November 09, 2009

Back at Kalkarindji


I'm in Kalkarindji for a week, delivering one of the language courses I teach to a small group of local woman who mostly work at the school. Today was the first day and it was a decent start to the week. The ladies seem keen and already skilled. Some speak Gurindji really well and have good literacy skills already. There are heaps of Gurindji books at the school and I brought a stack with me too. All really positive news - a fairly well resourced language with fairly strong speakers who are fairly literate and are fairly motivated. What more can you ask for?

The school has been really helpful and given students release to do their coursework and given us space in the library to do our work, so I have nothing but good things to say. But something interesting did happen when I was talking to a staff member about how exciting it is to have so much there all ready to capitalise on for a language and culture program. I was trying to tell them that here at Kalkarindji it's a similar situation to Numbulwar which has had the fortune of a well-funded program for decades now while Kalkarindji seems to have missed out. Numbulwar is a two-way school, you see. Oops, I mentioned the T-word which caused a bit of a reaction and I had to backpeddle and explain my point another way! Just lucky I didn't mention the 'B'-word!!

Also curious to note is that I was discouraged away from anything that might involve developing Gurindji literacy activities in the classroom... It seemed to be cloaked in pedagogical reasoning (e.g. oral language learning is better, using video is a great tool), but I have an inkling that there is a certain 4-Hours of English policy in the back of people's minds causing an 'oh-no, we can't have concerted efforts at quality teaching of an Indigenous language, including literacy and all!'...

... or maybe it's just that the timetable is so bloody full that, yet again, there's just no time for language and culture programs.

... if only imminent language death was motivation for drastic action, but no... doesn't seem that way. :-(

... at least I get to work with some deadly language workers again tomorrow!

PS. I had a pesky political thought today... there's a small stream of linguists that have/do come and go through Kalkarindji. Maybe we need to all come together at the same time here in Kalkarindji for a week to create a critical mass of Kartiya that are more interested in maintaining Gurindji traditions than replacing them. (A mini on-site Gurindji language forum... get the McNair's here and everything!) Wouldn't that be fun!

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