Indigenous language endangered
The momentum and work on languages has increased in recent years, but it should have commenced maybe 50 years ago to have a real impact on the level of language loss. Lorraine Injie
Indigenous languages in the Pilbara could be completely lost in the next two generations if programs to record them are not successful, according to indigenous leaders gathered in Roebourne last week.
This was the hard pill to swallow Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre vice-chairwoman Lorraine Injie told attendees at the Pilbara Aboriginal Languages Expo held at the Ngurin Cultural Centre last week.
The overwhelming message at the gathering, however, was optimism in the renewed push by several organisations and teachers to record the languages and teach them to the children.
Janet Stewart is one of those teachers at the frontline of ensuring her language, Nyangumarta, continues on in the young generation.
Alongside Kayleen Arnold, Mrs Stewart teaches her language to children at South Hedland Primary School.
“For us, Aboriginal language is hard to teach these days because of English being used at home,” she said.
“The kids have fun learning though, they’re really eager to learn.
“They get really proud of what they said in a sentence which made me feel good too.”
Mrs Stewart said there should be more language speakers at places like schools where kids learn.
Ms Injie said there were only three language groups left in the Pilbara where children spoke it as a first language.
“The momentum and work on languages has increased in recent years, but it should have commenced maybe 50 years ago to have a real impact on the level of language loss,” she said.
“This meeting enables people who have linguistic and cultural knowledge to come together and share information about new ways of transmitting Aboriginal languages and more importantly to understand how much language has been lost since European occupation.”
Ms Injie said the turnout demonstrated the commitment people had to preserving indigenous language and culture in the Pilbara.