The first challenge for a balanda learner of Kunwok is to get used to the idea that there's no words for hello or thank you. We like to discuss the weather with strangers, but here in West Arnhem, there's not much to discuss, except to remark on it being cold if it falls below 20.
When speaking with people, it is good to minimise eye contact. Sustained eye contact may come across as domineering.
You'll probably need help to pronounce these phrases correctly. Please see the pronunciation guide and the podcasts. Feel free to ask bininj for advice; a whitefella asking for advice is like a breath of fresh air out here.
When greeting people, you'll probably be the one to initiate the interaction. If you're not an outgoing kind of person, you'll have to pretend! It is completely appropriate to show curiosity about where people are going and what they are doing, even if you hardly know them.
|ngudda kamak?||are you good?||(use with any size of group)|
|yoh, kamak||yes, good|
|baleh yire?||where are you going?||(said to just one person)|
|ngare shop||I'm going to the shop||(it's ok to include English words)|
|yire kakbi||you're going north||(fine to state the obvious)|
|yimdurndi||you've come back|
|baleh keno yimdurndi||when are you coming back?|
|ngawarnyak wak||I can't stand the crows|
|mah bonj, ngare||ok, I'm going|
|nan kaluk||see you later||(use with any size of group)|
Here your challenge is to get over needing to know someone's name. Learn their skin name, and optionally the kinship term you use for them, and try to just use that. Don't be afraid to ask the same question again next time you see someone. It's better to ask again and use it to consolidate what you're learning. Once you know people, you might ask if you can sit with them.
|ngaye nakamarrang||I'm nakamarrang||(give your skin name if you have one)|
|baleh kunkurlah nguddangke?||what's your skin?|
|nangale ngunwong?||who gave it to you?||(your skin name)|
|njale marneyime?||what do I call you?||(elicits a kinship term)|
|baleh ngudda beh?||where are you from?|
|ngaye Melbourne beh||I'm from Melbourne|
|kamak bu ngayerrkan?||good if I sit?||(i.e. may I sit)|
Another adjustment when learning Kunwok is all the long words, e.g. karridjarrkdurrkmirri, which can be broken down into karri-djarrk-durrkmirri (we-together-work).
|baleh karriyime?||what are we doing?||(to a group; includes the people you're addressing)|
|yidulkdadke||you're cutting wood||(kundulk = tree)|
|yimang mandengiyi||you're fetching the vehicle|
|karridjarrkdurrkmirri||we're working together||(djarrk = together)|
|karribebbehdurrkmirri||we're working separately||(bebbeh = separately)|
|ngawarrewong||I made a mistake|
|yeledj yeledj!||slow down!|
|karriyakwong||we finished it|
|ngamarnbun djura||I'm doing the timesheet||(djura = paper)|
In the classroom
Note that expressions involving yi- are addressed to an individual, while those with ngurri- are addressed to a group. Feel free to replace yi- with ngurri and vice versa, as needed.
|ngudda kamak?||are you (all) good?|
|kamak yiyoy?||did you sleep well?|
|ngurriyerrka||all sit down|
|ngurridolkka||all stand up|
|ngurribiddjirridjbu||wash your hands||(kunbid = hand)|
|ngurribidyikarrmerrimen||help each other|
|yuwn yibidbun||don't climb it|
- on the road (yibidbu karrire)
- hospitality (kanwo djukka, kundjikka)
- ailments (ngababang)
- sorry business (ngarribidkurrmeng)
- dogs (duruk yingudmen)
- going fishing
- making a fire (ngayawan kunyerrng ngaworrkme)
- (requests welcome)