Language is strongly linked to culture, country and identity, and is integral to a child’s sense of identity and wellbeing.
Language is used to develop relationships, teach culture, transmit information and tell stories. As such, it is very important to recognise and value the developing first language of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and be aware that children may also identify with languages that are part of their heritage but that they may not speak.
In traditional languages, stories of communities, connections to country, seas, waterways and sky, spiritual beliefs and cultural practices are passed down from generation to generation. These knowledges are uniquely Australian, developed within Australian environments.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children speak:
- Traditional languages – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages that were present before European colonisation and which are still spoken by children in a few areas of Queensland.
- Contact languages – new languages that have formed since colonisation. These include several creole languages and dialects which are spoken in Queensland.
Contact languages may sound similar to Standard Australian English (SAE). It can be easy to think they’re not real languages and that children will automatically learn to speak SAE. But this isn’t the case and it’s important to build language learning bridges.
You can do this by:
- learning about, recognising and valuing the traditional and contact languages spoken by children
- implementing a program that
- supports children to use and strengthen their first languages
- helps children to improve their SAE, as well as their first language
- involves adults who speak the same language/s as the children.
- developing respectful, reciprocal cross-cultural relationships that encourage families, community and co-workers to play an active role in children’s language learning
- recognising that although some children may not be proficient in a traditional language, they may strongly identify with one or more languages that are part of their heritage.
Read more about being a communicator.