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“Head, shoulders, knees and toes” is not an Aboriginal song

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Item Summary

Title: “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” is not an Aboriginal song
Issue Date: 02 Mar 2013
Description: Music has always been an important vehicle for the transmission and preservation of culture in Australian Aboriginal societies. The songlines that record and maintain the heroic tales of the Dreaming ancestors tie different language groups together and give structure to the physical and social world of the living. Song has also figured strongly in Australian contact history and the consequent loss of its Indigenous language heritage, ever since the first missionaries began teaching Christian hymns to the ‘natives’.

Music has also long been accepted as an effective teaching tool across many societies, and language teachers, in particular, have established that song is especially helpful in the development of second language skills (Techmeier, 1969; Jolly, 1975; Urbanic & Vizmuller, 1981). It is not surprising then that, in contemporary Indigenous Australian language revitalisation classrooms, songs are both very popular and almost always translations of well-known English songs - so much so that some have come to be regarded as obligatory, if not best practice.

However, while this strategy not only uses Aboriginal languages as vehicles to perpetuate the transmission of invader culture, the mismatch between English stress, tone and rhythm patterns and those of traditional Aboriginal languages risks the transmission of phonetically distorted versions of them. This paper examines the potential cultural and linguistic risks associated with using Western (English) music and songs in Indigenous Australian revitalisation classrooms and reports on teacher-practitioner research conducted to assess the potential and value of using culturally marked Aboriginal song styles instead. It is presented collaboratively by student and teacher in the Master of Indigenous Languages Education program at the University of Sydney.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/26103
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)



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