More on language resources

I had a very positive meeting with the One Arm Point Bardi teachers on Friday. Most of the teachers are language ‘remembers’ – that is, they are not comfortable in talking in full sentences in Bardi, but they all grew up hearing the language and they recognise a lot.*

As far as I know, One Arm Point has the longest-running language/culture program in Western Australia. It’s been going for more than 20 years now, which is a real testament to the strength of this community and their commitment to keeping culture strong. It’s really impressive. One Arm Point school is talking about itself as a ‘three language school’ now, which is also really good. The three languages are Aboriginal English, Standard Australian English, and Bardi.

We spent a few hours on Friday afternoon going through some things and talking about ways to get more Bardi into classrooms, and how I could help for the rest of my time here and when I’m back in the US. I also got some feedback on language materials.

  • Google earth placenames: we thought of a bunch of class activities that the kids could do with this, such as:
    • Using the ‘find’ button to find the name of their favourite fishing place and showing the class where it is.
    • Describing how to get to a place using the Bardi place names (this is the way that Bardi speakers give directions too – they don’t tend to use ‘left’ and ‘right’ or ‘north’ and ‘south’)
  • KirrKirr dictionary: this is shaping up to be a pretty important resource, I think, especially for the teachers. I’ve got it running at school now and will be adding sound clips and photos as I have time.
  • However, a much bigger deal would be an English – Bardi dictionary, where the English side of the dictionary has all the information that the Bardi-English side currently has. I think I’ve blogged before about the SIL Toolbox model of dictionary authoring and how badly it serves heritage speakers (and Corris et al (2004) make this point well too). I’m about 10% of the way through converting the Bardi-English dictionary to an English-Bardi one, using TshwaneLex (more on that in a future post). Doing it has made me look much more closely at how texts have been translated and what the semantic scope of each Bardi word is, so it’s quite a good exercise. Who knows how it’ll get done when I don’t have a TV to sit in front of in the evenings though..
  • Time-aligned texts. I showed the teachers a demo of a CuPED text and they thought it was really great, and useful for the older students. We’ve been proofing new (mostly short) texts in the breaks between grammar questions so there’s now a nice collection of time-aligned school texts about various topics.


*An aside: if someone can point me in the direction of good resources for helping such speakers, that would save me some time with google.

Corris, M., C. Manning, S. Poetsch & J. Simpson. How useful and usable are dictionaries for speakers of Australian Indigenous languages? In International Journal of Lexicography, Volume 17, Number 1, March 2004.

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