‘Living the Language – Australia: The Aboriginal People’ AlJazeera
This video demonstrates many of the topics which we have studied thus far in LING366, such as bilingual indigenous schooling, language maintenance and vitality and prohibition of indigenous languages. The video emphasises the importance of the Aboriginal people’s connection with the land, and describes how the loss of their land is related to the loss of their language and identity. The language is the vital link to their stories, which constitutes their heritage and history. The Aboriginal people featured also feel happy, positive and proud when speaking their respective language and stress the importance of passing the languages on to younger generations.
The first section focuses on the Gumbaynggirr language from Nambucca Heads area (NSW). The last fluent speaker died in 1981 so this language is in the Language Reclamation stage of Language Revival. The video shows an indigenous man, who has only started learning his language as an adult, teaching his children some of their traditional vocabulary and phrases. He then describes the way in which older speakers incorporated their vocabulary into English sentences, which enabled him to learn some words, yet prevented him from being exposed to fluent language. This man now teaches the local language in schools and in a centre for adults. The video shows Gumbaynggirr language textbooks that he uses in the classroom as well as a dictionary containing word lists, sentence examples, phonetic comparisons, grammar and a section of new words. Linguists recorded the language in the 1950s and 1960s which has enabled such a program.
The video then turns to 3 ‘healthy’ indigenous languages in central Australia. English words and phrases are incorporated into the local’s speech (Arrernte). Some such examples are ‘grandfather’, ‘bruises’, ‘broken’, ‘every day’ and some of these words also take suffixes which are not included in the subtitles. The Stolen Generation was then mentioned, specifically the way that they were punished on the missions when they tried to speak their language. This man only managed to maintain his language and culture by escaping from the mission. The video then shows a bilingual school in Alice Springs and the various programs which they run.
Eleanor Young LING366