Dual existence

Lesson overview

Learning Area:English
Age Group:Primary Upper (10-12 years) – Secondary Lower (13-14)


Students read an extract from Sonia Mycak’s short story A Dual Existence in a Seemingly Singular Country and consider the emotional and social implications of not being able to speak English in Australia.


Language affects all aspects of our lives. The ability to speak the official language of a country allows someone to receive an education, get a job, do daily chores.

Resources needed

IWB, Internet, Projector



Write a list of the things that you have done in the last twenty-four hours. What difficulties would you have had if you did not speak and understand English?

Download and read the extract from A Dual Existence in a Seemingly Singular Country.

NOW THAT YOU’VE READ… A Dual Existence in a Seemingly Singular Country

  1. Why does the teacher in the extract from Sonia Mycak’s story behave as she does? What motivates her behaviour? Is her behaviour justified?
  2. This story tells us that the writer’s brother achieves educational success. At what cost does he achieve this success?
  3. Do you think teachers’ attitudes to language and cultural difference have changed since this 1950s classroom? How have society’s attitudes changed or remained the same?

Write a diary entry for the little boy in the story. Describe his activities during the day, who he has seen, and any difficulties he may have had. Emphasise his feelings.

Sonya Mycak’s story takes place in the 1950s. Imagine that the little boy is starting school today. Rewrite the story to reflect what you think might happen today. Use your personal experience or media research as inspiration.

1. Parliamentary debate

In two teams, debate the following statement:
The ideals of multiculturalism are practised and encouraged in our schools and in society.
Think about what happens in your classroom, your school grounds and your local area. Refer to the worksheet Parliamentary Debate

2. Research

Australia is and always has been a multilingual society. Before the arrival of the British, Aboriginal people spoke hundreds of different languages. Use your school or local library to find out which Aboriginal languages were spoken in your city or region before British settlement. Are these languages still widely spoken?

3. Experience

This activity aims to simulate the experience of language acquisition in another country.
Invite the LOTE or Community Language teacher to the class to conduct a lesson in another language. Endeavour to find a language that is not spoken by the students. After the class discuss the students’ reactions including their feelings and frustrations.