Many Languages, One Talk - TerritoryQ Issue 2
How do you talk to someone who doesn’t understand your language?
What good are written translations to someone who cannot read?
Finding a solution to some of the communication issues many Indigenous people face has proven to be time consuming and expensive.
Indigenous people spoke an estimated 250 languages in Australia at the time of European settlement. Almost a decade ago, the National Indigenous Languages Survey (NILS) found that 145 Indigenous languages were still spoken in Australia and 110 of these were severely or critically endangered.
To reach Indigenous audiences and to preserve language, OneTalk Technology has created ways to provide a controlled message that is delivered in a medium that is self supporting, engaging, flexible and accessible.
OneTalk is solely focused on preserving Australia’s Indigenous linguistic heritage and supporting those who continue to speak Indigenous languages. Communication and education are the foundation stones for improving Indigenous disadvantage in Australia.
OneTalk assists its clients by developing audio tools designed to close the gap. The idea of communicating in language is not new, however as OneTalk Director, Anya Lorimer explains they are successfully taking traditional and cutting edge marketing tools to getting message across. “It is a complex process but we have found the solution to keeping the ‘old ways’ alive by using new technology such as Apps supplied on Wi-Fi restricted tablets, talking books and posters and animated video clips for web or MMS.
“Because Indigenous languages were traditionally only spoken, it makes sense that audio is the key to the communication gap,” she says.
OneTalk has several products that are patient protected and have been designed to be able to accommodate the production of a single poster or tablet or hundreds of them. They are manufactured in the Northern Territory and every album or poster produced for a client is individually tested. The audio devices have been designed so that the messages cannot be wiped or recorded over.
The 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) census, revealed that 55,695 people, or one in eight, claimed that an Indigenous language was their primary household language. The most spoken Indigenous languages currently are Arrernte, Djambarrpuyngu/Dhuwal, Pitjantjatjara, Warlpiri, Creole and Kriol.
All of these languages are spoken in the Northern Territory and are languages that OneTalk regularly seeks translations for. Ms Lorimer says the integrated tools are a “first of their kind” in Australia and only through direct consultation with elders of Indigenous communities was OneTalk able to develop a better understanding of language, cultural sensitivities and communication issues in regional and remote areas across the Northern Australia.
Studies have identified that around 47 per cent of Indigenous young people identify with a clan, tribal or language group. Indigenous languages are more commonly spoken in remote areas; 50 per cent of Indigenous young people in remote areas spoke an Indigenous language, compared with six per cent of those in non-remote areas.
Similarly, the proportion of Indigenous young people who speak in language at home is estimated at 37 per cent in remote areas, compared with 2 per cent in non-remote regions.
OneTalk can be found in all major centres in the Northern Territory and 54 remote communities across the country including Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.
The National spotlight has recently fallen on OneTalk with the ABS and the Australian Electoral Commission using their technology to assist them in recruiting more Indigenous translators. But Ms Lorimer stresses OneTalk is not restricted to just Indigenous language support.
“Whilst we work hard to deliver messages in Indigenous languages, OneTalk products have the same effect in any spoken language.”
“It is a multicultural communication tool – globally, nationally and locally – the applications are endless,” she emphasises.
“LANGUAGE IS CENTRAL TO THE ONGOING CULTURE IN ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES. AUDIO COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY. PEOPLE OFTEN TALK ABOUT TRANSLATING DIFFERENT LANGUAGES WHICH CAN AUTOMATICALLY BE TRANSFERRED FROM ONE LANGUAGE TO ANOTHER BUT THEY CAN’T. OUR LANGUAGE WAS ONLY EVER SPOKEN AND SOMETIMES WE DON’T HAVE WORDS FOR YOUR WORDS AND WE MIGHT HAVE DIFFERENT CONCEPTS OR MEANINGS. LANGUAGE ISN’T ABOUT PRESERVING THE LANGUAGES THEMSELVES, IT ALSO KEEPS OUR CULTURE STRONG AND OUR PEOPLE PROUD – THEY WANT TO BE HEARD. SPEAKING LANGUAGE IS PART OF OUR SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND SOMETHING WE OWN AND PASS ONTO THE NEXT GENERATION. COMMUNICATING IN LANGUAGE WILL KEEP THOSE VALUES ALIVE FOREVER.”
ALISON NAMPITJINPA ANDERSON – MEMBER FOR NAMATJIRA – SPEAKER OF FIVE LANGUAGES AND ADVOCATE OF INDIGENOUS ADVANCEMENT
Facts around the communication challenge and what has motivated a company in the Northern Territory to find a break through.
• 31.6 per cent of the Territory population is Indigenous*
• 63 per cent of the Territory’s Indigenous population live in places that the Australian Bureau of Statistics consider very remote.*
• Indigenous languages, culture and story telling were traditionally spoken or painted, not written.
• English is a second and often a third language in regional remote Indigenous communities; like Milingimbi.
• Some communities such as Wadeye have multiple Indigenous dialects.
*Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2006