Language Landscape


We are pleased to announce the launch of Language Landscape 

a language mapping website which enables everyone everywhere to map their language. Users of the site can upload recordings and pin them on the map where they happened. Each contribution helps us to build a better picture of where languages are really spoken around the world. Our aim is to provide a collaborative online environment where linguists and native speakers can work together to create useful and interesting maps which document the diversity of oral cultures and their geographic spread. We hope that the website will also contribute to greater awareness of language diversity and its precarious future in the public mind.

We are actively seeking contributions from researchers and native speakers, in particular recordings of smaller/endangered languages; recordings of minority languages in countries which have a large monolingual majority; recordings which document multilingualism on an individual or societal level, and groups of recordings made across a geographical area which document language variation. Please contribute your recordings and help us to grow!

With further funding/investment we plan to translate the site into other languages, develop a dedicated mobile app which will make it even easier to create and map recordings using a single mobile device, and gamify the upload process to encourage more contributions from non-specialists and young people.

We welcome feedback and suggestions for improvement of the site, please send us your thoughts at

To visit our website, please go to:



Some postings from other websites and resources that support bilingual learning

Some vital signs for Aboriginal languages 

from the website THE CONVERSATION, written by Michael Christie, Brian Devlin and Cathy Bow.


Will Aboriginal languages still have a role in school learning?

Current NT Government policies do not appear to favour the use of Indigenous languages in the classroom, but the Australian Research Council has recently agreed to fund a second stage of the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages





Responses to the DRAFT report of the Indigenous Education Review for the Northern Territory Government

Some of the responses to the DRAFT report of the Indigenous Education Review will be available to read on the FOBL website. FOBL encourages you to share these responses with people who are involved in Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory and beyond.

Thank you


NT News report on Education Minister Chandler's visit to Queensland to view an approach used in some schools call Direct Instruction.

pdfDirect Instruction- Effective for What and for Whom?

The DRAFT Report of the Indigenous Education Review by Bruce Wilson, The Education Business for the Northern Territory Government 

FOBL response to the DRAFT Report of the Indigenous Education Review

Letter to FOBL from Minister for Education, December 2012

pdf100 Union (AEUNT) and 60 community members' response to the Draft Report of the the Indigenous Education Review for the Northern Territory Government

Ninti One: Innovation for remote Australia, response to the Draft Report of theReview of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory

pdfP Gibbons, response to the DRAFT Report of the Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory

docxYirrkala Sub-branch, Australian Education Union (NT) response to the Draft Report of the Indigenous Education Review for the Northern Territory Government

docxK Heugh, response to the Draft Report of the Indigenous Education Review for the Northern Territory Government

pdfAuSIL response to the DRAFT Report of the Indigenous Education Review

Indigenous Languages in Education: What the research shows, C.E. Grimes, AuSIL, 2009

Multilingual Education

pdfB Devlin, Charles Darwin University, response to the DRAFT Report of the Indigenous Education Review

pdfM Laughren, response to the DRAFT Report of the Indigenous Education Review

pdfL J White, response to the DRAFT Report of the Indigenous Education Review

pdfR Watt, response to the DRAFT Report of the Indigenous Education Review

pdfT Stockley, response to the DRAFT Report of the Indigenous Education Review

 National Indigenous Languages Survey 2, 2014, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

National Indigenous Languages Survey 2 NILS2

Indigenous languages link to health and well-being. Accessed from AIATSIS Website 7 March 2014 -

Results of the National Indigenous Languages Survey 2 (NILS 2) released today, paint a complex picture of the current state of health of Indigenous languages in Australia, but also show a growing recognition of their value as elements of identity and self-esteem.

