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What is language revival?

The teaching and learning of Aboriginal languages in NSW is unlike the teaching and learning of any other language. This is due to the language loss caused by the impact of colonisation. However a great deal of language was recorded by a range of people from the earliest days of contact right through to more recent decades. Also community members today still remember and use Language, sometimes words and phrases, sometimes more details, depending on the history of the particular language and depending on the experience of the person.

Language reclamation, or revival, involves combining archival material with the community-held knowledge that has survived. The resulting materials are used to reconstruct the sound system and grammar of the language. The next step is for adults to spend considerable time using these written and audio materials to relearn their language. So one feature of language revival is that Aboriginal language teachers are in the process of learning their languages at the same time they are teaching them.

People in communities across NSW use a range of terms to describe this process, including language revival, reclamation, revitalisation, and renewal.

Language revival has been gaining momentum over the past couple of decades in communities across NSW. Some language groups have been working on their languages for many years, others are just beginning. Language revival is happening not just in NSW and in many parts of Australia – it is also underway in indigenous communities in other countries in the world, including New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

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