Learn to Speak an Indigenous Language
But why? What’s the point? Aren’t the Indigenous Languages dying?
Is that what you are thinking? After all, many Indigenous languages are now extinct, and really, there is no commercial advantage in learning this type of language. Not like Chinese, or Indonesian, or any of the European languages.
But, I think there are many reasons why we should learn an Indigenous language. It is our first inhabitants’ mother tongue.
And it’s not so that we can use it when we are driving through the Outback desert, suffer a breakdown and need some local Aboriginal people’s help. That would be rare. (Although it happened to me!!)
Here are my top 5 reasons why I think it is important to learn an Indigenous Language.
1. Learn a language to get an authentic insight to that speaker’s culture.
2. An Indigenous Language is so different to any other language in the world. It will truly amaze.
3. We can use our own language better when we understand the mechanics of language.
4. Learning a language is about learning another culture which makes us all the more tolerant. And this means we can all contribute to a fairer and more beautiful world.
5. Learning a language gives us perspective. You may find a greater appreciation for what you have, or you may decide to shake things up, now that you have a better perspective.
It is the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
Join in. Celebrate the diversity of our nation. Dip your toe in the world of traditional Aboriginal language and culture.
How Many Australian Indigenous Languages are there?
Australia has around 120 Indigenous Languages.
This is a disappointing decline from the original 300 or so languages that existed when Captain Cook arrived. Download this very expert and detailed Indigenous Languages map compiled by the NSW Museum & Galleries to see the original distribution of Indigenous Languages.
The Indigenous Languages Map shows the original 300 plus languages actively spoken throughout Australia. These languages also had various dialects. Dialects are a subset of a language. The number of dialects within each language can vary. There is a language hierarchy that pegs the stages of language growth. Growth tends to move from a lingo, to pidgin, to creole, to dialect, and into an standalone language. That language continues to change and evolve. Over a very long time. Many languages and their dialects existed at the time of the arrival of the first Europeans. These dialects could have developed into even more standalone Indigenous languages. But the language growth reversed with many languages now extinct. More are heading that way. English is too dominant.
How Indigenous Languages are Related
There is a linguistic relationship across Indigenous languages. It is more obvious in the desert regions. Mainly because the First Australians in these areas were very mobile. In those days, they looked for food and water, moving from location to location. Their inter-tribal connection was strong in language and culture and family and warfare. At times they camped in one location when food was bountiful. This was rare.
The groups in the lusher areas were sedentary all year round. Groups in these areas gathered around lush coastal areas where fish, fruit and water were plentiful. Small areas of dialects, in these lusher areas, turn in to a standalone language over time and the density of the distribution of these languages can be seen on the NSW Museum map.
Aboriginal English is an Aboriginal Language
In many instances the Indigenous language has expired, and in other instances the language has combined some of English and an element of the traditional language. This is Aboriginal English. English words converted into an Aboriginal sounding word. The result is still a valid language. An Aboriginal English language.
There are many language centres that study the variety of languages by Aboriginal people, and this helps with the ongoing currency of Indigenous Languages.
Try These Indigenous Language Tips
Here are some quick tips that will help you speak an Indigenous Language:
when you are saying a word the accent is always on the first syllable
you need to practice rolling your ‘r’s (a certain percentage of speakers in fact just can’t roll their ‘r’s)