Download The Full Report

The survey, funded by the Ministry for the Arts, Attorney-General's Department through the Indigenous Languages Support program, is the second such undertaking by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), who engaged with language organisations and individuals to garner information on two key areas – language activities and language attitudes.
AIATSIS Chair Professor Mick Dodson said the complicated picture produced by the results showed the continuing trend of increased language loss across the country.
"From the information collected we estimate there's around 120 Indigenous languages still spoken today – a drop from 145 in 2005," Professor Dodson said.
"But at the same time, languages such as Wiradjuri from central western New South Wales are being revived and are now taught to children in local schools. This positive outcome clearly indicates the need for federal, state and territory governments to allocate funding for the development and delivery of programs to train language workers, interpreters and teachers."
Respondents to the survey held an almost unanimous view that connecting with and learning about language has a powerfully beneficial effect on people's well-being.
Dr Jakelin Troy, Director of Research in Indigenous Social and Cultural Wellbeing at AIATSIS, said there is a growing recognition of the value of Australia's Indigenous languages not only for communication, but also to strengthen identity and self-esteem.
"Languages are central to our identity, and remaining connected with them is critical to our well-being. Our recommendation is that further research into the connection between language and well-being is absolutely necessary," Dr Troy said.
"The report strongly suggests our languages be recognised in the Australian Constitution as the first languages of Australia and promoted as a fundamental part of the unique heritage of our country. Governments and language advocacy groups should promote the importance of using our languages at home – especially with children.
"Survey respondents want their languages taught in schools because it is clear that this helps students succeed – they were united in saying they want their languages to be strong well into the future."
AIATSIS is world-renowned as the premier research, collecting and publishing organisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, traditions, languages and stories. It is internationally recognised as a leader in setting ethical standards and practices for Australian Indigenous research, publishing, language revival, cultural collection management and access protocols.

Download The Full Report (741 KB) -

DRAFT Report of the Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory


The Draft Report of the Review of  Indigenous Education Review in the Northern Report was released by Bruce Wilson, The Education Business on the 7 February 2014.

The review has already sparked criticism, consultations are currently in progress. The dates and places are as follows:


Click on this website to view the report

For further information, several blogposts provide further comments regarding the report:

A link to Bruce Wilson- the author of the review,  on ABC Radio National Life Matters:

     Bruce Wilson Interview in Alice Springs

      ABC Darwin local radio with Vicki Kerrigan:

That Munanga Linguist:

Combatting School Injustice:

Language blog: and,

Alice Springs News Online - Article followed by comments regarding the  DRAFT Report of the Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory


Australia is the place of vanishing languages

A dictionary of two central Australian languages was recently discovered at the State Library of New South Wales.

More needs to be done to protect Indigenous languages and the culture and heritage they represent, writes Chris Raja.
Recently, at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney University's Dr Michael Walsh made a significant discovery. In boxes of unpublished papers he unearthed a 125-page dictionary of two central Australian languages – Arrarnta and Luritja – compiled by German missionary Carl Strehlow.
Walsh has been working with Ronald Briggs, the Indigenous services librarian at the State Library, investigating the languages used among Indigenous Australians.

