Ep.1 Why it is Important to Learn an Indigenous Language
Updated: Jul 23, 2019
My Culture Story Podcast with Kado Muir - (podcast audio here)
So welcome back to my culture story.
In 2019, we celebrate the United Nations year of indigenous languages and in Australia today there are 20 languages estimated to be still widely spoken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and some 200 languages which have survived into the modern age. Sadly over the past 220 years of settlement and colonisation we have lost something like 500 unique Australian languages.
In parallel with the loss of languages there's an estimate that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples consisted of over a million people at the time of settlement and within 130 years, from 1788 to 1901 that population declined by 90% and in 1901, it was estimated that the Aboriginal population had fallen to 100,000 people. Today, we have Aboriginal people around the population mark of about 600,000 and of those people, many now no longer speak their original languages.
There has been a campaign of a genocide of removing and forcibly suppressing the use of Aboriginal language. And today, it's really important for people like myself and others, to draw attention to the plight of Australia's indigenous languages, and to create ways in which we can sustain, develop and grow our languages back to be widely spoken and understood in and across the world.
The reasons for this are multiple;
One very simple reason is each language, in itself contains a knowledge system. Each language sustains an emotional, physical, spiritual intellectual relationship between the speaker of that language, other speakers and the environment around them.
It is through language that we understand and make sense of the world around us. And languages of the land are an integral part of understanding the dynamic relationships between people occupying that land, using that land, sustaining themselves off that land, and enjoying the beauty and the bounty of that land.
So it's really important that we do everything we can to raise those sleeping languages, the sleeping Australian languages, bring them back to be spoken by Aboriginal people, and perhaps to be shared by Aboriginal people with other Australians.
So that together, we can find a way to connecting to our to each other, and connecting to country through language. I'll speak more about languages in the episodes to come but I thought I'd just share those those insights with you.
Remember, Australia is not an English speaking country, Australian language is or Australian languages are the original Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages of this country.
And it's important for all of us to honor that, to respect that and to engage in that intellectual pursuit of learning an Australian language.
So if you are interested in this, one language you can learn is my language Ngalia and through the Ngalia Heritage Research Council, we are developing learning resources and creating opportunities for people to learn Ngalia.
And what I say, I was advised many years ago by an Elder who's passed away now from Roebourne, who was a great cultural leader in Roebourne. And we were just talking, and he said, you know, it's really important. It doesn't matter whose language, what language, but everyone should learn an Aboriginal language.
You learn one language, you gain the tools, you gain the passion. And from that, you can move on to learning the languages of the land on which you live on which you call home.
Palunya... I hope you enjoyed that insight.
Palunya, ngula nyaku!