Sydney School Revives Lost Aboriginal Language

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A school in Sydney, Australia is teaching its students Dharug.

What’s so unusual about this foreign language offering? According to an article on Voice of America news, Dharug is an aboriginal language that was once one of the main Aboriginal dialects and was spoken where the city of Sydney stands today. However, it disappeared after British settlers colonized Australia. Chifley College’s Dunheved campus is leading an effort to revive it by teaching to students of both aboriginal and non-indigenous students.

Given the amount of time that has passed since Dharug was used in everyday conversation, experts say that reviving it completely will probably require borrowing words to creating new vocabulary to describe all the new technologies and situations that have become common place since the language disappeared.

Also, Aboriginal languages are not easy to learn. John Hobson, a professor who teaches the languages at Sydney University, describes them as being somewhere in between Japanese and Latin in terms of complexity. However, the students at Chifley College’s Dunheved campus seem to be doing a good job picking up Dharug. Richard Green, the Dharug instructor, told Voice of America, “We’ve already reclaimed it, that’s why there is so much interest. People are already speaking it. They speak our language from here, so when you walk in the school of a morning you hear ‘warami’- hello, good to see you. ”

By preserving and teaching the language, the school is able to pass on a piece of local history to the students. Steve Dargin, a student, told VOA he liked learning the language because “It’s good especially for the blackfellas. You get to talk about your own culture and all that. Learn more stuff, speak it out of school.”