Transcript: Being a communicator - Languages

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Transcript: Being a communicator - Languages

In Yarrabah, people were forcibly removed from their traditional lands. During the process, they were not allowed to speak their traditional languages.

A language had developed in the community, a fusion of standard Australian English and their traditional languages, and it became a creole.

In today's context it's called Yarra Lingo.

Female:       What is this?

Child:           Water.

Female:       Yeah? Where's the water? Is she at the beach or something.

Child:           Back beach.

Female:       Yeah your mum went out back beach, ay, yeah well that [0:33 megla] was talking about back beach too, but he said it in a different language. You sounded like you were talking Yarra lingo, 'cause you're a little Yarri girl ay?

We never correct the children's - when they're speaking Yarra lingo, because that's the language that they were hearing since they were born. So we keep supporting them and bearing in mind too, that the children are still developing their first language. So that is important that they continue to learn through their home language.

Female:       This is you, because you speak Yarra lingo, and you're talking. That's my brudder, he lookin' at all the rainbow. But the migaloo, saying the same thing what you said, but in English, he's saying it like this. That's my brother, he is looking at all the rainbows in the sky.

It's about us acknowledging the child's first language and saying to them you know, you're a Yarri girl, you live in Yarrabah. This is the language that you speak, and there's nothing wrong with that language, it's not a broken English, it doesn't need fixing.

If you're able to speak Yarra lingo and standard Australian English at the same time, that gives you an advantage. You know you can tell when a relief teacher comes in, and some comes in here and talks standard Australian English, you sort of see a lot of behaviour problems being picked up. But they're not naughty, it's just that they haven't understood the teacher's standard Australian English. So that's why it's so important.

As you saw Mary this morning when she was reading that story, a lot of the time while she was reading that story she code switched a lot, because there are often big words in those stories and the kids don't understand what that's about. And also linking it back to community, their community experiences.

Female:       Where you stay, what your creek for?

Child:           A mangrove.

Female:       You are so clever.

Child:           A big dinosaur.

Female:       Hey look, Austin say, he said a mangrove, look. Does it look like mangrove? Where have we got mangrove up here in Yarrabah. Austin where you see a mangrove?

Child:           In the water.

Female:       In the water, which place? We got a lot of mangrove here ay, we're Yarri ay.

We work in three languages; we work in standard Australian English, and I attempt to speak that at all times to try and keep that division of language. Miss May and Miss Mary or Miss [Miklin 3:00], our other teacher aides, speak [Yungplatuk 3:04], which is sort of like the Torres Strait Island creole which is used throughout the region.

There is also [Kukugalia 3:09] which is what they call a sleeping language, some of the elders here speak it. It's part of the revitalisation process that we're trying to start to incorporate that.

Female:       What about this one, what's this one?

Child:           [UNCLEAR 3:22].

Female:       What do we say in Yungplatuk?

Children:      Crocodile.

Female:       Crocodile. What about in Kukugalia?

Children:      [Kurdall 3:26].

Female:       Kurdall, well done.

When we use those three languages, we always present them visually in three different colours. Standard Australian English is always in black, Yungplatuk always in blue and the traditional language Kukugalia, is always in red. And that's to try and make that distinction between those languages.

Female:       At last he felt cool, cool, water on his hot tired sandy body. And as he swam down, down, down he knew, it's the sea he sang. It's the sea.

Female 2:    At last when he go down, go into the water, and he make himself mina nice and cold, because then he mina try it [UNCLEAR 4:14] he be [4:15] water and swim, swim, swim, then him think yes, at last, [4:24].

Female:       And that's the end of our story.

Miss Cathy was talking in English, and I was talking in Yungplatuk.  Some of the things that we shared is the name of the animal, like turtle, and in Yungplatuk, we say tortle, and in Kukugalia, that's in other community, we speak Waru.

I try to verbalise whether we're talking English or language, so that the children can learn to swap between the two.

Female:       Can you jiggle around like jellyfish? Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle. This time, can you find your own colour square and sit down.

Also because creole is quite similar to English, it can be hard for the kids to know when they're hearing or speaking one or the other. So I make a point now of saying, shall we see good morning in English first or language first. It's just a way of getting into their mind that they're speaking two different languages, in fact three most days.

[SINGING]