June 25, 2008

Floating around

Since finishing from the language centre I've managed to do a few things apart from sitting on the couch (which is where I am now as I write this... I can't help it, Wimbledon's on). I've been floating around doing a few jobs here n there but i've also been taking it easy and slowly figuring out which way to go next.

I did some casual work at an art gallery in Katherine - just menial tasks but it was really enjoyable. The art is pretty and I got to hang out with two Warlpiri speakers who taught me a few things. The downside - looking at the horrible spelling of language words all over the gallery. How do you convince ordinary ppl that it's important to get these things right? I tried the 'there are lots of people that can read and write Warlpiri' but it seems that the demands of getting through daily workloads wins over making time to consider Indigenous language spelling conventions. Buhu.

I also got myself an ABN (a bit exciting) and lots of information books from the tax office (not so exciting). This allowed me to do a bit of independent work with schools - which has mainly been a bit of tutoring at the high school, working with ESL kids to produce a Kriol nyusleta. Follow the link from the Katherine High School website.

Then I had a week's worth of tutoring at Batchelor, tutoring a group of Diploma of Interpreting students. It was my first time at Batchelor and it was great to visit there. It was so nice to walk into the library there and find that the Aboriginal languages section is one of the biggest in the library! In most libraries it's about a shelf worth. The campus is nice, the accommodation was great and the students were ace. They were a small group but representing a range of communities (Willowra, Elcho, Daly River, Ngukurr, Bulman, Katherine) and languages (Kriol, Warlpiri, Djambarrpuyŋu and Walmajarri). They are doing well and have lots to say and are keen to get through the course. They were a pleasure to teach (and learn from).

Other things I've been doing include:
- a fair bit of gardening. I'm aiming for the 'immaculate' look... a fair way to go yet!
- my regular friday night stint on Katherine Community Radio
- playing tennis and squash (elimination final in squash tonight!)
- setting up a neat little home office
- slowly processing hundreds of registration forms for the local AFL competition
- a job application and interview for 'Indigenous Academic Support Lecturer' at Charles Darwin University but based in Katherine. (not sure if I want it - still keen for language work)
- watching an awful lot of tennis on austar. and keeping up with Australia's Next Top Model. :-)
- oh, and making a budget for myself because my income has dropped considerably!

So what to do next?

The more I think about the more it makes sense for me to seriously look into doing a PhD on one of the languages I've worked on at Ngukurr. I'm in a perfect position to do so. What holds me back is that I'm not terribly academically-inclined and prefer doing practical stuff. But the thought of having 3-4 years of really getting my teeth into a language like Marra is something really special and the clock is ticking for a language like Marra too. If I can make sure the PhD has strong practical components I'd be happy. But how do I make this happen? Do I just start humbugging lecturers about it?? Any advice appreciated.

Apart from that, there could be some work on the cards that I'd enjoy. Firstly, maybe a bit of work on a language program in a school not too far out of Katherine. Secondly, some more work with Batchelor students around the Katherine region for people doing language courses where they learn basic literacy in their own language. That would be fun. I love teaching people how to read and write their own language.

So that all from me. I'm going to go make a coffee and process some AFL forms. :-)


Catalin said...

Everything you've had your fingers in sounds great!

About white ppl not taking spelling of indigenous languages seriously: lots of ppl don't take the spelling conventions of their own language very seriously either. Some ppl really don't feel like it matters ("You understood what I meant, didn't you?"). That's not to say that you shouldn't try to educate the folks at the art gallery, but keep in mind the nonstandard English spellings in abundant evidence on Katherine restaurant and pub menus!

Sally said...

Hey wamut, maybe you could try out a spiel I intend to use up this way very soon with an art coordinator showing similar attitudes...When you give people a canvass and paints to work with, we can all agree it is best to give the best quality materials. This is because better quality materials preserve the painting in its original state for the longest time. A standard spelling system is just like this. It records the spoken word in a form which gives it the best chance to be understood into the future. This is because the standard system is both consistent and accurate. Thus it will remain penetrable to future readers.
I'm hoping that working with an analogy close to home might do the trick.

bulanjdjan said...

Thanks for that analogy, Sally!