How 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 language learners.

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 everyoneís lives.

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!

I donít 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 your students.

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 Coordinator or Support Officer for details.

How 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.

What 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.

How 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:

What qualifications are there for Indigenous Australian languages teachers?

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 taught.

Muurrbay in Nambucca Heads, NSW teaches courses in Gumbaynggirr and Gathang.

The Western 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 Teach.

At this time there is no initial teacher training degree that leads to full accreditation as a teacher of an Australian language.

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 needs.

Bachelor 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.