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Creating a digital shell for Indigenous language and culture sharing

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Title:Creating a digital shell for Indigenous language and culture sharing
Authors:Bow, Cathy
Contributors:Bow, Cathy (speaker)
Date Issued:03 Mar 2017
Description:While there are many community-based programs for learning Indigenous languages around the world, there appears to be a dearth of opportunities to study these at a university level. This lack of opportunity and visibility has implications for language maintenance efforts, workforce development, language policy, advocacy, and academic research. With over 100 Indigenous languages still spoken in Australia, only 6-7 languages are currently available at university level (University Languages Portal Australia, 2016). Most Australian universities profess support for the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and culture in the intellectual life of the academy, however the multiplicity and complexity of issues makes the development and delivery of language courses difficult, requiring careful local negotiation across many different groups. An experimental and generative solution to the perceived problems is the development of an online ‘shell’ through which Aboriginal knowledge authorities can teach their languages, histories, art and other knowledge and culture forms to university students, on their own terms. The goal is to enable Australian university students to access the on-line study resources and to engage with language speakers and owners, through arrangements negotiated on a case-by-case basis by their universities. Ideally this will create opportunities for students across different disciplines to access language materials to inform their studies in linguistics, medicine, education, environment, law, etc., as well as equipping those planning to work in Indigenous communities and attracting those with a general interest in the area. It will also create opportunities for Aboriginal people in remote communities to become professionally involved in the delivery of language, knowledge and culture services in their own ways, on their own terms. A pilot program in 2016 involved collaboration with one Northern Territory language community which was already actively sharing their knowledge and language online, to develop content for the digital shell. Volunteer learners were invited to participate in the resulting online course, which consisted of four units of language and culture, and give feedback. This presentation will include a description of the pilot program, including some of the negotiations involved with local language and knowledge authorities, technical aspects of setting up the site and selecting resources, and preliminary results of the trial with feedback from volunteer learners and the language community. Lessons learned from the pilot project will inform further development of the resource, with a view to sharing the shell with other communities interested in developing their own courses. REFERENCES University Languages Portal Australia (2016). Accessed 28 June 2016.
Appears in Collections: 5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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