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[from Jeremy Hammond, who's writing a grammar of Whitesands]

I was standing at the airport on Sunday night as you do, when I bumped into the director of Ausaid services in Vanuatu. One of the big things that they are doing this year is allowing volunteers to go and stay for long periods on outer islands. For linguists this means access to remote communities and languages that have had little work done on them.

Having just come back from living on an outer Island in Vanuatu I can strongly recommend going there to do work. Plenty of pluses; it is close and accessible to Australia/NZ so you will get plenty of visitors (if you want), the people are super friendly and the environment (outside of Vila) is not yet spoiled.

Languages there are changing very quickly (like elsewhere) but the kids still mainly learn a vernacular until about 5 years old and in general there is a strong attachment to their language, identity and culture. But change can happen quickly and who wants to lose more indigenous knowledge.

Anyway I was alerted to this position at the Malakula Kaljorol Senta (MKS) , who are looking for a resident cultural officer to particularly look after vernacular development (for 2 years).

“MKS will act as the local host partner agency for a linguist volunteer placed jointly with the National Language Committee (NLC). The volunteer will work with local counterparts at the Malakula Cultural Centre and also out in the communities.”

It is based on the island of probably the two best named languages in the world “Big Nambas” and “Small Nambas” which translates as to ‘Big Penis Sheaths’ and ‘Small Penis Sheaths’. Which one for you is personal preference or sizing (depending on sex).

I would apply for it, but hey I need to finish my work on Whitesands first. So check it out if you are interested in helping some communities or just looking to get into the region to start that Pacific island field work you’ve always wanted to do.


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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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