August 20, 2014

“I feel we have finally woken our language and now we can share it. I’m the happiest woman in the world”

Whyalla resident Dawn Taylor recently completed a cadetship with the MLT. Her project was to research and develop a digital learning tool for the revival of the Barngarla language.

Dawn produced an audio-visual presentation of slides of Barngarla words and phrases as spoken by Moonie Davis, an Aboriginal man with Kokatha and Barngarla descent. Moonie was recorded by linguist Luise Hercus at Andamooka in 1965.  This recording is extremely valuable as it is the only known recording of a Barngarla speaker.

Dawn made several trips to Adelaide to undertake research for the project, working closely with MLT linguist Dr Paul Monaghan.

Dawn’s presentation, designed to be used on a school Smartboard, will be a valuable tool for teaching the Barngarla language. Each slide displays the word in Barngarla and English, is illustrated with colourful paintings made by the students of Hincks Avenue and Whyalla Stuart Primary Schools, and is accompanied by the sound of Moonie saying the word. There are sixty words and phrases including translations for words such as crow, lizard, magpie, stars and moon.

Part of Dawn’s research included comparing the words and finding similarities to those in the Barngarla word list of Clamor Schürmann. Schürmann was a Lutheran missionary and pastor and was appointed Protector of Aborigines at Pt Lincoln in the early 1840s where he established a native Barngarla school and published a dictionary of the Barngarla language.

Last week, MLT members took the final product over to Whyalla so Dawn could show it to her sister Anita, her daughter Coinelia and her grandson, Roman. It was an emotional moment for Anita to see Dawn’s work. “This is the best thing ever,” she said. “I feel we have finally woken our language and now we can share it. I’m the happiest woman in the world and this is a dream come true”.

In regard to the whole experience Dawn says, “I loved it!” She says she has learnt valuable research skills and is looking forward to her next project.

Dawn’s work is part of a current drive to revive the Barngarla language in Whyalla and the Eyre Peninsula region driven by the Barngarla community and assisted by Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, also from the University of Adelaide, who holds MLT-assisted workshops in the area on the Barngarla language.