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Lessons learnt in 2006

The three main topics are:

  • Establishing an enthusiastic team
  • Language in social and historical context
  • Adults learning Language.

Establishing an enthusiastic team

Brewarrina Central School has a large number of Aboriginal staff and other supporters for the Language program. No single person has all of the skills necessary to revive, learn and teach Language, but each person has skills and knowledge to contribute. The team has an Aboriginal Languages Researcher, a linguist and a number of teachers and experienced educators and support staff who call Brewarrina home and have strong and long-term connections to the community. Together they have begun to re-connect with Language and become familiar with the sounds of Aboriginal languages.

Language in social and historical context

Before you begin to learn and use sounds, words and phrases in Aboriginal languages, you need to have a thorough understanding of the context and sociocultural perspectives. It is important to be aware of which language(s) belong to the area and how they are related to each other. You need to be aware of the historical and archival materials relevant to the region, who recorded the languages and how those people’s perspectives influenced their recordings. You need to consider where all the families fit in, where they have come from, or have been moved to in the past, and all of the languages that they represent. A school Language program needs to be based on strong community foundations and understanding of these aspects.

Adults learning Language

Aboriginal people carry Language in them; they have many words and phrases in their daily speech, which they’re not even always conscious of as being Language. They perpetuate not only the words, phrases and sounds themselves, but also ways of using those words, phrases and sounds.Researchers, linguists and community leaders can take that a step further, so that knowledge and proficiency in Language can grow. It’s an ongoing process that will take years but it is a very satisfying task as well.

One of the best ways to re-connect with Language and learn more of it, is to experience it – as Tamsin Donaldson says, “to get it into your body”. At the workshops in 2006 we did this by combining actions with words, phrases, sentences and directions. Everyone was building up their knowledge of the structures of the language and also their ability to actually use it. Learning and remembering Language is a real challenge. The sounds and grammar are complex. But it has also been a lot of fun. We were interacting with each other in Language. Everyone was learning as a group and encouraging each other.

Congratulations to the Brewarrina Central School Aboriginal Languages Team. In 2006 they have built strong school-community foundations for the Language program. Their challenge will be to develop Units of Work and classroom materials for the program. They are also keen to expose as many students as possible throughout the whole school to at least some Language-learning experiences.

Teaching and Learning Samples

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Lessons learnt in 2006