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There've been two recent stories in the media about Indigenous language education - one on teaching Yuwaalaraay, the language of the Walgett area of NSW to local children, and the other on teaching the Western Australian language Bunuba in a private school in Melbourne. One's about language revival, and the other's about language tasting.

We've put up several posts about the Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay language work here, here and here - and now you can watch a TV programme about it - on October 10th, ABC TV showed a story Walgett languages, on the Yuwaalaraay Language program at St Joseph's, Walgett. It's about teaching local kids the Yuwaalaraay language, which is highly endangered.

And in The Australian (10/10/06) Stuart Rintoul had a story headlined "Dying Aboriginal language given new voice".  It's about how two renowned Bunuba language workers, Patsy Bedford and June Oscar, have gone from Western Australia to Melbourne to run a short course in Bunuba for primary students at a private school, Wesley College. It's a taste only - Rintoul writes: "They will learn expressions such as Jalangurru ma? (Are you well?)". (A tragedy of Australian primary education, which I shall probably rant about some time, is that learning a foreign language mostly means learning a few greetings, the names of a few foods, maybe a song and maybe counting to 10. And again, and again.) The important thing for the kids is meeting Aboriginal people and learning about Bunuba society.

In return, Wesley wanted to give scholarships for Aboriginal children (clearly all the rage in private schools at the moment!) But either the kids or their families didn't want to take up the offer. The next best thing was for Wesley staff to help with the school curriculum for the Bunuba.

The article didn't go into what the Wesley staff would be doing in the Kimberley schools. But I am sure that, despite my rant, heaps could be learned from good and imaginative foreign language teachers about language teaching curricula, staging language learning, and methods that engage kids. Mark Richards did some excellent work with Mangarrayi people, using his French language teaching skills, which attracted a lot of interest. He wrote it up in his MPhil. thesis, (1996). Developing language teaching materials for Mangarrayi, Linguistics, University of Sydney. Coming soon to a D-space near you...

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The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.

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