Week 2

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Welcome to week 2!

Recording a podcast at Nawarddeken Academy with Belinj Rhonda Nadjamerrek

Your first priority is the same as last week... get out on foot in the community and introduce yourself to people.

Getting to know local people[edit]

Here are some more things to try:

  • You see someone walking the other way and you acknowledge them with a smile and a nod (but minimal eye contact), and say "kamak?" and leave it at that (easy)
  • You see an acquaintance or colleague sitting under a tree or outside the shop, and you say hello then ask mind if I sit, or you can try saying "nga.yerr.kan?" (takes a little nerve)
  • You ask an acquaintance or colleague for their skin name and explain that you want to remember it, so you ask to record them saying it, and you ask to have a selfie with them as this is less confronting than taking a portrait

Learning skin names[edit]

Here we will listen to the remaining four female skin names (pick the western or eastern version depending on your location).

Western skin names (Gunbalanya, Jabiru)[edit]

Female skin names (western)

ngal.wa.mud → ngal.nga.rridj → ngal.ka.ma.rrang → ngal.bu.lanj → ngal.wa.mud

Remember that "rr" is pronounced like a short d.

Eastern skin names (Maningrida, Bulman, Pine Creek)[edit]

Female skin names (eastern)

kodj.djan → be.linj → ba.nga.rdi.djan → ka.li.djan → kodj.djan

Suppose you have a friend whose skin is kodjdjan. Her girls will be belinj and her mother will be kalidjan. If she travels west, she will be called ngalwamud.

Getting started with learning the cycles of skin names[edit]

You've now seen all eight female skin names, two cycles of four. The challenge is to learn them! Here's how to start if you have a skin name yourself. If you don't have a skin name you'll just have to pretend for now.

  1. learn to pronounce your own skin name
    • listen out for it when people call you
    • when people address you using your name, say back to them "ngaye ngalkodjok" (or whatever is your skin name)
    • ask your western colleagues to call you by your skin name, in public or private (this is just how we address each other in this country!)
    • if you're male, learn how to say your sister's skin name
  2. learn your mother's skin name
  3. learn your daughter's skin name (or your sister's daughter if you're male)

For example, if you're ngalwamud, memorise this progression: ngalbulanj → ngalwamud → ngalngarridj. Think of your mother and your (sister's) children as you say these words out loud.

Then, if you're talking to ngalwamud, you could ask where her children are with "baleh ngalngarridj?" or ask how her mum's getting on with "ngalbulanj kamak?"

Make a recording of these three skin names in sequence, or write down the names and attach photos of your own balanda family, or invent a quiz, or practice with others. Do whatever necessary to get these three words lodged in your head!

Some Vocabulary[edit]

These words are easy to pronounce as they only use sounds that are common in English. Pay attention to the pronunciation of vowels. Listen to the recording and try to write down the words. Afterwards, click "reveal" to see the correct spelling.


woman/women food fire camp language snake/s honey eye/s hand/s tree/s
daluk manme kunak kured kunwok nayin mankung kunmim kunbid kundulk

In case you peeked above, have another go here. Write the words, before looking at the correct spelling. (This is about paying close attention to what you're hearing, and learning to trust your ear.)


night leg/s river nose country mouth white clay sister family
kukak kundad mankabo kunkeb kunbolk kundang delek yabok namud

Lightbulb.png Start adding Kunwok words into your English speech, e.g.: "I'm looking for the daluk who was sitting under that kundulk this morning". "Would you like some mankung in your tea?"

Lightbulb.png Show your list of 20 kunwok words to a bininj or daluk friend. Help them to read the words. Invent a gesture for each word and use the gesture when they say the word (e.g. touch your nose when they say "kunkeb").

Pronunciation: word-initial ng[edit]

English speakers know this sound from words like sing, sang, sung. The challenge is to learn how to produce this sound at the start of words. It takes practice.

Pronouncing ng

The first step is to become aware of what your tongue does to produce this sound. We'll try this by repeating a nonsense word "nanga". Then we'll break it into separate syllables "na" and "nga" and say them over and over.

Here are the "ng" words we've heard so far: ngare I go, ngawokdi I speak, ngabolknan I'm looking around.

ng words hyperarticulated

Here's some more: ngaye I, ngudda you, ngalekke her's, nganabbarru buffalo, ngalyod rainbow serpent.

Second podcast[edit]

This podcast is set in Gunbalanya, the modern day epicentre of the Kunwok language. We review the greetings from podcast 1, and move on to a common topic, looking for people.

Before listening, take a look at these verbs. They are broken down into syllables to help you with pronunciation. Try saying them aloud, one syllable at a time.

  • nga.re I go
  • nga.dja.re I want it
  • nga.nan I see it
  • nga.mad.bun I wait (for it)
  • nga.bo.ngun I drink
  • nga.beng.kan I understand (eastern dialects; nga.burr.bun in western dialects)
Podcast 2: Madbun, waiting
Gunbalanya, West Arnhem

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

Here are some of the phrases you heard:

  • nga.re nga.nan, yi.re yi.nan I go to see him/her/it, you go to see him/her/it
  • ya.wu.rrinj ba.leh na.bu.lanj? guys, where's Nabulanj?
  • nga.wam, yi.wam, wam I went, you went, he/she/it went
  • nga.beng.kan, yi.beng.kan I understand, you understand (also nga.burr.bun, yi.burr.bun)
  • nga.mad.bun, yi.mad.bun I wait, you wait
  • nga.dja.re, yi.dja.re I want it, you want it
  • nga.dja.re nga.bo.ngun kuk.ku I want to drink water

Lightbulb.png Make up some sentences, using the words you're learning, and share them with other learners to review. Read them to a bininj or daluk friend to check. If possible, record them saying the sentences.

Things to try this week[edit]

  1. your first priority is still meeting people, learning their skin names, and using them
  2. Think of places and times where you can spend time interacting with Aboriginal people, e.g. a bench outside the shop, or a morning walk, ... plan to spend a little time in those places this week
  3. memorise the three female skin names that starts with your mother's skin name
  4. buy one of the locally available sarongs and make a habit of carrying it with you so you can sit on the ground with locals when you see the opportunity
  5. install a voice recorder on your phone, charge your phone and carry it with you; look for opportunities to record short clips
  6. schedule a time to meet with other learners to share your experiences and do some learning drills

Language classes typically experience rapid fall in enrolment after the first week, as soon as the going gets difficult. Imagine the child who spends a minute trying to ride a bike or learn to swim, and gives up in a sulk saying "I'm no good at that." Don't be that 5 year old!

Instead, be on guard for negative self-talk; when you mind offers you the thought "I'm no good at this", replace it with a different thought "this is challenging but worthwhile". This might be one of the more significant things you do in 2018.