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Lessons learnt in 2006

The lessons learnt in 2005 provided the research and groundwork to begin teaching the language. The Dhurga Djamanj program began in earnest in 2006 while the language continues to be reconstructed. The three main topics in this section, which revolve around these two things, are:

  • Challenges of developing an alternating two-year Stages E1–3 program in K–6
  • Language programs within a Connected Outcomes Groups (COGS) school
  • Community agreement when making informed decisions.

Challenges of developing an alternating two-year Stages E1–3 program in K–6

When a school-community team begins an Aboriginal language program they often use the same lessons across the whole school in the first year or two while everyone is learning the language and building confidence.

To develop an effective and substantial course, stage-specific programs are required that progress the teaching and learning with more complex language instruction the higher the stage. Most stages are comprised of two years (eg Stage 2 is comprised of Years 3 and 4). This means that alternate two-year programming is needed. An example of this is the two-year Human Society and Its Environment Scope and Sequence that most K–6 schools work with. The programming that is required for a whole-of-school K–6 Aboriginal language program can be represented in the following diagram:

Early Stage 1 (Kindergarten)
1-year Scope and Sequence + 1-year teaching and learning program
arrow down
Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2)
2-year alternating Scope and Sequence + 2-year teaching and learning program
arrow down
Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4)
2-year alternating Scope and Sequence + 2-year teaching and learning program
arrow down
Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6)
2-year alternating Scope and Sequence + 2-year teaching and learning program

In the initial instance school-community teams would be encouraged to complete a Scope and Sequence for each stage. This approach requires serious commitment from both the school and Aboriginal community.

Language courses within a Connected Outcomes Groups (COGS) school

Broulee Public School is a COGS school, having adopted the connected outcomes approach to all teaching and learning programs across key learning areas (KLAs). One of the KLAs is Languages.

There are various resources available to develop teaching and learning programs for Languages in COGs school, many of which are available on the following website:

www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/primary/languages/cogs/index.htm

While none of the materials are currently in an Aboriginal language, they are able to be modified for any language. An important aspect of programming using COGS is that the Languages Scope and Sequence should fit into the COGs Scope and Sequence for the school so that the students in the classroom receive instruction in many or all KLAs on the same topic. Furthermore, literacy and numeracy connections within the teaching and learning of Languages are also made explicit.

Community agreement when making informed decisions

When community members begin working with a linguist to reconstruct a language they must combine archival material with local community knowledge. To ensure that the integrity of the language is maintained, the community must make decisions regarding such work. In order to develop a structure to support their decision-making, the community needs to know what decisions need to be made and what the options are. Only then will the community be able to make informed decisions.

The Dhurga Djamanj program team have been working together to make such decisions. One of the first language decisions that any community group needs to make is what orthography (spelling system) will be used to write the language. In this case Jutta Besold presented Kerry Boyenga and Waine Donovan with the known sounds of the language, largely taken from Eades (1976) and local community knowledge, along with options of how to represent them.

In the ‘Practical advice’ section of this website the following chart of common consonants in NSW Aboriginal languages is provided. As noted in that section where two letters are shown thus ‘dh~th’ it means there are two alternative options for communities to choose. Jutta Besold discussed the positives and negatives of each choice. The community then decided to use all those letters that are in bold to represent those sounds in Dhurga. So we can, for example, say that the Dhurga community has chosen to represent the laminals as ‘dj’ and ‘nj’ rather than ‘dy’ and ‘ny’.

Place

Manner

bilabial

dental

alveolar

laminal

velar

stop

b~p

dh~th

d~t

dy~dj

g~k

nasal

m

nh

n

ny~nj

ng

dental

l

rhotic

rr

glides

w

r

y

In any situation, the agreed orthography needs to be widely approved in the language speaking area so that as many community groups as possible agree to use it. This is important when school-based programs are being introduced so that sound literacy resources can be made and shared. Furthermore, and most importantly, for language reclamation to have any chance the entire language area will need to work together and combine their efforts. This is what is happening in the Dhurga language area as a result of their school-based Dhurga Djamanj program.

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