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Aboriginal language returns from the dead

By Nicola Gage for ABC Indigenous
An extinct Aboriginal language has been brought back from the dead, thanks to a handful of dedicated people in Adelaide.

Twenty years ago, not one person spoke the native Kaurna language of the Adelaide Plains, with the last known fluent speaker dying in the late 1900s.

But Jack Buckskin, 25, teaches people his native language at the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre where a group is gaining TAFE qualifications in the once-extinct language.

Read the full article.

A shift in the monolingual mood

An article by Lisa Watts for Inside Story.

THE first school in Australia to teach in an Indigenous language was set up by German missionaries in Adelaide in 1838 with the support of the governor, George Gawler. More schools teaching in the local Kaurna language opened in and around Adelaide during the 1840s, but this innovative education program was short-lived. Gawler’s successor, George Grey, who was much less sympathetic to the missionaries’ approach, closed some of the schools and directed the others to teach in English instead. Since those early experiments, First Australians’ right to educate their children in their own languages has depended on the political mood and the goodwill of those in power, rather than on recognition in law, as is the case in New Zealand.

A new federal parliamentary report, Our Land, Our Languages, proposes a major shift in the way the nation understands and recognises Indigenous languages. “I say to all Australians, take pride in the Indigenous languages of our nation,” said Labor MP Shayne Neumann, who chaired the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs committee’s inquiry, when he released its report last week. “Indigenous languages bring with them rich cultural heritage, knowledge and a spiritual connection to the land.” The committee’s recommendations signal an encouraging shift in attitudes, but history and contemporary politics suggest that transforming them into statutory recognition and policy action will be a challenge.

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Academics urge government to heed indigenous language report

A group of indigenous language researchers from the University of Melbourne is calling on the Federal Government to implement a proposal to introduce bilingual teaching programs in some schools.

The proposal was one of 30 recommendations made last week by a Federal Parliamentary inquiry into language learning in indigenous communities. Professor Gillian Wigglesworth, the Director of the University's Indigenous Language Research Unit, said bilingual education was vital to the development of young children in communities where languages other than English were spoken at home. "Without a bilingual program, children are being taught in a language they are not familiar with. This means they often don't understand what is going on, and then don't engage," she said.

Read more at PhysOrg.

Bilingual education for Indigenous Australians

By Michael Gordon, National Affairs Editor, The Age

THE Gillard government has embraced a new strategy to recognise the ''unique and special place'' of indigenous Australians after conceding that a referendum proposing constitutional change could fail if it is put at or before next year's election. It now plans to legislate an ''act of recognition'' before Parliament rises this year in the hope that it will build momentum for constitutional recognition of indigenous language and culture in the next two years.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/pm-plan-for-indigenous-recognition-20120919-2672z.html#ixzz27Tgy2jBl

Futures lost in translation

By Andrew Bolt for the Herald Sun

HAWTHORN had what was meant to be an end-of-season happy story about recruit Amos Frank, an exciting forward from Central Australia.

As The Australian reported: "Some Hawks took it upon themselves to learn a few words of their new teammate's native tongue.

"It started with the Pitjantjatjara for 'run' and 'kick' to help Frank - who had little English when he arrived at Waverley Park as a rookie."

Lovely, but spot the shocking detail. It's what Patricia Edgar also ran into as a producer of the admired film Yolngu Boy when casting Arnhem Land schoolboys for the three main roles.

"Finding three young boys who could speak English was extremely difficult," she said.

"The lack of English skills relates to the system of bilingual education that applies to children in the Northern Territory."

That young men can grow up in this country without learning even basic English is a scandal.

What hope would there be for Frank had he wanted to be an engineer, soldier, teacher, miner or doctor?

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Bilingual education ideas welcomed

By Kiri Ten Dolle for The Satellite

INDIGENOUS members of the community have welcomed the Federal Government's recommendations to introduce bilingual education in schools to boost Aboriginal student attendance.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, chaired by Federal Member for Blair Shayne Neumann, last week hand down its report Our Land Our Languages: Language Learning in Indigenous Communities.

The report found only 18 of an estimated 250 Aboriginal languages were still spoken and were in danger of being wiped out in the next decade.

It recommended the need to urgently ensure their survival by teaching students whose first language was indigenous in their mother tongue, and an alternative NAPLAN method of testing.

But Mr Neumann took it a step further, calling for an Indigenous Language Learning Centre at Ipswich.

He said he would also like to see an indigenous language degree on offer at universities or TAFE in addition to other foreign language degrees.

"There are 136,000 people in the Blair electorate and 5300 are indigenous, according to the latest census," Mr Neumann said.

"At Riverview State School 25% of students are indigenous. Most Ipswich high schools have indigenous populations of 10 to 15%.

"This is a very significant report for at least one in 10 people in our district. If adopted by the government it will make a huge difference.

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Light is fading for indigenous languages

By Heath Aston, Sun-Herald state political editor.

IN DECEMBER 1992 the Keating government launched 50 dictionaries of Aboriginal languages.

A year in the making, the dictionaries were an attempt to preserve 100 or so remaining languages native to Australia. Once there had been 200.

Robert Tickner, the minister responsible, described the languages, with their wide regional variances, as ''precious national treasures'' that must be saved from extinction.

As with so many government initiatives on behalf of the Aboriginal community, it was an admirable exercise with results that didn't live up to the exuberant initial hopes.

