Immersion Course in Kunwok
By Steven Bird, Charles Darwin University and Nawarddeken Academy
This is a new course in Kunwok, designed for people who have regular contact with speakers of the language. To date, few newcomers have got very far with learning to speak the language. It seems more difficult to learn than Yolngu. Some aspects of the language are so strange to a westerner that it seems they are designed to keep us out!
However, Bininj are generally enthusiastic when balanda try to learn the language, and eager to connect with newcomers who demonstrate their respect in this way. It is remarkable to have the opportunity to glimpse the world through the eyes of Bininj. It begins with the language, the primary way in which ideas are expressed and communicated. Start learning some Kunwok, and it will transform your experience in this country.
Who this is for
These lessons are for newcomers who live and work in Kakadu or West Arnhem. It will be useful to people in Gunbalanya (Kunwinjku), Jabiru (Kundjeyhmi), Maningrida (Kuninjku, Kune), the Arnhem Plateau (Kundedjnjenghmi) and Bulman and Pine Creek (Kunmayali).
The lessons assume that you come into regular contact with local Indigenous people who speak the language. This is a course for people who are learning to participate in the life of the community. If you find this scary you're not alone! (See the icon for our site.)
Instead, this course will encourage you to leave your comfort zone, find a language guide, and follow several other of our learning Tips.
The goal of the course is to help you to hold basic conversations in Kunwok. It will help you learn how to convert daily interactions into opportunities for language learning. Over time you'll deepen your knowledge and respect for the culture, while becoming more comfortable spending time with locals. Bininj are glad when people try to learn the language.
How to use these materials
This course is not intended for private study! Print a lesson or view it on your phone, and go and sit with locals.
NB These materials are in active development and feedback is invited (email Steven Bird).
Right, let's speak Kunwok!
Thanks to Kamarrang Stuart Guymala and Belinj Rhonda Nadjamerrek for providing the audio recordings.