Learn to speak Gamilaraay, an Indigenous Australian language, this spring

AUST1001, or Speaking Gamilaraay 1, will be offered at ANU this spring. The course is open to everyone, but is a particularly valuable opportunity for Gamilaraay and other indigenous people (especially from the NSW area), linguistics students, and students interested in Indigenous studies and Indigenous issues.

Gamilaraay is an Indigenous language once spoken in central northern NSW, which is currently undergoing revitalisation. The focus of the course is therefore on spoken language, and by the end of an intensive and challenging, yet fun and enjoyable two weeks you will be one of the most competent Gamilaraay speakers in the world. The sounds and, to a certain extent, the grammar taught in this course will also better equip you to learn more about other Indigenous languages, especially those from the NSW region. The course also offers students the chance to make a direct contribution to the revitalisation of a dead language, as part of its assessment is to create valuable language resources for future generations of Gamilaraay speakers.

In addition, you will be learning the language from the man who wrote the grammar on it, an amazing and dedicated teacher. I have taken both Gamilaraay I and II (as summer and winter courses) and although I have studied languages before, I have never learnt so much so quickly! The grammar is delivered in a concise yet comprehensive way, and reinforced with activities and games that soon get you speaking the language. There is also daily written and spoken homework to ensure that your pronunciation as well as your understanding of the grammar is on track.

However, while speaking Gamilaraay is the focus of the course, there is a lot more to the course than just learning language – and there are things you will get out of AUST1001 that you will not get out of any of the majority language courses at ANU. You will come away with a greater understanding of the significance of dead and dying languages, especially to their speakers, as well as the many issues and difficulties associated with their revitalisation. While language revitalisation is a daunting task, it is rewarding and inspiring to see how much work has already been done by the lecturer and others who have assisted in its revitalisation, as well as to be able to contribute yourself.

Students majoring in Linguistics, majoring or minoring in Australian Indigenous Studies, or International Communication can also all take the course as part of their major or minor. As a linguistics student, I’ve found that knowledge of Gamilaraay and involvement with indigenous languages has opened up lots of opportunities at ANU and elsewhere for hands-on experience with projects – such as the development of a dictionary for the related language of Wayilwan, and a project at the University of Queensland on complex morphology in Indigenous Australian languages. Students interested in morphology, both inflectional and derivational in particular would enjoy learning Gamilaraay. The language has very rich inflectional morphology as well as productive (especially verbal) derivational morphology, which the lecturer loves to talk about. Students in Gamilaraay II may also have the opportunity to work on the development of new Gamilaraay words for modern life.