How do you learn to teach a language that has been lost for a generation?
A group of Aboriginal language teachers on August 14 met at Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council to showcase ideas and ways to present language learning classes to all age groups.
Led by Nambucca Heads’ Muurrbay Language Centre linguist teacher Julie Long, the group was also fine-tuning its presentation to the Puliima national conference on aboriginal language set for Cairns in October.
“We were testing ideas on how best to present at the national conference and the group came up with some very useful and exciting ideas for presentation,” Ms Long said.
The group believed, Mrs Long said, that repetition of words and associated actions plus the use of flash cards and games were ideal ways to teach Aboriginal language.
“While repetition works well this is about motivating the use of language, and providing a variety of tools for teachers to use in their tool kit to mimic real life contexts,” Mrs Long said.
“And that can be very challenging when you are revitalising a language simply because you cannot immerse yourself in that language..
“So we are creating ways to teach Gathang to younger age groups first and then build more courses for older people as well.
“In this area there appears to be a real strength in the language with women's groups, girls’ groups, dance groups and increasing levels of signage being introduced.”
So we are creating ways to teach Gathang to younger age groups first and then build more courses for older people as well.Julie Long
Mrs Long said educators would also look for more government support through the employment of more language teachers in the future.
“I hope that we have enough educators who can train more teachers to expand access to the language over time,” she added.
The linguist said this would help spread the language across to adults and the wider community.
“We need to remember that this process is about giving ownership of the language back to the Aboriginal community. It is also pleasingly to know that the custodians of the Gathang language are more than happy to have it expand.”
Wauchope Public School’s Aboriginal education officer Maree Hutchison said she looked forward to increasing the presence of Aboriginal language classes.
“It would be very exciting to increase our classroom exposure,” she said.
Port Macquarie’s educator Rhonda Radley said she wants to take the younger generation on the language journey.
“It is important to see teachers as role models and to mentor younger people as facilitators of the language,” she said.
Along with Mrs Long the group included Sharon Edger-Jones from Port Stephens area, Maree Hutchison, Mrs Radley and assistant Amy Davies.
Mrs Long said the language centre supports the revitalisation of Aboriginal language from the Hawkesbury region through to Tweed Head.
Puliima National Indigenous Language and Technology Forum is a biennial event aimed at bringing people together from all over Australia and internationally to explore pioneering project ideas and exciting products and equipment that can be used in community based Indigenous languages projects.