Vanishing languages
When I read a news report of Walsh's find, I immediately told my Western Arrarnta friends. No-one in the community was aware of the discovery, but they all were in agreement that these important Western Arrarnta word lists should make their way back to central Australia. At the least, they would like to see the box and its contents.
The find got me thinking about my own culture, language and heritage. I was born in Calcutta and love to hear Bengali spoken. I am proud of filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, who made films in his local vernacular that the entire world grew to love. I appreciate the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore.
Due to various circumstances, I cannot speak or read Bengali and this disconnects me from the place of my birth. I dream I am in the arms of Kali attempting to cut the mother's tongue out. Sure, I still know some Hindi, but that too is being erased from my memory with time and distance.
I wonder what my Australian children will make of my old country? Are we Australian forever now? Or, will they too one day like to learn the language and more of the culture of their father's place of birth? Or will they choose to learn one of the many Indigenous languages that surround them in the Northern Territory?
I know I need to - and long to - celebrate more films, books, articles and plays in a variety of languages. Language defines a group of people. It is the voice of culture and heritage. Nothing is possible without language.
The definition of cultural heritage can vary. It can be physical – such as that contained in culturally-significant buildings, landscapes and artefacts – or intangible, contained in language, music, movies and customs, festivals, and food.
But it's not just old things, pretty things, or physical things. Cultural heritage involves strong human emotions. The role language, culture and heritage plays in a person's life and community cannot be underestimated. Culture is the basis of all social identity and development, and cultural heritage is the legacy that each generation receives and passes on. In a sense, it is what makes us human.
There are other considerations, such as what happens to a culture that is brought so low that its language is taken from it. Once you take away a nation's language, you take away its soul. Once language is lost, people are forced to think and see the world differently. They lose their mother tongue.
In the past, before colonisation, the First Australian languages and dialects were spoken. But later, even well into the 1960s, children were punished for speaking their own languages in schools in various parts of Australia. Former prime minister Gough Whitlam introduced bilingual education in schools in Australia in December 1972. But in 2008, the NT Government announced that school programs were to be taught only in English for the first four hours of every school day. The policy was replaced with a new policy in 2012, which stated that home and local languages "can and should be used where appropriate to support the learning and acquisition of concepts."
The Four Hours In English policy had disastrous consequences. Languages are in threat of dying out. Australia is the place of vanishing languages. The truth is that the West, and in particular the English language, has run over most other languages and cultures like a semitrailer truck. It has been nothing short of devastating.
Recognising, respecting and celebrating languages, diversity and cultural heritage is integral to healthy, harmonious relationships. Cultural heritage is not static. Culture and language changes over time and approaches need to be dynamic and adaptive. Effective cultural heritage management can have wide economic, social and environmental benefits.
So what place is there for Australian Indigenous languages? And should we care for languages that have a thousand or a hundred or so speakers left? Is it a terrible tragedy that most Aboriginal Australian languages are dead and will never be heard again? Is it okay that we are not terribly worried about that? How are we to ensure the vitality and the ongoing viability of the languages we still do have?
We need to create more content in Australian Indigenous languages. Encourage more language centres and active language speakers. Support the right people with administrative and technological help. By doing these things, we will be helping tourism, young rangers, health workers, teachers and students.
Put simply, culture, language and heritage matter. The fact is schools in the Northern Territory where I live have, for the last ten years, overlooked the importance of Australian Indigenous languages and cross-generational learning.
I have witnessed first hand how little importance we have placed on Australian Indigenous languages even though bilingualism is a gift for us as a nation. The same could probably be said for the United States or Canada.
I wonder how many Indigenous language groups are known or could be named by the majority of Australians? I look forward to the day a prime minister of this country can speak one of the many Australian Indigenous languages. Now that would be something.
We need to celebrate the multilingual diversity of Australia, especially amongst its first people. Instead of devaluing the fact that this nation's first people can speak several languages, can we respect two-way learning? Let's cherish the wealth and wonder of people who still know these old, rare languages and stories that we have tried so hard to eradicate.

by Christopher Raja, an Alice Springs-based writer. 
First posted November 19, 2013 14:35:04

Aboriginal languages a source of strength

Language is an expression of culture and gives a connection to family, country and community.

Ninety two percent of Indigenous languages are fading or extinct. Australia has suffered the largest and most rapid known loss of languages and past government policies have been largely to blame.

This is clearly outlined in the Our Land: Our Languages report which was released by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs late last year.

The committee found governments had actively repressed the use of Indigenous languages throughout contemporary Australian history. They did so by outlawing the use by Aboriginal people of their mother tongue.

Australia’s first chair of endangered languages, Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann from the University of Adelaide puts it bluntly. Those policies have resulted in “linguicide”.

Languages strength

 Zuckermann cited the 2005 National Indigenous Language Survey (NILS) Report to reinforce his point. It shows Australia was home to more than 250 distinct languages before European invasion.

Aboriginal people were typically multilingual. They were likely to speak as many as half a dozen languages, in addition to their own. Today, most of Australia’s Indigenous languages are no longer spoken fully or fluently.

As many as 50 languages can be expected to reach this stage of endangerment in the next 20 to 30 years, as the most severely and critically endangered languages lose their last speakers.

Of the original known languages, the NILS report found only 18 to be “safe/strong” in the sense of being spoken by all age groups. Just over 100 are still alive but highly endangered, spoken only by small groups of people mostly over 40 years of age.

Without decisive action, NILS reported, such languages are at risk of being lost in the next 10 to 30 years. The remainder are either no longer used or remain active as strong markers of country and identity. All continue to face uncertain futures and require ongoing action and support.

So what, you may ask, is so tragic about the loss of a language? Isn’t language just a tool for communication? Does it really matter what language is being spoken as long as people can communicate?

