Learning and Teaching Australia’s Indigenous Languages

There are a number of universities in Australia that offer Australia’s Indigenous Language Units either online or on campus. This is a very unique opportunity. Many students find it a thrill to study the Aboriginal languages while others feel a little intimidated too. Some of the teachers actually love teaching the unit and have worked in the area of Aboriginal languages for many years; and are passionate about it.

Some teachers got into teaching the languages as the result of their search for something exotic. Some look for something to take them out of Australia because it seems like Australia is and has always been an English speaking country. Many would choose to study other foreign languages such as Japanese or French.

Although many Australian students claim to love languages in all kinds and make efforts to regularly immerse themselves in different cultures, the Aboriginal languages and cultures have seemed to be far from their minds. Many Australians have never heard of any of the Indigenous languages of a country they were born in and grew up in, not mentioning the migrants and refugees who come to settle in Australia. Many Australians have admitted to be envious of other in Australian who speak a second or even more than two languages. Other students develop the interest in Aboriginal languages because of their interest they already have in issues relating to Australian Aboriginal issues and from researching bilingual education policy in Australia and other countries.

When they wake up to the fact that they are living in a country rich in hundreds of Indigenous languages which they have never heard of, and realise that the exotic is actually on their own backyard.

Some students who decide to study Australia’s indigenous languages come from varied backgrounds and some have strong linguistics back grounds, possibly living and working in Aboriginal communities and may have heard Aboriginal languages spoken around them. Other students maybe complete newbies, with no background in or experience of Aboriginal languages.

Some students who study Australia’s Indigenous languages are mature aged professionals taking coursework Master degrees while others will be undergraduate students. Such mix is not common at many universities in Australia, but there are some real advantages, especially in the opportunity for the younger and less experienced students to be privy to postings and questions posted by those with more knowledge.

Some students’ involvement with Aboriginal languages began in the 1990s, when hearing claims under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth). That experience have opened up worlds for many who began the process that led to them pursuing the general stream in the Master of Applied Linguistics and forensic linguistics at university.

It is important for the less experienced and less knowledgeable students to not be afraid to ask questions, as you may already know; there is no such thing as a stupid question in anything. Usually one student’s question will represent a number of other students who have similar question, and others will be grateful to the one who asked the question.

It is the duty of linguistics from Australia to spend time preserving the Australia’s Indigenous languages because they are a heritage of the country. Many students gain appreciation of the importance of language and cultural maintenance.

Australia’s Indigenous language studies look teaches the current linguistic and social situation of Australian Aboriginal languages, including not only traditional languages but also Aboriginal English and Kriol. After a brief introduction to the linguistic structure of these languages, this unit focuses on a range of applied topics, including; language maintenance, decline and revival, language use and social practices, and Aboriginal language issues in education and the law.

Places to experience Aboriginal languages and cultures include the following:

  • Aboriginal Music Festivals

Many Aboriginal singers sing at least part of their songs in the language of their areas. Music can do such amazing things for preserving and raising awareness of Indigenous languages.