Summer school provides Pitjantjatjara language skills

A group of students recently completed an intensive language course at UniSA’s Pitjantjatjara Summer School, tutored by six Anangu educators. HUMANITIES
A group of students recently completed an intensive language course at UniSA’s Pitjantjatjara Summer School, tutored by six Anangu educators.

Forty-six students recently completed a two-week intensive language course at UniSA’s Pitjantjatjara Summer School, tutored by six Anangu educators.

The students, including 11 from UniSA and other universities, and the remainder from industry and community services, were the first to undertake the course within the School of Education at UniSA’s Magill Campus.

UniSA has taught Pitjantjatjara courses since its establishment but they were previously offered within the David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education and Research (DUCIER), and more recently, UniSA’s School of Creative Industries.

UniSA Associate Director: Regional Engagement (APY Lands) Dr Sam Osborne says the course is offered to undergraduate and postgraduate students as part of their degree, as well as people who work in communities where Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara is commonly spoken.

“Our intake includes nurses, doctors, lawyers, police – basically professionals who interact closely with first language speakers,” he says.

Over a fortnight, six Anangu tutors work intensively with the students to familiarise them with the sounds of the language, its grammar and structure, and the cultural context of the language.

“They come away performing a dialogue from memory and then writing and performing their own dialogue. They’re certainly not fluent by the end of two weeks but this program starts them on a journey.

“There is also a strong focus on sharing Anangu culture, history and stories, which has immense value for the students,” Dr Osborne says.

He says the feedback has been “extremely positive”.

“The Anangu tutors are outstanding teachers. They create a rich environment for learning and engaging with the language.”

With approximately 3000 fluent speakers, Pitjantjatjara is the second most common Australian Aboriginal language (behind Djambarrpuyngu) that continues to be transmitted to children and spoken as their first language.

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