Coptic Orthodox Church Observations and Interview Analysis

When we are talking about the language landscape, the idea of it  might come across as an organic system where the community heritage and living style have been cohered by the language that has been using.

In this Coptic Orthodox church, I have the strong feeling of the multiple functions of this place as a language space, a community center and a religion institution. More than a church that only deliver religion services, it is a place where elders can gather together and talk about their recent life, and also a place for families to bring up their children and have some entertainment like table tennis and various sorts of activities, such as community festivals and language lessons.  The church has a special building structure, as there are actually two churches, the new church on the upstairs was built in early 2007 , it has larger space and only provides English service. While the old church is rather small and only provides Arabic service.

It is fairly interesting to see how the church group allocate the community members and set two churches for providing different language service to full fill the needs of people. The two churches might also indicates that the shift of the dominant language in this community. The official communications in this church are often in Egyptian Arabic and English. Code- switching is very frequently seen in the conversations that happened in this church. Yet, one significant point about the code-switching in this church is that the frequency of code-switching has strong relation with the age group. Science the church has a wild range age group from youth to senior, it can be observed that the code-switching is more often occurred in younger generation. While for the elder generation even an English greeting is rarely to be seen.

This phenomenons may reflect the fact that most immigrant communities are facing, the progressively lose of the language and cultural heritage of the community. Living in Australia which is a country that has limited access to the original cultural environment and shares few cultural similarities with the Egyptian Arabic culture. The younger generations are immersed in a society where English is the dominant language. As I saw at one Friday night, when the grand father were chatting with the priest in Arabic, the kids’ fathers were talking about their trip to the “Easter show” , and the children were running around and speaking only in English.

Although it might sounds melancholy, I found it is hard to say that in the further  there will be more people attending the service in the little old church. Still, it can not be denied that the role of the church as the Orthodox christian Egyptian community center will continue to promote the cultural heritage and community tradition inheriting.


Mingyu Tang