Languages

Warrgamay Books to Preserve Australia’s Indigenous Language

Warrgamay Books to Preserve Australia’s Indigenous Language
Bernadine Racoma

Language holds the key to basic understanding and communication among people all over the world. The evolution of language is actively seen in the introduction of new words and vocabulary, which flow with the present times. However such evolution has caused the vanishing of native tongues spoken by indigenous people. In Australia however, there is a resolute objective among the Warrgamay ethnic group to reclaim their language by publishing storybooks written in Warrgamay.

Vanishing language

Australia’s aborigines spoke Warrgamay language. It is the first language that connected the early people in this land. With the passing of time however, and with the arrival of foreign settlers in the territory, Warrgamay use declined significantly until it almost vanished and became forgotten. English and other languages spoken by immigrants have become more prominent and education has taken a different form as well as it radically developed and leaned toward Western culture. These circumstances have pushed to the background the core language and ethnicity of the nation and subsequently losing the unique identity of its indigenous race.

Indigenous settlers

Warrgamay is an indigenous group of people in the Ingham region of North Queensland. The aborigines who flocked to this state came some 60,000 years ago and thereon stayed until European explorers arrived. Warrgamay language was a thriving language during the early settlement years of the natives but the coming of western influence gradually faded out the indigenous tongue. Although there remain fragments of the language in some isolated areas, Warrgamay is dangerously disappearing in the annals of history.

Reviving the language

Hope is not lost for Warrgamay. Presently, there are dedicated people who come from the same ethnicity that are working on the revival of the language. Children are now being taught its rudiments through stories. Classroom learning for Warrgamay school children is allotting time for ethnic language teaching. The last decade has taken a dramatic turn for Warrgamay people in their desire to reclaim their language by using the most effective and basic tool – education.

Warrgamay language books

Recently, two story books for children written in Warrgamay and English have been out from publication. Two Warrgamay sisters, Bridget and Melinda wrote the books “My Mala Love to Clap” and “No Manjara on the Bus,” digging from their personal pockets to finance the publication. Faith Baisden helped the two sisters in the production and publication of the books. The objective of Bridget and Melinda is to help not only the youth to re-learn the language, but likewise assist parents, families and older people to reestablish the value of the Warrgamay language.

“Learning an indigenous language is important because indigenous languages are Australia’s first languages,” Bridget, one of the authors said. Bridget and Melinda are hopeful that through these books, the pride of the indigenous race will resurface and be preserved for future generations.

Traditional books and new technology

The two Warrgamay books in print will also be reproduced with the use of new technology. They will soon be available in audio version, with the help of ABC studio. The Warrgamay people welcome the project with the optimism that it will pave the way in fully reclaiming their language which at one time faced the threat of extinction.

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