Reviving Barngarla language 

The Barngarla language is seeing a revival in Whyalla and the Eyre Peninsula region.

This revival has come in the form of courses that have been run in Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Lincoln.

There have been six courses run across all three towns in the last year, the latest of which occurred in Whyalla on Monday, May 13 and Tuesday, May 14.

The program is the brainchild of Chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages at the University of Adelaide Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann.

Professor Zuckermann has been assisted by the Office for the Arts Indigenous Languages Support, and has collaborated with the Mobile Language Team of the University of Adelaide.

This latest course was run at the newly established Hincks Avenue and Clutterbuck Street, Gabmididi Manoo (Barngarla for "Learning Together") Children and Family Centre.

The course was attended by some local Barngarla people residing in Whyalla including resident Dawn Taylor.

Dawn brought along her daughters and her grandson to the course, in order to expose all three generations to their heritage language.

Community development coordinator Anita Taylor said it was amazing to have Professor Zuckermann helping the Barngarla people reclaim their language.

"The language has always been here, but we've not had the opportunity to wake it up," Ms Taylor said.

"The feeling of identity and excitement to be able to speak our own language is fantastic."

Language is at the centre of the course teachings, but the course is so much more.

Professor Zuckerman has been an authority on linguistics for many years and his first hand experience at helping to revive languages that have been lost, speaks volumes.

It is his firm belief, one that has been proven by other scholars in varied fields, that language is tied to many aspects of a person's wellbeing.

"Personal identity, community empowerment, cultural autonomy, spiritual, intellectual sovereignty and improved wellbeing are just some of the added benefits that come from a people being proficient in and reconnected to their language," Professor Zuckermann said.

Professor Zuckermann hopes these courses will eventually be conducted by Barngarla leaders themselves, so they can spread the language among their own communities and revive it to its full form.

As part of the reclamation course, the Barngarla language is not only being taught as it existed in its original context, but also as a living thriving entity.

Using the language rules as they are known, participants of the Whyalla Barngarla reclamation course made up a word for beanie - ganoo ganoo moona, literally translating to 'warm hat'.

They also embraced the Port Augusta coinage for internet - irbiyarnoo, a compound word consisting of irbi meaning information and yarnoo meaning net.

Professor Zuckermann's interest in the Barngarla language started in a very round about way and the journey has brought him from Oxford and Cambridge in England via Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland and Adelaide all the way to Whyalla.

Professor Zuckermann has been establishing a new interdisciplinary field of enquiry called Revivalistics, including Revival Linguistics - to assist revival attempts all over the globe.

In 2011, he was also looking for a specific local language to revive.

Being based in Adelaide, he started to travel through South Australia in order to meet local indigenous people and ask about their native language.

Arriving in Port Lincoln, near Coffin Bay Professor Zuckermann began enquiring and found that the beautiful native language of the Barngarla people of Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Lincoln was subject to linguicide (language killing) and was no-longer spoken.

At the time, Professor Zuckermann had researched Australian Aboriginal languages and discovered that out of 250 languages that had once existed, only 18 (about seven percent) were now alive and kicking, spoken by all children.

Reviving languages is something that is close to Professor Zuckermann's heart, given that his mother tongue is revived Hebrew, a language that was not spoken 127 years ago.

Ms Taylor said it was a scary realisation that these languages were dying out.

"If you go back to colonisation, native cultures were almost wiped out back then, and now to have our languages taken away as well, it's taking our culture away in a different way," Ms Taylor said.

"We're not a dying race, we are still thriving and bouncing back.

"People like this (Professor Zuckermann) are waking it up again."

If you are interested in attending a Barngarla language reclamation program, contact Anita Taylor on anita.taylor3@sa.gov.au or go to www.facebook.com/Barngarla.

For more information on the stories of Barngarla people that have lost their language go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZPjdNaLCho.

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