This is a slightly abbreviated version of part of a report commissioned at the end of 1995 by the Queensland Department of Education, Peninsula Region, and carried out with the help of teachers at Thursday Island State High School. It analyses some formal language differences between written Standard Australian English and spoken Torres Strait Creole (the language of most of the students) as a basis for workshop writers to develop material in a form suitable for teachers. Looked at objectively, most of the students’ errors in written English occur as a result of transference from their first language, or in areas of grammatical complexity which pose problems for all English as a Second Language learners. Certain common spelling errors seem also to be a result of transference from the Creole.
The report has been fairly widely circulated and is sometimes quoted inaccurately; hence the decision to publish the formal linguistic section here. Some of the
material in the report - on the languages of the region, students’ language backgrounds and cultural factors influencing language choice and language mixing and issues of classroom management - has been omitted (see Shnukal, 1996; see also Morrison David, 2003). The report fulfilled its main aim of raising awareness of language issues and providing information and rationale for various language and literacy programs now operating in the region (Shopen & Hickey, 2003).