The simple answer is yes.

It matters on a personal, cultural and historical level. Language is far more than just a communication tool. It is a source of pride and strength.

It is an expression of culture and a way to keep the very essence of that culture alive. It goes to the heart and soul of one’s identity. It gives connection to family, country and community.

Language is a crucial and often missing part of the puzzle when it comes to tackling Indigenous disadvantage.

Research has shown Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who speak their language have markedly better physical and mental health, are more likely to be employed and to attend school, and are less likely to abuse alcohol or be charged by the police.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages also carry an intimate understanding of the ecological systems and the land with which they are associated.

Speaking in one’s native tongue forms a crucial component in unlocking and passing down knowledge from generation to generation. Many Australians fail to understand this.

This is not surprising. The 2011 Census revealed 81% of Australians aged five years and over speak only English at home.

The census found first-generation Australians had the highest proportion of people who spoke a language other than English at home (53%).

The rate was much lower for second generation Australians at 20% while the incidence for third or more generations dropped to an abysmal 1.6%.

It is a sad reality and a reflection on the repressive need to conform that parents often choose to speak English at home instead of their native tongue in their pursuit to become more “Australian” and to help their children fit in.

As a first generation Australian of Indian descent, my parents made the decision to abandon their use of Tamil and Hindi in an effort to help my brother and I “fit in.”

Almost 30 years later that decision remains a highly contested point of conversation and source of tension between us.

When I travelled through India in 2011 with my father I felt locked out of my culture and family.

I could not understand what priests were saying during temple ceremonies or the reasons behind my great grandmother’s tears when she spoke in Tamil about our family’s history.

“What did he say? What did she say?” I would continually ask.

“I’ll tell you later,” my father would reply. He never did. I eventually stopped asking.

On a recent trip to Fiji, a close family friend of my mother’s broke down as she spoke in Hindi about her personal experience during the 1987 military coup.

She explained where the latest coup fit in the context of Fiji’s historic volatile relations between the military and government and what it was like for Indians growing up in Fiji.

It was an opportunity to understand the significance of my mother’s decision to leave her homeland in search of a better life for her family. But over the course of two hours I was only able to decipher a few details.

Despite being able to speak English fluently, my mother’s friend felt more comfortable relaying her deeply personal account in Hindi.

When I asked my mother what was said all I received were the broad strokes. The finer details remain locked behind the mother tongue.

By Shyamla Eswaran

[This article was first published at Tracker.]

From GLW issue 992

Saturday, December 7, 2013



How cuts to the NT Education Department could widen the gap



How cuts to the NT Education Department could widen the gap

WAMUT | OCT 31, 2013


First, they rejected Gonski because too much funding would go to remote community schools. Now, the NT Education department is cutting positions that are key in supporting Aboriginal students who don’t speak English at home. Greg Dickson demonstrates the benefit that such support positions can bring and argues that the NT Government’s handling of education could easily cause the much-discussed “gap” to widen rather than narrow.

Yesterday’s report on school attendance paints another bleak picture for Aboriginal education in remote parts of the Northern Territory. School attendance, which already sat at a low base, is worsening. This is on top of unacceptably low rates of students meeting standardised testing benchmarks which puts the NT as the worst performing COAG member. Yet at the same time, the Northern Territory Government is responding in ways that raise serious doubts about whether they are acting to improve the situation.

Earlier this year when the former Labor Federal Government was working hard to roll out the Gonski recommendations to the states and territories, no amount of coaxing could get NT Chief Minister Adam Giles and the NT Government on board. According to them, it required them to spend money they didn’t have. Even after the Federal Government sweetened the deal by offering an extra $75 million to their contribution, the NT Government still decided to pass. In addition to budgetary reasons, the CLP Government felt it was an unfair model because, in rebalancing school funding, the main beneficiaries would be remote schools – i.e. predominantly Aboriginal students.

Giles’ press release bleated: Canberra is trying to hoodwink us into signing up to a bad deal that diverts money away from urban students in Darwin, the rural area, Palmerston, Alice Springs and Katherine and redistributes it to remote schools.

