April 17, 2005

part 2 of my Hodgson Downs trip

well, I'm only staying here for one night. And I only came to talk to the school and community members to see if they wanna start having language classes again. I didn't really have any actual language work planned. But the old people are so keen that they basically organised themselves to do some language work with me. After the usual stuffing around and to-ing and fro-ing, a group of old people were patiently sitting together, all interested in doing language work. So I came along and luckily had improvised some language work we could do.

Five Alawa speakers all helped put language to a little fishing picturebook. It was pretty cool. A couple of younger people also took an interest. One of the best things for me was that one of the old men who was helping has never worked with me or spoken Alawa to me before, even though I knew he could speak the language. So it was great that someone new felt comfortable doing language work. (The other good thing about this guy doing language work is that he still has all his teeth so his pronunciation isn't hampered!).

It's pretty cool that there's such a strong bunch of old people at Hodgson Downs who are fluent in Alawa and keen to do language work. The only bad thing is that they tend to bag out the younger generations who haven't learned the language.

And while two of the teachers at school are really involved in developing a language program, I'm not sure how the others feel. One teacher asked me why it is good for kids to learn Alawa and what function it will have for them, because they won't be able to communicate with anyone outside their community. This is a fairly typical opinion so I didn't pay it too much attention, but afterwards I got kind of angry about it. Alawa language belongs to that part of the world, not English, so in a very simplified way, you can argue that it's by no means an automatic 'given' that English should be the only language these kids are taught, because it's a foreign language. Also, this teacher asked me how many people spoke Alawa. She thought there were only about two. I told her there were quite a few. Then she asked if are fluent or do they only know a few words! I told her they knew the language right through! Pretty ignorant. And she's educating these people's grandchildren! I tell ya, it's a funny world out here.

Anyway, after doing language work with five (not two!) Alawa speakers, we ended up going on a bit of a bush trip. We went out for a bush tucker called blackcurrant or yarragaga. I went with old C, my number one Alawa teacher, and some younger people. It was pretty cool. Everyone's crazy for this bush tucker at the moment. And I can see why. It's pretty neat when a delicious fruit is fruiting all over the place. All you have to do is drive there and you've got a good feed (as well as purple fingers, lips and tongue). After picking lovely sweet black berries off trees and eating them, we drove all the back to Ngukurr and arrived after dark. Oh, that was after I ran over a stick and popped a tyre.

So I had good fun at Hodgson Downs. I really like all that mob. If I ever do a PhD, it will be with this mob. I can't imagine doing that kind of work with anyone else.

1 comment:

Renae said...

If you ever do a PhD, eh?

Yeah - do it! I think I might tell a certain Jedi Knight about this, and then there'll be no going back... ;-)