Lesson 3

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Welcome to week 3!

By now some of your bininj and daluk friends may have noticed that you're starting to learn the language, and some of them might be encouraging you onwards.

This week we're going to do another podcast, and put more energy into those skin names. But first, we listen to some fluent Kunwok.

Listening to Kunwok

Let's warm up our ears by listening to Ngalkodjok. She is pleased to know we're using her video to learn Kunwok. Let's focus on just the first 30 seconds, transcribed below. You might like to listen a few times, with and without looking at the transcript, and see if you can start picking out some individual words.

Kunwok Word-for-word translation Phrasal translation
Bu ngad ngarri-yawwurdurd-ni ngandi-bukkabukkani When our we-small.children-were they.us-would.teach When we were little they would teach us
nawu kunkurlah kadberre, kunmokurrkurr about skin our, clan about our skin and our clan
dja kunbolk birri-bolk-ngeybuni ngadberre and country they-country-would.name our and they would name our clan estates
wanj ngarriben-wok-karrme ngarriben-wok-bekkani then we.they-language-have we.they-language-listen we'd grasp the language, we'd listen
minj ngarri-bengmiddayinj not we-would.forget we wouldn't forget it

Notice how some nouns begin with kun- (neuter), e.g. kunbolk country. Notice also that many verbs have the structure pronoun-noun-verb, e.g. birri- they bolk- country ngeybuni would name.

NB the hyphens are "training wheels" and not how the language is officially written.

Learning words for parts of your face

Here's our next session with Total Physical Response. This time we will ask someone to drill us on names for parts of the face. As the words are said, point to that part. Your language guide will tell you what the words mean: kunmim, kunngarbek, kunkeb, kundang, kunkanem, kundjen, kunyidme, kunmilh, kunkom.

Third podcast

Podcast 3: Ngaye, Me
Weavers at Injalak Arts and Craft

Listen to the podcast here or get it from one of the feeds (SoundCloud, iTunes, PlayerFM).

Here are some of the phrases you heard. If you found the podcast difficult, you could work on learning these before going back to the podcast.

podcast 3 vocabulary
  • ngud.da, nja.le yi.marn.bun What are you doing/making?
  • nga.marn.bun kun.madj I'm making a basket
  • yid.dok Is that so?
  • nga.dja.re nga.wok.di kun.wok I want to speak kunwok
  • na.nga.le yi.ngey.yo What is your name? (na.nga.le who (masc), ngal.nga.le who (fem))
  • nga.ye ngal.ka.ngi.la I'm Ngalkangila
  • ngud.da ba.leh beh? Where are you from?
  • nga.ye kun.ba.rla.nja beh I'm from Gunbalanya
  • bo.rled.mi.ken other side

Pronunciation: nj

We know this sound in English with words like "onion", "junior", "vignette". We have it at the start of some words too, like "new" (UK and Australian English), and "gnocci". Speakers of Spanish will know this sound as ñ, e.g. mañana morning.

nj-initial words
  • nja.le what
  • nja.med what-cha-ma-call-it
  • njok.me to bark
  • njonj njonj aww cute!
Pronouncing nj: man/manj

The challenge is to pronounce "nj" at the end of a word. Try to hear the "nj" when Kamarrang says nonsense syllables man, manj, man, manj... Notice how the vowel is slightly different before the "nj" (sounds a bit like "ay"). Try this yourself, copying Kamarrang. Do it slowly and pay attention to how your tongue makes the "nj" sound.

nj-final words

Here's some words ending in nj:

  • kunj kangaroo/s
  • djenj fish
  • bonj finished
  • bi.ninj man/men (male/s, aboriginal/s, human/s)
  • yak.minj finished
  • ya.wu.rrinj youth/s
  • kun.kanj meat
  • kun.manj taste
  • kun.ronj water
  • nginj fish hook (a tongue-twister!)

My Network Map

This task was devised in Scandinavia to help newcomers be more mindful of their opportunities to interact with people in the new language. It is a great way to identify additional people you can practice with. It is good to do this task with another learner.

On a blank sheet of paper draw three concentric circles. Add the names of people to the sheet as follows:

  • inner circle: Write the names of Aboriginal friends who you are able use the language with. You're comfortable with these people and don't mind taking risks as you get started in the language. They are comfortable with having you sometimes listen in on their conversations.
  • next circle: Write the names of Aboriginal people who you interact with regularly. These are prospects. With a little courage, you feel ok about trying to use the language with them. Soon, they may be in the inner circle.
  • next circle: Write the names of Aboriginal people you interact with occasionally, but who you don't yet feel comfortable with. Be sure to acknowledge them when you see them. Find out their skin name. Say hello ngalbulanj, ngudda kamak, when you see them.
  • outer area: Think of anyone else who might be interesting to talk to. Perhaps they're an elder with significant cultural knowledge. Do you know someone who knows them? See if you can get an introduction.

Now, pick some of these people. Using your favourite scheduling system, add tasks like: "sit with Bulanj".

Learning skin names

Last week you learnt the sequence of three skin names that includes yours (or your sister's if you're male). You might like to review that before going further.