Indigenous game puts Aboriginal language into play

By Andrew Faulkner for The Australian

UP in the far northwestern corner of South Australia, the tiny community of Fregon is cursing its rotten luck after being pipped by two points by the Pipalyatjara Lions in the grand final last Saturday. Today at the MCG, the Hawks embark on the final step to a premiership the pundits and bookmakers say is theirs.

The link? Both teams speak the same language.

Not just the language of football: the same language, full stop.

When small forward Amos Frank was plucked by Hawthorn from the APY Lands last year, some Hawks took it upon themselves to learn a few words of their new teammate's native tongue.

It started with the Pitjantjatjara for "run" and "kick" to help Frank - who had little English when he arrived at Waverley Park as a rookie - adjust after the huge dislocation of shifting to the big smoke. It was all about the family club welcoming a new sibling.

Soon the players were linking the Pitjantjatjara to make phrases.

Now they are speaking it on the field, and might even be using it in their set plays (although this has been denied by Hawthorn).

A sprinkling of stories

In reminiscing her first year in the job Suzanne Taylor of ABC Open comments:

"I also embarked on the ‘Mother Tongue’ Indigenous languages pilot project, which started during NAIDOC week. I’ve been working with local communities and Eastern States Aboriginal Languages Group to produce a series of films on how language is being kept alive in their regions. So far, we’ve produced stories about the Wiradjuri language of NSW, the GunaiKurnai language of East Gippsland and the Woiwurrung language of Melbourne and north-east Victoria."

Read more: A sprinkling of stories

Our Land, Our Languages and Preserving Our Heritage

Claire Bowern writes for Crikey FULLY(sic):

We’re all in a tizz at Fully [sic] over the new report Our Land, Our Languages. We’re usually pretty mellow when it comes to government releases but this one is worth taking up some pixel space over. It’s pretty rare that Indigenous languages (IL) get a day in the sun in such a spectacular way. The bread and butter of IL reporting most months is along the lines of “here’s a new phone app that’s going to save a language.” Sorry to rain on anyone’s parade, but phone apps don’t save languages, people do. Specifically, speakers do: the only way to “save a language” is to make it easier for people to learn and speak it, and that requires actions which are integrated through a community and which are flexible enough to cater to many different language situations. Phone apps and the like are great for what they do, but they target a particular need.

That’s why this report is so important: it recognises this fact and provides 30 recommendations for how to go about it. The recommendations cover a very broad range of activities, from language documentation to education, implications for health, interpreting programs, and increasing national recognition for Australia’s linguistic diversity. This is a great example of ‘thinking big.’ In our continued series of posts on specifics of the report, I’ll be focusing here on documentation and archiving.

Read more: Our Land, Our Languages and Preserving Our Heritage

Weekend to focus on the future of Aboriginal language

By Ross Kay for ABC Wide Bay.

The study of a language can lead to a new understanding of the world as you immerse yourself in a different culture. But what if you could do that in your own backyard?

That’s the invitation extended to the traditional owners in the Port Curtis and Coral coast region at the 2012 Immersion weekend.

The event will be held over three days at the Wyper Park Scout Camp in Bundaberg, and Phillip Brown, Central Queensland Language Centre co-ordinator says the weekend is designed to provoke discussion about local language groups, and to continue to build a framework for future education.

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Daryn McKenny nominated to Co-Lang Institute Advisory Circle

Daryn McKenny has been nominated to be a member of the Co-Lang Institute Advisory Circle.  Co-lang was formally known as InField. Daryn has participated and taught at past InField gatherings. The Co-Lang Institute is made up of international people with the majority being Linguists and other Academics, Daryn has taken an allotted community position.

Congratulations Daryn! We look forward to hearing your updates from Co-Lang.

Read more: Daryn McKenny nominated to Co-Lang Institute Advisory Circle

Email Parlez vous Yolngu?

By Vicki Kerrigan for ABC Drive.

We must extinguish the idea of Australia as a monolingual place and there's no better place to start than in the classroom. ABC 105.7 Drive presenter Vicki Kerrigan on why all Australians should learn Aboriginal languages. Darwin sounds different. When you walk along the foreshore in Nightcliff, one of the most beautiful and popular spots in Darwin to enjoy the Arafura Sea, you can hear the difference. As you sit on the grass, under the trees which grow on the edge of the sand, you can eavesdrop on the languages of the first people of this country. Those who have travelled from north east Arnhem Land to the city might speak Yolngu Matha; those from the country north west of Alice Springs speak Warlpiri.

I am unable to distinguish between Warlpiri and Yolngu Matha and yet I can easily tell the difference between French and Spanish, or at a push the difference between Swiss German and German.

I am embarrassed to say that I am monolingual. When I travel overseas, the fact that I come from Australia is my excuse: Parlez vous Anglais, je suis Australienne. Even the French can forgive an English speaker from Australia because our island nation is just so far away from other cultures.

Yet the truth is, that is not the truth. There are hundreds of different Indigenous cultures in Australia which survive despite a constant struggle. In some communities around the Northern Territory local languages are spoken before English.

Read the full article.

First language education is a matter of common sense

Aidan Wilson writes for Crikey's language blog Fully(sic)

The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs inquiry into language learning in indigenous communities, titled Our Land Our Languages, was tabled in parliament yesterday. Education was of course, a central theme of the inquiry and is a significant part of the resulting report.

The article ends with this comment: "It isn’t rocket science; it’s just common sense. Unless a child understands what’s going on in the classroom, they won’t engage, they won’t attend, and they won’t learn anything."

Read the full article.

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