What are spoken
and written texts?
teaching goes beyond words. Language teachers expose their
students to spoken and written texts right from the start of their
Spoken texts include oral stories, interviews, dialogues,
monologues (e.g. a welcome to country speech, a presentation to
the class), phone conversations, discussions, role plays, or any
other piece of spoken language. When people are speaking to each
other, their interaction is made up of series of utterances, for
example questions and replies, comments and suggestions, requests
Written texts include stories, comic strips, instructions,
recipes, PowerPoint presentations, emails, text messages on mobile
phones, newsletters, posters, scripts for plays and performances,
factual texts and explanations, or any other piece of written
language. When people are writing to/for each other, their
interaction may be made up of series of sentences, paragraphs and
Some spoken and written texts in Australian languages were
recorded many years ago. Some have been created more recently
by languages teachers, together with other community
members, with the assistance of a linguist. This is an
opportunity for language development.
These texts assist teachers to enable their students to begin to
use the language to interact with each other in speech and
It is challenging for learners to understand and produce spoken
and written language so the texts do not need to be long. They can
be a series of sentences in a short paragraph. Even in short
texts, the grammar and vocabulary can be complex for the learners
to process. Here’s an example of a spoken
text in Yuwaalaraay created
for the St Joseph’s school program in Walgett from the Board
of Studies NSW website. It is the basis of a conversation lesson
developed by Karen Flick:
provides an opportunity to take an analytic
approach. The students learn components of the language, for
example the sounds of the languages (e.g. ng, dh, aa, ii, uu),
nouns (tea, coffee, sugar, milk, water), verbs (want, make),
qualifiers (a little bit, cold), greetings and welcomes (hello,
come in), how to ask and respond to questions. Sounds, words,
phrases, utterances and grammar are connected through a short
conversation with purposes such as welcoming, offering, accepting,
requesting. Texts such as this one provide students with
opportunities to learn language in a holistic way. As Yuwaalaraay
teacher Karen Flick puts it, “Doing and talking language gives you
a better understanding of what is happening.”
visit your house, what’s the first thing you do?
You say Hi!
in. Dhaay yanaaya! (Come here).
Ask if they
want something to drink. Minya nginda ngaw-gi?
they want: tea dhii, leaf tea dhii-buu, coffee gabi
they want their cuppa made, e.g.:
Do you want sugar? Minya ngay dhuga?
yes ngaa/yawu, no waal/gamil
two sugars with milk. Bulaarr dhuga milgin-biyaay.
black tea, no sugar, little bit of cold water! Buluuy dhii,
maarr dhuga, badjin baliyaa gungan!
Ah, good! Gaba!
There are many different types of
texts which teachers can introduce to their students.
What are text types?
many different types of spoken and written
texts There may be different text types in
Australian languages. Text types in English include
narrative, recount, biography, report, explanations, reports,
interview, description, procedure, news report, resume/CV, menu,
party invitation, photo captions and labels. Each of these has
typical ways of being structured and is associated with particular
types of vocabulary and grammatical features.
To take one example, procedural texts are a linked series of
instructions. These include a range of activities such as recipes,
how to make boomerangs, how to catch fish. What these activities
all have in common is that they are generally based on a list of
required items (what you need) and a set of steps to follow (what
you do). So they provide a chance to teach the vocabulary related
to the activity as well as the command form of verbs.
Johnny cake recipe
another example, descriptive texts are made up of a series of
linked sentences about a person, place or animal for example:
What you need:
What you do:
frypan and stove, or
iron and hot coals.
on the stove, or;
Collect the wood, make a fire and wait for it to die down to
Sprinkle in some salt.
in some water to make thick dough.
Knead it with your hands. Get the air in.
Break off pieces.
and flatten them.
the Johnny cakes on the grid iron / in the oven.
them over to cook the other side.
them with butter and golden syrup.
This is my mother. She has black hair and brown eyes. She’s
tall. She’s kind and funny. She comes from Tamworth. She likes
tea and flowers. She doesn’t like dogs.
type is different from a procedural text. It starts with an
opening sentence identifying the subject of the description (This
is my mother) followed by a series of sentences describing that
subject. In terms of grammar, the descriptive text provides an
opportunity to teach nouns (mother, hair, eyes, tea, flowers),
pronouns (she, my), verbs (like) and adjectives (black, brown,
tall, kind, funny). Students also learn how to create positive
(She’s tall) as well as negative (She doesn’t like dogs)
Here is an example of a description of a family in Wiradjuri from
4 Dubbo College program:
Nginha gunhi-dhi. Guwiiny wurraan budhang, miil ngiindhul.
