September 25, 2006

extinct?

a few weeks ago, an old lady passed away and she was probably the last full speaker of Ngandi, bless her soul. She was a deadly old lady who had done lots of language work in her life and contributed so much to all the work that has been done on Ngandi. She will be missed.

After her death, one munanga here said to me ‘Ngandi is extinct now’. But is it really?

We are still teaching Ngandi here at Ngukurr. My anggurl ET knows a bit of the language and is working hard to learn more. Twice a week, he teaches Ngandi at Ngukurr school and is doing his best to pass on what he knows. So for a few hours a week he is teaching the words and phrases he knows and the Ngandi kids are slowly learning. Can you still call Ngandi extinct when that is happening?

My mami CD can understand Ngandi really well, although she is not a ‘full’ speaker in that there are things she doesn’t know and she hasn’t really grown up speaking Ngandi. But she can easily produce plenty of fluent sentences and knows a lot of the language. Can you call Ngandi extinct when she’s still here with that knowledge?

Another mami of mine, RG, also knows Ngandi pretty well. The other day, me and ET were trying to work out some Ngandi words. I asked RG, ‘what does barru-bak-bolk-dhungi mean?’ and she said, ‘thei bin kamat na’ (they came out/arrived). Can you call Ngandi extinct when we are still talking like this?

Today RG said to me ‘Nga-rudhung gu-rerr-gitj’ and I understood her perfectly… she told me she was going home. Is Ngandi really extinct?

Of course, there is no one left who is sitting around speaking Ngandi all the time, but it hasn’t gone away. I don’t think calling a language extinct is quite as black and white as it would first seem.

September 16, 2006

i did it

I finally did my census the other day. Now I can stop whinging.

Plus I missed a chance to be on ABC radio (again!) talking about our problems with the census. I was out bush at the time. Oh well, my celebrity status is still on hold for now. :)

September 12, 2006

maidi sta bin buldan

I was sitting quietly on the language centre steps this arvo after a noisy afternoon of language classes and my 4-year-old neighbour wandered over and started chatting (all in Kriol of course). After a while she pointed to the hill in the distance behind language centre and said,

"yu gin luk shainiwan ting jeya?" (Can you see the shiny thing there?)
"yuwai, wani tharran?" (Yeah, what's that?)

I reckon it was just an aluminium can reflecting the sunlight, but she says,

"maidi sta bin buldan." (Maybe a star fell down.)

I asked her if she'd seen any stars fall down and she said no, she went to sleep last night and got up early to go to school.

How beautiful is that?

But then, I couldn't help think that when this little girl is at school, her white school teacher will not be able be access this child's observation skills, communication/language skills and imagination because this little girl's classroom is a predominantly English classroom and she doesn't speak English. What a shame.