fluent are most Australian revival languages teachers?
Language teachers may have
a range of oral
proficiency levels, from beginners who are early in their
language learning journey through to those who have been
developing their language skills for many years. However very few
of them were able to hear the languages spoken around them when
they were growing up. This means that many Australian revival
languages teachers are also second
The term fluency also
needs to be used carefully. Although many people remember words
and phrases in their languages, at this point in history it is not
really possible to be fully fluent in a reclaimed Australian
language. The languages have suffered under policies and practices
which forced people for many years to stop using them. Today,
people are reviving their language but teachers and learners are
still not exposed to them on a daily basis. English dominates
Despite these challenges some people are achieving a great deal,
gradually developing their ability to use their languages not only
in classrooms with students but also in other settings Ė in their
homes and communities, in the shops, down the street, in emails
and on their phones!
speak my language. Am I able to teach it?
Language teachers often
report that they only really learn their languages when they start
teaching them. The reality of having to be prepared for classes
drives their own language learning progress. Most people know a
few words and phrases, and are building up their skills from that
starting point. They are developing their understanding and use of
the grammar of the language.
To teach an Australian language, you donít have to be a fluent speaker
but you do need to be committed to continually improving your
own ability to listen to, speak, read and write your
language. If your own language ability improves over the years then
you will have more language skills and knowledge to pass on to
Where can I learn
an Australian language?
At the moment the
following courses are available:
TAFE in Queensland,
New South Wales and South Australia have accredited certificates
in Australian languages. They include units of competency in
speaking and listening, reading and writing. They are taught
locally where there is a teacher available and enough students
interested in enrolling. Contact your local TAFE campus Indigenous
Support Officer for details.
can I improve my ability to speak my language?
This is not easy for
learners and teachers of revival languages because there is often
only a small number of people to interact with and a limited
number of resources to use. So it takes a very conscious effort
and a great deal of determination to learn and practise. The
resources available will also vary from language to language.
Here is a list of ways teachers across Australia use to develop
their own language skills. Not all of these options are possible
for every language since different languages are at different
stages of revival. However these options do indicate the kinds of
resources that adult learners are accessing and developing.
- If there are elders
(or others) in your community who remember language, even
small amounts of language, spend as much time with them as you
can. Use the time together to talk in language (rather than about
language) as far as possible. Itís a good idea to record the
sessions if you can, so that you can listen again and review
later. Even if they donít know a lot of language, elders can
teach culture and knowledge of country that is very important
for language learning too.
- Some languages have
audio recordings made with speakers in earlier generations who
have since passed away. Playing those old recordings again and
again is a good way to work on your listening and speaking
skills. The Australian
Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
in Canberra has a large collection of audio-visual materials.
There might be audio materials available for your language.
- A few languages
have been undergoing revival for many years. Those languages
may have gathered and analysed the historical sources and
community knowledge and have gradually built up a number
of language learning resources. Those resources can
include dictionaries (e.g. word lists, picture dictionaries,
comprehensive dictionaries), grammar books (e.g. sketch
grammars, learners grammars), teaching resources (e.g. student
workbooks) and audio recordings (e.g. on CD or on-line). Find
out if these kinds of resources are available yet for your
- Gather people
together informally. In some communities people get together
each week to practise language. They take turns in bringing
along a language learning activity, and share new things they
have learned about the language with each other. Itís a chance
for everyone to hear and speak the language with each other,
write songs and speeches, study grammar together and have a go
- Make time and
conscious efforts to interact with other adult learners. Use
all kinds of opportunities and contexts to use language beyond
classroom settings. Strengthen the language in your home and
community, with friends and family.
- There may be a linguist who
recorded speakers many decades ago, has investigated the
archival records and has an understanding of the structure of
your language. If you havenít already, itís a good idea to
contact them to assist with increasing knowledge of your
qualifications do languages teachers have?
All qualified teachers
have extensive training in their particular area as well as the
theories and practical methods of education. Primary school
training is different from secondary school training. Teachers of
science use different strategies from teachers of English.
