Academic journal article Language, Learning & Technology

The Role of the Computer in Learning Ndj Bbana

Academic journal article Language, Learning & Technology

The Role of the Computer in Learning Ndj Bbana

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

While Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is being superseded by an integrated approach to language learning and technology, it still has great potential to assist indigenous peoples in becoming print-literate in their own languages. This can also help to combat the disempowerment experienced by indigenous people as their world is penetrated by others with radically different backgrounds. This paper reports on research on an application of CALL implemented among the Kunib dji, a remote, indigenous Australian community. It focuses on the use of talking books in Ndj bbana, a language with only 200 speakers; the books were displayed on touch-screens at various locations in the community. Investigations into the roles of the computer to support language learning and cultural understanding are also reported. The computer was found to be a useful tool in promoting Kunib dji collaboration and cultural transformation.

INTRODUCTION

The history of the Kunib dji and the history of CALL are two diverse narratives that have only recently intersected. The 200 Kunib dji people all live in Maningrida which is a remote community on an indigenous Australian reserve in North Australia. All the Kunib dji people have strong links to land and seas in and around Maningrida, as they have for centuries. While all Kunib dji children learn Ndj bbana as their first language, as adults they converse in a variety of languages that are spoken by other Indigenous Australians who live in Maningrida.

About 10 years ago, I arrived in Maningrida. In the last few years, I have had the honour of working with the Kunib dji to implement CAN. My ethnographic research is based on observations and participation in the process of creation and presenting CAN resources around the Maningrida, while working as a teacher at the school. I am not a Kunib dji person, so this paper is presented from the perspective of a non indigenous Australian.

At the same time as the settlement of Maningrida was being developed, CALL was evolving in other parts of the world. When computers were finally made available to the Kunib dji children at school, CALL was used to support the teaching and learning of English. Computer-assisted Ndj bbana (CAN) was developed in an attempt to support the teaching and learning of Ndj bbana on the computer. This paper examines the role of the computer in CAN in an attempt to find some transferable processes that could be used in other indigenous contexts where the computer is used to support a minority language.

Justification for Introducing CAN to the Kunib dji

Many past reasons for introducing CALL do not apply directly to the Kunib dji situation owing to the different cultural context. Nevertheless, one good reason for implementing CAN is to make the complexity of Ndj bbana print more accessible to the students. McKay (2000) classified Ndj bbana as a non-Pama-Nyungan language as it makes use of prefixes as well as suffixes for derivation in inflection. (p. 155). Ndj bbana verb morphology is "rather complex" (p. 156) and when children begin writing and reading Ndj bbana they soon encounter complex words. For example, Barrar djibanja nalak rrbbiba barrayirr yanja translates to English as "A boy and a girl walking along the road." While CAN does not change the complexity of Ndj bbana, it may provide a useful way of integrating the text with a variety of literacy cues available in the different channels of multimedia.

A second justification comes from the repeated requests from the Kunib dji community over the past 20 years to maintain a Ndj bbana bilingual program that promotes Kunib dji involvement in the school and improves the children's literacy. CAN has the potential to respond to these requests through the creation and presentation of interactive Ndj bbana resources. Kunib dji electronic literacies can be initiated through the use of CAN in the Ndj bbana bilingual program. …

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