Linguists' workshop in Newman

Two linguists from the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity (RNLD) in Melbourne came to Newman to run a three-day linguistics workshop. Fifteen Martu from KJ’s language team and the Rawa Community School came to the workshop.  Martu were from Punmu, Parnngurr, Jigalong and Newman communities. After a big group discussion about why language is important for all Martu, it was up to the Martu workshop participants to decide what they wanted to learn and to talk about during the workshop. 

The first day saw the group learning about reading and writing sounds in Martu languages. They learnt how to use the voice recorders to record people speaking. They looked at Martu wangka (language) books to think about how they might use Martu language resources to teach.

On the second morning, the group talked about what Martu should know by the time they finish school. They said that Martu should learn to be good leaders and should be experts in both worlds. They should be able to go to university if they want to. They also talked about how people should know which words belong to which language, where they come from, and be able to write higher-level essays and reports both in Martu languages and in English.

The group said they wanted to learn about making lesson plans – especially for lessons that involve working with elders so proper traditional language continues to be transmitted to the younger generation. They talked about what kids should learn at different levels of schooling. This is important to think about to help decide what the kids should learn in a lesson. The group then practised making lesson plans.

The group learnt that making a lesson plan involves thinking about and writing down: the goals of the lesson; who’s going to teach the lesson; what activities they should do; and what resources the people teaching will need for the activities. The group practised making a lesson plan for kids to learn about wamurla (bush tomato)with activities developed for use in the classroom and on-country.  

On the third day, the group learnt about how to teach kids to read and write, and how to make books and activities to teach them. This included breaking words up into syllables, talking about which words come from which language groups, and coming up with ideas for cards, games and books to teach kids. The trainers said that this was one of the best groups they’ve had.

The last thing the group did was to have a big discussion about what’s next and about how they need to give feedback to the wider Martu community on what they learnt and talked about during the workshop.

At the end of the workshop everyone said they want the language program to keep going, get stronger, and that it has to be for all Martu. They talked about adult education and about Martu teaching the school teachers.

Everyone talked about how the kids need to learn on-country alongside elders to preserve traditional Martu languages, and how people need to be able to keep the Martu languages separate from English. They talked about how there should be more language visible in the signs and shops in communities and on the Internet .

Everyone learnt a lot and enjoyed the workshop.  The group want to make sure feedback is given to the ranger teams, communities and the schools.  The team is excited  to start using some of the skills they learnt in 2018. The group also said that they want to do more training in the future.