Similarly, language teaching is a specialised area with specific
training available. Language teachers may be teachers of European
languages like French and Spanish, teachers of Asian languages
like Indonesian and Japanese, or teachers of migrant community
languages in Australia such as Chinese and Italian. Although these
languages are all quite different from each other, there is a lot
of overlap in the teaching approaches and strategies used.
Language teachers use strategies which are different from teaching
other subjects like history or geography. For example in history
and geography students may be asked to research a topic and
present their findings. However in language teaching, research
projects are not a common strategy because they donít support the
objective of students using and interacting in the target
language. Pair and group discussion in the language is a more
common teaching strategy in language classrooms since these kinds
of activities assist students to acquire and practise using the
language they are learning.
can I improve my ability to teach my language?
Here is a list of ways
Australian languages teachers have been using to develop their
language teaching skills:
- Being part of a
team teaching situation. Currently most Australian revival languages teachers in
schools donít have a formal teaching qualification. They are
community members who are supported in the classroom by
trained teachers employed in the schools. Those teachers may
be teachers of geography, art, history or any other subject.
In an ideal situation, they are teachers of languages. In this
team-teaching situation, the community member is sharing and
developing their language and culture expertise; the trained
teacher has an opportunity to learn the local language and
culture along with the students, and also contributes skills
in programming, planning, resource development and classroom
- Connecting with
teachers of other languages. If you have a qualified languages
teacher (of any language) in your school, itís very helpful to
talk with them about how they teach language. They will be
able to share lots of ideas for language teaching. Try
observing some of their classes and noticing the strategies
and resources they use. Youíll be surprised by how many ideas
you will be able to borrow and/or adapt for teaching
- Adapting strategies
for the teaching of other languages. There are many ideas in
teaching materials for other languages (and also materials for
teaching English to speakers of other languages) which can be
adopted for the teaching and learning of Australian languages.
Make contact with teachers of those languages and borrow
materials from your school or local library.
- Learning another
language. Learning a language which is taught by a
qualified, experienced, talented language teacher can be
inspiring. It is a way of learning about how to teach a
- Participating in
professional development opportunities. Some state and
territory departments of education run workshops for language
teachers and workers they employ. These may be attended by
teachers of many different languages, including teachers of
Australian languages. Keep your eye on your local department's
professional development website.
conferences. Every year there are conferences which include
teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as
part of the program, with presentations given by language
revivers, language teachers, and linguists. Keep your eye on
these websites for coming conferences:
qualifications are there for Indigenous Australian languages
The University of Sydney
offers the Graduate
Diploma and Master of Indigenous Languages Education, a
block mode program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people who already have a recognised teaching qualification and
wish to develop their language teaching skills. The masters is recognised
for appointment to designated languages teacher positions in NSW Department of Education schools.
TAFE has accredited the
Microsoft Word - DFEEST 10 125136 Curriculum Document -
40635SA HPR & 40636SA HPS - Certificate III in Learning &
~ 7 Dec
Certificate IV in Teaching
an Endangered Aboriginal Language, although it is not often
Muurrbay in Nambucca Heads, NSW teaches courses in Gumbaynggirr and Gathang.
Australian Department of Education offers the Aboriginal
Languages Teacher Training course through its Institute for Professional Learning for its staff who want to
teach their language in its schools under a Limited Authority to
At this time there is no initial teacher training degree that
leads to full accreditation as a teacher of an Australian
Where can I
get training in linguistics?
For community members who
just want to get started with reviving their language there is a
range of training offered by Living Languages including flexible and
accredited courses, and professional development. They are usually
offered on-site in communities and tailored specifically to local
Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education at Charles Darwin University offers both a Diploma and Bachelor
of Arts in Indigenous Languages and Linguistics. People from
communities where children speak an Australian language as their
first language, as well as people from Australian revival
contexts, have completed these courses.
A number of universities in Australia offer undergraduate and
postgraduate programs in linguistics and applied linguistics:
These programs develop
studentsí technical skills in understanding and analysing the
structures of languages. Only some of them have staff members who
specialise in Australian languages. So, when deciding where you
want to study, itís a good idea not only to look at the websites
of the various universities but also to contact relevant staff
members by phone or email.
This page was first
published on September 9, 2013 and was last updated on July
28, 2021. All material is copyright to the individual authors
unless indicated otherwise.