Increase support for remote schools where students are faring the worst? God forbid! And so it appeared that the status quo in remote NT education was to remain. But only until the NT Government started to put its cuts to the education department on the table, cuts that only look like exacerbating an already bad situation when it comes to remote Aboriginal students.

At a rally in Darwin last month, Dr M Yunupiŋu’s widow, Yalmay, a qualified teacher with over 30 years experience, presented a bark painting to the NT Government, symbolising the importance of education. The Government hasn’t budged and will cut positions; on Monday the ABC reported that 71 positions will be cut which “will include class support roles, such as English-Second-Language teachers and behavioural support staff”. Further reports on the ground are that the department’s linguists have been left off organisational charts, the “English as an Additional Language” unit has been decimated and ESL and Indigenous language support positions in North-east Arnhem Land are gone (despite NT Education Minister Peter Chandler claiming that part of the restructuring is about regionalisation).


Recent education rally in Darwin (Photo source: ABC)

It should be of grave concern that the NT Government thinks that ESL specialists are superfluous and is putting them on the chopping block. Such educational support is absolutely crucial to the Northern Territory which has the nation’s highest proportion of residents who don’t speak English at home. Linguists, ESL teachers and other specialised educational professionals who support non-English speaking students have been a key part of the NT’s education system since the 1970s when bilingual education was rolled out, allowing, for the first time, Aboriginal kids to read, write and learn in the same language they think in: their mother tongue.

But it’s not nostalgia for the era when bilingual education was strong that makes it worrying that ESL support staff and linguist positions are being cut. There are few local Indigenous teachers fronting classrooms, speaking the same way their students do. The vast majority of classroom teachers, despite doing fantastic work to deliver the curriculum they are given, are at an immediate disadvantage by knowing very little of the languages their students bring into the classroom each day. This is where specialised staff are crucial and there are already too few of them.

I’ve spent much of my time as a linguist working in the community of Ngukurr where everyone speaks Kriol – a creole language based heavily on English but distinct enough that it has its own sound system, grammatical rules, lexicon and norms on how to do things like ask for stuff, talk about personal issues and discuss grievances. A few years ago, because access to ESL support within the department was difficult to obtain, some motivated non-Indigenous teachers from the local school in Ngukurr asked for help from me, an outsider. Together with a couple of Ngukurr locals, we ran a very basic course on Kriol for about a dozen non-Aboriginal teachers. A two-day course doesn’t get you too far, but can set off some lightbulbs. Some teachers didn’t understand why their students just couldn’t get the hang of making plurals e.g. one dog, two dogs. When we pointed out that Kriol doesn’t mark plurals on nouns (but can do so with articles or adjectives), several teachers had an ‘ah-ha!’ moment. When we told them that Kriol only has a few prepositions and that the Kriol preposition la covers in, on, at and to (among others), it suddenly clicked as to why kids took so long to acquire English prepositions. When we explained that Kriol, like many Aboriginal languages, doesn’t have a separate pronoun for he and she, but just uses im, suddenly teachers understood why some of their students confused the two. And then when we explained that the English pronoun we has four possible translations in Kriol, depending on whether you’re referring to two people or more than two and on whether you are including the person you are talking to or not, we managed to confuse the teachers and replicate what their students experience when they have to grapple with learning a new and complicated language.

This is the type of support and information that linguists and ESL specialists can offer teachers and their students. If the NT Government cuts these positions, not only will teachers not have access to such information and support, even worse – there won’t be anyone in the NT Education Department who even knows this type of helpful linguistic information.

I thought the point was closing the gap, not broadening it.

Written by G Dickson (Wämut) for Fully Sic, Crikey’s Language Blog

Accessed at


SBS Radio News: Restoring Indigenous languages

6 Sep 13: "From an estimated 250 Indigenous languages at 
the time of European settlement, only about 20 are now 
widely spoken in Australia. ... But where governments once 
ordered that the languages not be spoken, they are now 
funding their revival. Whether the restoration efforts are 
enough for widespread revitalisation of the languages is 
yet to be seen, but Indigenous workers in the field say the 
seeds of success are beginning to germinate. South-eastern 
Australia bore the initial brunt of European settlement, 
and with that came a heavy impact on Indigenous culture 
and language." By Murray Silby


From the Gallery

Languages of the Top End