A version of this story, by Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi and Karina Lester, Mobile Language Team, was first published as a case study on First Languages Australia's guide “Warra: Building teams, building resources.”
Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi (KWP), a group of community members, teachers, linguists and language enthusiasts who are teaching the Kaurna language of the Kaurna people, the original inhabitants of the Adelaide Plains area in South Australia, is creating online video lessons for language revitalization.
The Kaurna ‘Lessons’ series currently runs to eight episodes. Two charismatic presenters and members of the Kaurna community, Jack Kanya Buckskin and Taylor Tipu Power-Smith, are the public faces of this project.
In the lessons, Buckskin says some basic greetings, vocabulary words and phrases of the Kaurna language and explains their meanings. He also highlights words around hobbies such as golf, cycling, and Australian Rules Football or “Tidna partnu” — the country's most popular sport — in the Kaurna language. In this video, Buckspin and his friends highlight some of the more commonly used terminology in the sport, such as words for kicking, hand balling, and bending.
Another of the series is targeted at Kaurna youth through the program ‘Kaurna for Kids’, hosted by Power-Smith. It combines video, animation and puppets and is proving very popular. One of the most viewed videos highlights some of the animals that inhabit the Adelaide region with their respective Kaurna names.
Animal puppets also make an appearance teaching words and singing songs in the local language. This program called “Pirltawardl” or “The Possum's House” features characters such as Kuula the Koala and Pirlta the Possum.
When KWP was first looking to create online resources for language vitalization, they settled on video as the medium, since they already counted enthusiastic people with video production skills as part of the group.
With this existing video production knowledge, the language team looked at the different options for video language resources, such as documentary, drama, educational, etc., and decided a series of language lessons would be the most useful community tool.
The project is a collaboration with the Department of Linguistics in the School of Humanities at the University of Adelaide and is funded by the Australian Government Indigenous Language and Arts program.
While the videos are publicly available online and accessible by anyone, KWP hopes that viewers will treat the language with the same reverence that community members do. A statement on the KWP website states:
Kaurna language and culture is the property of the Kaurna community. Users of this site are urged to use the language with respect. This means making every effort to get the pronunciation, spelling and grammar right. Kaurna people reserve the right to monitor the use of the language in public. Users of this site should consult with Kaurna people about use of the language in the public domain.
Accessing fun and interactive videos is an ideal way to reach young and old alike, and the response has been favorable. Karina Lester, from the South Australian Mobile Language Team, said in an interview:
These YouTube clips are a great example of using technology to meet their audience—Kaurna youth in Adelaide. Having young Jack and Taylor presenting these language sessions is inspiring to other young Kaurna kids to take on learning their language.