To take a
third example, recounts are texts which are made up of a series of
linked sentences about an event which happened in the past. Here
is one written by a Yuwaalaraay student, featured on the Board of
Studies NSW (2003) Aboriginal languages K-10 assessment for
learning in a standards referenced framework CD ROM:
This is my
mother. She has black hair and brown eyes. She is clever.
gaagan-dhi. Guwiiny bamir-bu nanay-bu. Miil-dhi ngurrumirgang.
This is my
brother. He is tall and thin. He has blue eyes and big feet.
minhi-dhi. Guwiiny mumangbu dhandaa-bu.
This is my
younger sister. She is short and pretty.
ngabun-dhi. Guwiiny guuray wuru-dhuray-bu, wurraan barrang.
This is my
grandfather. He has a thick neck and white hair. He is clever.
gaagan-dhi. Guwiiny bubaybu nanan-bu.
This is my
older brother. He is small and fast.
different from procedural texts and descriptions. This recount
starts with an opening sentence to set the scene (We went to Pagan
Creek to catch fish) followed by a series of sentences about the
order of the events that occurred there. In terms of grammar,
recounts provide an opportunity to focus on how to form past tense
verbs in Yuwaalaraay (e.g. go-went, catch-caught, bite-bit,
cook-cooked). Students also learn how to sequence their ideas, and
include people and how they were involved in the events.
Pagan-gu gaawaa-gu yanaa-nhi, bayamali-gu yinga. Buligaa
birray yanaa-nhi gaawaa-gu, Dillon, Johno, Leon and Corey.
Bularr miyay yanaa-nhi, Lisa, Deb. Walgan Fay, walgan Karen
yanaa-nhi. Ngiyani barriga yinga bayama-y. Milan-du nganha
yii-y. Ngiyani yinga yilama-y. Girr gaba yinga. Ngiyani
We went to
Pagan Creek, to catch crayfish. Four boys went to the river,
Dillon, Johno, Leon, and Corey. Two girls went, Lisa and Deb.
Auntie Fay and Auntie Karen went. We caught a hundred crayfish.
One bit me. We cooked the crayfish. They were really good. We
Before students can create procedural texts, descriptions,
recounts or any other type of spoken or written text, teachers
need to provide them with opportunities to (a) listen to or read
examples of each text type (b) become familiar with ways in which
each text type may be organised and (c) learn vocabulary and
grammatical structures which are typically found in each text
Authentic texts are unlikely to be purely one type. For example,
narratives can often include sentences which are found in a
recount (e.g. Little Red Riding Hood went to her grandmother’s
house), and a procedural text could include sentences that don’t
start with the command form of the verb (e.g. It’s important to
use the right bait for the fish you want to catch). However,
teacher constructed texts are a helpful way of assisting students
to focus on their skills in understanding and using particular
vocabulary and grammatical structures. Teachers introduce their
students to a range of different spoken and written text types to
develop their receptive
and productive skills in the target language.
types are there in Australian languages?
functions and text types are
socially agreed ways of communicating. The way they are structured
and expressed varies from culture to culture. For example
greetings are not some same in all cultures. Depending on which
language you speak, you may greet someone by asking something that
translates into English as: How are you? Are you good? Have you
eaten yet? Where have you been? or Where are you going?
The structure and purposes of text types vary too. For example,
narratives in English are often
considered imaginative; they are told or written to entertain the
listeners or readers. The narrative structure includes introducing
the characters and situation, setting up a complication, and
finishing with a resolution. By comparison, narratives in Australian
languages often do much more than entertain. They are used to
inform and pass on important knowledge about country or social
customs and values. Murray
Butcher explains the importance of Paakantyi story in this
video on the NSW Board of Studies website.
We cannot know all the different oral text types that would have
been used in every Australian language in the past, though we know
it is likely they would all have all used special kinds of
language for songs and ceremonial activities, for example. New
text types are evolving naturally as Australian languages are
being revitalised, relearned and used. It may also be
possible for text types to be developed or reconstructed, modelled
on those found in other languages.
I learn more about language teaching?
about good teaching for reviving Australian languages is one of
the main purposes of this website. To make it more accessible we
have arranged it under the following headings:
This page was first
published on December 9, 2013 and was last updated on
November 29, 2013. All material is copyright to the
individual authors unless indicated otherwise.
If you have any suggestions
for ways in which this document could be improved or made
more accessible to users, please do not hesitate to
contact the author, Susan