Phrasebook

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Preface

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.

Greetings

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.

Kunwok English Comments
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)

Introductions

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.

Kunwok English Comments
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)

Working together

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).

Kunwok English Comments
baleh karriyime? what are we doing? (to a group; includes the people you're addressing)
yibimbun you're painting/writing
yimilebun you're weaving
yidulkdadke you're cutting wood (kundulk = tree)
yikarung you're digging
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
werrk! hurry up!
yeledj yeledj! slow down!
med! wait!
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.

Kunwok English Comments
ngudda kamak? are you (all) good?
kamak yiyoy? did you sleep well?
ngurriyerrka all sit down
ngurridolkka all stand up
ngurribiddjirridjburren wash your hands (kunbid = hand)
yibawo! stop that!
yimray! come!
ngurribidyikarrmerrimen help each other
yuwn yibidbun don't climb it

To do

  • 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)