North American Experts Help Revive Australia’s Endangered Indigenous Languages


Native American language experts have traveled to Central Australia to try to save native languages ​​from extinction.

Only about twenty people speak Pertame Southern Arrernte, originating from the town of Alice Springs in central Australia.

Government policies attempted to eradicate indigenous languages ​​until the 1970s.

The consequences are still being felt. Recent census data shows that 167 First Nations languages ​​are spoken in Australia, but over 100 are critically or critically endangered.

North American experts traveled to the Australian desert to share their experiences of revival of traditional expression.

Julian Lang is from northwestern California in the United States. He saw his Karuk language flourish through an immersive teaching method called “language hunting”, in which an elder teaches a student or apprentice for three years.

Lang told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the system had worked well.

“One person teaches another person and that person becomes a seed for so many others,” Lang said. “The apprentice, well, learns to get more knowledge from the elder. We call it language hunting. So they are looking for more and more language and as you reach a certain level, eventually you come at this point where you converse relatively easily.

The so-called North American master-apprentice program was developed over 30 years ago.

There are no books or study programs. Instead, teaching is based on daily activities, and words and understanding are acquired gradually. Lang says the process takes about 900 hours over three years.

The United Nations has declared the next 10 years the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. For First Nations Australians, learning their ancestral language helps them reconnect with their identity and culture.

Indigenous languages ​​are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge of all aspects of society; from history and family relationships to astronomy and food.

In 2019, history was made in Australia after a Northern Territory politician spoke an Aboriginal language with an interpreter for the first time in Parliament. The struggle for the use of aboriginal languages ​​in the House had been going on for years. In the past, politicians were told to speak only English in Parliament, and it would be “messy” if they didn’t.


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