The term fluency also needs to be used carefully. Although many people remember words and phrases in their languages, at this point in history it is not really possible to be fully fluent in a reclaimed Australian language. The languages have suffered under policies and practices which forced people for many years to stop using them. Today, people are reviving their language but teachers and learners are still not exposed to them on a daily basis. English dominates everyone's lives.
Despite these challenges some people are achieving a great deal, gradually developing their ability to use their languages not only in classrooms with students but also in other settings - in their homes and communities, in the shops, down the street, in emails and on their phones!
To teach an Australian language, you don't have to be a fluent speaker but you do need to be committed to continually improving your own ability to listen to, speak, read and write your language. If your own language ability improves over the years then you will have more language skills and knowledge to pass on to your students.
- Speaking Gamilaraay 1 & 2, University of Sydney
- Study Gamilaraay, Australian National University
- Gumbaynggirr and Gathang, Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-op
- Kaurna Language Courses, University of Adelaide
- Pitjantjatjara Language and Culture, University of South Australia
- Pitjantjatjara Language Summer School, University of South Australia
- Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage, Charles Sturt University
- Yolŋu Studies, Charles Darwin University
TAFE in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia have accredited certificates in Australian languages. They include units of competency in speaking and listening, reading and writing. They are taught locally where there is a teacher available and enough students interested in enrolling. Contact your local TAFE campus Indigenous Coordinator or Support Officer for details.
Here is a list of ways teachers across Australia use to develop their own language skills. Not all of these options are possible for every language since different languages are at different stages of revival. However these options do indicate the kinds of resources that adult learners are accessing and developing.
- If there are elders (or others) in your community who remember language, even small amounts of language, spend as much time with them as you can. Use the time together to talk in language (rather than about language) as far as possible. It's a good idea to record the sessions if you can, so that you can listen again and review later. Even if they don't know a lot of language, elders can teach culture and knowledge of country that is very important for language learning too.
- Some languages have
audio recordings made with speakers in earlier generations who
have since passed away. Playing those old recordings again and
again is a good way to work on your listening and speaking
skills. The Australian
Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
in Canberra has a large collection of audio-visual materials.
There might be audio materials available for your language.
- A few languages have been undergoing revival for many years. Those languages may have gathered and analysed the historical sources and community knowledge and have gradually built up a number of language learning resources. Those resources can include dictionaries (e.g. word lists, picture dictionaries, comprehensive dictionaries), grammar books (e.g. sketch grammars, learners grammars), teaching resources (e.g. student workbooks) and audio recordings (e.g. on CD or on-line). Find out if these kinds of resources are available yet for your language.
- Gather people together informally. In some communities people get together each week to practise language. They take turns in bringing along a language learning activity, and share new things they have learned about the language with each other. It's a chance for everyone to hear and speak the language with each other, write songs and speeches, study grammar together and have a go at speaking.
- Make time and conscious efforts to interact with other adult learners. Use all kinds of opportunities and contexts to use language beyond classroom settings. Strengthen the language in your home and community, with friends and family.
- There may be a linguist who
recorded speakers many decades ago, has investigated the
archival records and has an understanding of the structure of
your language. If you haven't already, it's a good idea to
contact them to assist with increasing knowledge of your
Language teachers use strategies which are different from teaching other subjects like history or geography. For example in history and geography students may be asked to research a topic and present their findings. However in language teaching, research projects are not a common strategy because they don't support the objective of students using and interacting in the target language. Pair and group discussion in the language is a more common teaching strategy in language classrooms since these kinds of activities assist students to acquire and practise using the language they are learning.
- Being part of a team teaching situation. Currently most Australian revival languages teachers in schools don't have a formal teaching qualification. They are community members who are supported in the classroom by trained teachers employed in the schools. Those teachers may be teachers of geography, art, history or any other subject. In an ideal situation, they are teachers of languages. In this team-teaching situation, the community member is sharing and developing their language and culture expertise; the trained teacher has an opportunity to learn the local language and culture along with the students, and also contributes skills in programming, planning, resource development and classroom management.
- Connecting with teachers of other languages. If you have a qualified languages teacher (of any language) in your school, it's very helpful to talk with them about how they teach language. They will be able to share lots of ideas for language teaching. Try observing some of their classes and noticing the strategies and resources they use. You'll be surprised by how many ideas you will be able to borrow and/or adapt for teaching Australian languages.
- Getting teaching qualifications. Currently some Australian revival languages teachers have a formal teaching qualification in secondary education (for a range of different subject areas) or primary education. A few have a qualification specific to Australian languages education.
- Adapting strategies for the teaching of other languages. There are many ideas in teaching materials for other languages (and also materials for teaching English to speakers of other languages) which can be adopted for the teaching and learning of Australian languages. Make contact with teachers of those languages and borrow materials from your school or local library.
- Learning another language. Learning a language which is taught by a qualified, experienced, talented language teacher can be inspiring. It is a way of learning about how to teach a language well.
- Participating in professional development opportunities. Some state and territory departments of education run workshops for language teachers and workers they employ. These may be attended by teachers of many different languages, including teachers of Australian languages. Keep your eye on your local department's professional development website.
- Attending conferences. Every year there are conferences which include teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as part of the program, with presentations given by language revivers, language teachers, and linguists. Keep your eye on these websites for coming conferences:
Graduate Diploma and Master of Indigenous Languages Education, a block mode program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who already have a recognised teaching qualification and wish to develop their language teaching skills. The masters is recognised for appointment to designated languages teacher positions in NSW Department of Education schools.
TAFE has accredited the
Muurrbay in Nambucca Heads, NSW teaches courses in Gumbaynggirr and Gathang.
The Western Australian Department of Education offers the Aboriginal Languages Teacher Training course through its Institute for Professional Learning for its staff who want to teach their language in its schools under a Limited Authority to Teach.
At this time there is no initial teacher training degree that leads to full accreditation as a teacher of an Australian language.
Living Languages including flexible and accredited courses, and professional development. They are usually offered on-site in communities and tailored specifically to local needs.
Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education at Charles Darwin University offers both a Diploma and Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous Languages and Linguistics. People from communities where children speak an Australian language as their first language, as well as people from Australian revival contexts, have completed these courses.
A number of universities in Australia offer undergraduate and postgraduate programs in linguistics and applied linguistics:
- Australian National University
- University of Adelaide
- University of Melbourne
- University of New England
- University of Newcastle
- University of Queensland
- University of Sydney
- University of Western Australia