On the pronunciation of Malvern, or, This CALD Life

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Joy Han (bottom left) with other youth representatives at Synod 2017. Photo: Bethany Broadstock/Twitter

Joy Han (bottom left) with other youth representatives at Synod 2017. Photo: Bethany Broadstock/Twitter


I feel ambivalent about how our movement uses the term ‘CALD’.

My life experience has been culturally and linguistically diverse since before I can remember.

English, technically my second language, is my preferred language. I have been studying Korean, my mother tongue, ever since day one of kindergarten. My parents say that on that day my appetite for speaking Korean all but vanished and with it most of my native fluency.

In my urban adult life I hold the memories of two “countries” and their respective cultures always close at hand: the one is my parents’ home country and the other is regional Australia: the country towns that I called home for most of my lifetime. ‘CALD’ surely befits my embodiment.

But the term chafes me.

Mainly because I’m unsure how to pronounce it. As someone whose ability to speak English in Australia is regularly subject to show trial à la “Your English is great!” or, equally, “Yeogiseo taeeonasseumyeon Yeong-eoga pyeonhagetne” (If you were born here then you must find [only] English comfortable), this sets my thoughts racing.

Am I unsure precisely because I’m CALD? Is it homophonous with called and if so, are there theolinguistic implications?

Or perhaps the vowel rhymes with that in shall. In which case it would be consonant with Malvern – or at least it would be according to many Korean-speaking brothers and sisters with whom I gather in that Melburnian suburb to worship as Melbon Hanin-gyohoe (Korean Church of Melbourne). And surely that community, being CALD, must therefore be afforded some authority in this matter.

Does the pronunciation of CALD even matter? Certainly not nearly as much as that of Malvern, which I find much trickier because it raises questions such as: Will I appear geonbangjyeo (to be impudent) before this older Korean-speaking person if I start pronouncing Malvern as does the voice announcement at the train station? Is it condescending if I purposely pronounce it one way or another? But such is my phonetic (hyper)sensibility.

Further, I am confused about how “CALD” applies to communities and individuals.

On the one hand, I have observed firsthand that some congregations are more readily described as CALD than others. On the other hand, I have observed that I am frequently identified as CALD – again more frequently than others, even when I know those others share relevant experiences parallel to mine.

What baffles me is that in the one type of community both I, and the community, are called CALD. Whereas in another type, the community, is not considered CALD and yet I, as an individual, somehow remain CALD. And on the whole, my experiences in neither of these community types have been consistently culturally or linguistically diverse.

My most striking experience of cultural and linguistic diversity is when these two community types – and many more types – come together. Examples include Yurora and this year’s Synod meeting.

I also hear languages new and anew uttered by voices new and familiar, through which I learn to approach or be approached by and simply be with people who embody a complex multiplicity of cultures. The particularities are all lived experiences and yet it must also be remembered that it is the whole Church who is CALD.

What would we be if we saw and heard everyone’s stories in their full uniqueness? There are some particularities we listen for intently, and rightly so. And there are more we have not yet fully sounded out, even in our own lives. This takes time.

In the same way that my English and Korean-speaking proficiencies are regularly subject to what feels like a dictation test in which I remain silent, I suspect that often I am called CALD long before I have uttered language to share my stories. In my own eagerness to be heard, I have often rushed my own narrative and then at times wondered why I have felt somewhat unheard.

I see many others who have not yet spoken. And even as I say all this, I speak from my perspective only – interwoven with others’. Though I speak as a member of communities, I hope not to purport to speak for them.

I simply bring to you my stories about my experiences of being CALD and pray that in time you will feel invited to share yours too.

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