Bringing Indigenous contact languages into the classroom

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Date(s) - 12/05/2022
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

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Join Dr Carly Steele of Curtin University for this fully-online event on Thursday 12 May 2022 at 5pm. Free for members and $15 for non-members. A link to join will be sent to registered participants’ email prior to the event.



Most Indigenous peoples live in urban and regional settings across Australia and no longer speak their traditional languages fluently. Instead contact languages, creoles and dialects, are widely spoken. Little is known about these languages especially in educational settings where the first languages of many Indigenous children remain “invisible” to educators (Sellwood & Angelo, 2013). In this talk, I present findings from my PhD research conducted in far north Queensland where I examined the Standard Australian English (SAE) language learning needs of First Nations children who speak contact languages. In response, I co-taught a series of three lessons using contrastive language analysis to teach some of the language differences between the local language and SAE. Qualitative sociolinguistic discourse analysis was employed to examine student responses. Findings suggest it is possible that acquiring two closely related languages presents a greater challenge for the learner, not just in terms of noticing the linguistic differences, but also for the complex social, cultural, historical and political factors that underpin how nonstandard and standard languages are positioned in educational settings. I advocate for a critical language awareness approach for teaching SAE to be adopted for students from Year 5 onwards. From this perspective, it is not enough to bring Indigenous contact languages into the classroom, we must engage in critical conversations about language and power. Finally, I consider future directions and the constraints faced putting these approaches into practice.


Speaker information

Carly Steele is a Lecturer and early career researcher in the School of Education at Curtin University, Perth having previously held a Lecturer position at James Cook University in Townsville. She completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne in 2021 which explored the role of language awareness and the use of contrastive analysis for teaching Standard Australian English as an additional language and/or dialect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in primary school classrooms. Carly coordinates and teaches professional experience units in postgraduate and undergraduate Initial Teacher Education (ITE) courses and draws on a range of research and teaching experiences across Australia which include positions in remote WA and NT, Far North Queensland and Sydney.



Bookings are closed for this event.