THE Warrgamay people, one of the three groups of the Ingham district in North Queensland, have always wanted their language revived, but needed someone who had the time to put it in place.The Warrgamay language program started with the interest of two of the Warrgamaygan people commencing a course called the Diploma of Australian Indigenous Language Studies.This course was held at the Cairns TAFE.The two students started the course in 2000 and finished it at the end of 2001. One student continued further linguistic studies at Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in the NT.
Community members came ether for planning workshops and language classes in a structured program.
The contents in this course taught students how to revive their language. Among the components of the language course were the structure of Indigenous languages, such as the grammar; interpretation and translation; cultural studies and Linguistics. The course covered the production of language resources, language maintenance, research and submission writing.The students learned the basics of implementing a language project, and aspects of teaching, copyright law and ethics. Field trips gave an opportunity to visit places where actual language programs were in place, and to use the correct process and protocols when visiting or working on communities.
This course formed the background from which the two students launched their journey on the revival of their language. Before this course the students could speak words in their language, but could not spell the words.
The Warrgamay Language Program started with applying for funding to produce the language materials. This entailed gaining permission from Elders of the Warrgamay community. Meetings were conducted and a committee was set up. The committee then formed an action plan to :
Identify who would work on the language material
Identify the funding source and submit an application
Set up a community consultation meeting
Identify human resources such a language workers, speakers, teachers and linguists
Identify who would teach the language- community or in the schools
Identify place to hold classes and how often. E.g. weekly or fortnightly
In the first attempt, language materials were produced and a teacher was found. Language workers and speakers were also identified. Flyers were sent out to community members about place and time of the program. Lessons started and then the problems began. The problems involved the sounds of the language. It was hard to pronounce the `ny' and 'rig' sounds. People could say the language words they knew, but reading the words was different. So the lessons did not continue.
A second attempt was started a year later with the help of a language instructor who knew how to speak, teach and write an Indigenous language. The community decided to use this person.
The language program begins with:
Step one: A two day language workshop with modules:
I. Aboriginal languages in Australia
2. Writing and spelling Aboriginal languages
3. Sounds and pronunciation of Aboriginal languages
4. Some aspects of grammar of Aboriginal languages
5. Learning Aboriginal languages.
Step two: One day
workshop and correspondent course with some modules of the teacher support units
Step three: Language materials production and teaching and learning program.
This program involves the language instructor, speakers, language workers, learners and material production.
In each lesson, materials are produced. Language workers help the language instructor. Both adults and children attend the program. It has been found that children learn better than adults.
Lessons are based on:
Sounds, getting them right
Verbs and tenses
Incorporated in these lessons are games, songs and puzzles.
This program is constructed to the community's needs and works well because on the east coast of Australia, most Aboriginal people speak English and find it hard to relearn their language and read it, because they come from the English perspective of learning.
Further lessons will involve a more detailed study of suffixes and conversations in Warrgamay language. Once these learners can speak the language, they can then teach it to the children in the form of language lessons on country (taking children through the country and learn the names of plants, places, animals etc.) The language immersion program will then continue for other members of Warrgamay community. It is also hoped that the language will then be extended to create new words for today's society.