You just need to add one more, and you will have completed your first cycle of skin names. If learning Kunwok were a meal, these would be the vegetables... No dessert til you eat them! (But the dessert is really good!)

Completing the cycle

Pick one of the following four cycles, depending on your skin name and location.

ngal.wa.mud → ngal.nga.rridj → ngal.ka.ma.rrang → ngal.bu.lanj
Female "ngarradjku" skin names (western)
ngal.wa.kadj → ngal.ba.nga.rdi → ngal.ka.ngi.la → ngal.ko.djok
Female "mardku" skin names (western)
kodj.djan → be.linj → ba.nga.rdi.djan → ka.li.djan
Female "ngarradjku" skin names (eastern)
nga.rridj.djan → ka.manj → bu.lanj.djan → wa.mud.djan
Female "mardku" skin names (eastern)

Memorising the cycle

Your job this week is to memorise the cycle which includes your skin name (or your sister's, if you're male). This will take some effort; you're doing some rewiring in your brain. (Suppose I ask you "What's 5 times 8?" How long does it take you? How did that come about?)

Try to say your cycle over and over again, using the following hints:

ngalwam__ → ngalngarr___ → ngalkamarr___ → ngalbul___ ngalwak___ → ngalbang____ → ngalkang___ → ngalkodj__
kodjdj__ → bel___ → bangard_____ → kali____ ngarridj____ → kam___ → bulanj____ → wamud____

Try again, over and over, with fewer hints this time:

ng__wa___ → ng__nga___dj → ng__kam____ng → ng__bu__nj ng__w___dj → ng__ba_____i → ng__ka____a → ng__ko___k
kodj____ → b___nj → bang________ → kal_____ ngarr_______ → ka__nj → bula______ → wam_d____

Pick up your cycle in a different place:

____bu____ → ____wa__d → ____nga_____ → ____ka_______ ____ko____ → ____wa__dj → ____ba______ → ____ka____a
ka______ → ko______ → be____ → ba__________ wa_______ → nga_________ → ka____ → bu________

Finally, give a friend the four names of your skin cycle. Tell her to ask questions of the form:

  • Who is the daughter of ngalkangila?
  • Who is the mother of kodjdjan?

Practice til you can respond correctly within 5 seconds.

Kin terms

If you have a skin name, it is because someone gave it to you. Now that you are part of the social network you can sit with other people to work what you call them. For example, if someone "adopted" you as their sibling, their mother is now your mother. You would address that woman as "karrang" and she would call you "djedje".

Anyone else with the same skin as your mother is potentially someone you can call "karrang".

Here are some kin terms you can use with other people in the same skin cycle as you. You can use these terms regardless of your gender.

Generations away from you Kin term Definition
0, 4 ngad.bu.rrung sibling (how you can address your siblings)
1 ka.rrang; dje.dje mum; child (how you can address your mother and her sisters; how they can address you)
2 kak.kak gran (how you can address your mother's mother and her siblings, and how they can address you)
3 doy.doy great-gran (how you can address your mother's mother's mother and her siblings, and how they can address you)
Kin terms

Traditionally, your doydoy would be the one who arranged your marriage.

Kin term puzzle

These daluk are all related. The child is Kodjdjan (Ngalwamud). On the right is her mother's mother Bangardidjan (Ngalkamarrang). At the front is another Kodjdjan, the child's great-great-grandmother.

  1. Use the above table to work out what these three call each other.
  2. There is another daluk and a duruk in the picture, both Bangardidjan. They're all sisters. What can they call each other?
  3. What do the two Kodjdjans call the three Bangardidjans?
  4. If the duruk could speak, what could it call the old lady?
  5. What is the skin name of your own kakkak?

Things to try this week

Hopefully you're deepening your connections with people. Now it's time to improve your radar for language learning opportunities. Be ready for the times when one of your bininj or daluk friends tries to engage you in language. Chances are you'll be in the middle of doing something else and not in your special "language learning mode".

  1. Respond to spontaneous opportunities to use the language. Mix Kunwinjku and English... it's ok.
  2. Come up with your own learning activity to help you memorise that cycle of four skin names. Be creative. Involve bininj and daluk friends. Make it personal, e.g. make a diagram and add pictures of people you know Find someone else who is learning the same cycle as you and quiz each other.
  3. Meet with other learners and quiz each other on the first three weeks' vocabulary.
  4. Make a resolution about your language learning this week and ask someone to hold you accountable.
  5. Share what you're learning with someone who hasn't started learning.

If you've ever played the game of Monopoly you will be familiar with the concept of "get out of jail free" cards. With this lesson, you receive a reusable card... you might like to print and laminate it and keep it in your pocket. Now when you make a mistake, such as forgetting the thing your friend just told you five seconds ago, you play this card, and that embarrassing thing that just happened didn't actually happen! So you are now at liberty to ask someone "what's your skin name?" three times in the space of five minutes. When they look at you strangely as if to say "njale ngunbayeng" what's wrong with you just excuse yourself with "ngawakwam" I forgot and laugh it off.


Thanks to Kamarrang Stuart Guymala for his careful recordings. Thanks also to Dell Hunter and the Bininj Kunwok Language Project for the video.

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