Traditional languages bring Pop to life

Rhonda Ashby and her nephew Creed Gordon at the launch of My Weekend with Pop. Rhonda Ashby is the Aboriginal Language and Culture Nest Teacher of Gamilaraay/ Yuwaalaraay/ Yuwaalayaay based at the Lightning Ridge Central School.

Aboriginal primary and high school students in New South Wales have worked with custodians and linguists to bring a children’s story to life in five traditional languages that can now be studied in classrooms.

My Weekend with Pop is the State Library of New South Wales’ first foray of this kind into audio storytelling in traditional languages and part of its contribution to the revitalisation of the spoken word in the state.

The tale of children spending a weekend with their grandfather — that has grown out of the artwork of Yuwaalaraay woman Lucy Simpson — has been recorded in Paakantyi, Gamilaraay, Dharawal, Wiradjuri and Gumbaynggirr.

Community members from each of the language groups, including children, tell the story in their traditional tongues. There are also English translations.

The recordings have been designed to be incorporated into the NSW school curriculum and are available free to school groups and members of the public on the State Library of New South Wales website here.

State Library of NSW Indigenous Services manager Kirsten Thorpe said the project had been a three-year journey. The recordings went live on the website in July.

Language speakers and custodians from across the state travelled to Sydney to record the audio books.

My Weekend with Pop is us recognising communities still speak language and there is a lot of amazing work happening around language revitalisation,” Ms Thorpe said.

“That’s why we engaged language custodians to give a taste of language.

“It’s about telling stories of contemporary Aboriginal Australia and we feel very proud to be connected to this and all of the recordings.

“The next part of the journey is to get schools and teachers connected with the curriculum resources.

“You don’t want to do all the work to create these and have it sit there; we want to keep it being a living resource.”

Ms Thorpe said with more than 50 Aboriginal languages in NSW, they were hoping to add to the collection in the future.

She said the project had grown out of the library’s Rediscovering Indigenous Languages project.

“In 2011 we had linguist Dr Michael Walsh come in and basically mine the original manuscripts of the library,” Ms Thorpe said.

“He identified significant collections from across Australia relating to languages and the library really invested in that so we could contribute to language revitalisation projects.”

My Weekend with Pop was a partnership between the library, community members, NSW’s Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests and the NSW Education Standards Authority.

Read My Weekend with Pop here.

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