Dhuwaya Readers in Yirrkala!

Dhuwaya Readers in Yirrkala!

In remote north-east Arnhem Land, schools share resources and work together to help support First Languages. 

‘Readers’ are used in schools to help kids learn how to read. They are short, easy to read stories about day-to-day activities. 

At the bilingual Yirrkala School, the readers that they had in their language, Dhuwaya,  were from the 1980s.

They wanted to refresh their collection, and luckily a neighbouring school was able to help them in this process.

A total of 106 readers were shared with Yirrkala School by Shepherdson College and the team at Yirrkala translated them from Djambarrpuyŋu to Dhuwaya, meaning the students at Yirrkala are able to use them to learn to read in their First Language!

The ILF was happy to support this process by printing these texts for the school. 

There are a diverse range of stories in the collection - Yumurrku'wu Djorra' Dhuwayaku - but they are all culturally relevant. 

They relate to the lives, Country and experiences of the children who read them, so the books are meaningful. 

There are stories are about hunting, fishing, colours, and even some that include interactive games, all in the Dhuwaya language. 

One of the main roles of the Yirrkala School’s Literature Production Centre (LPC) is to translate books into Dhuwaya. 

However, this process is not always easy. 

The LPC has been translating these readers for about five years. 

Yalmay, the Teacher Linguist at the school, explained that the process of translating these books has been long, but very rewarding. 

Dhuwaya is a Yolnu Matha language, and the words are very different from English.

“One of the things we have learnt, whenever you are translating a book from English to Yolŋu Matha, or any language, it doesn’t have to be the way it’s written,” says Yalmay.

The LPC Supervisor, Loredana, commented that “Doing a word-for-word translation just doesn’t work. So that is why translation can be so hard, because it needs to be capturing the essence of what the story is communicating, not necessarily the word-for-word translation.” 

Translating books into Yolŋu Matha requires skilled translators, and a lot of editing. 

But this process has many more positive effects! 

Translating the readers into Dhuwaya has been a great skill-building process for new translators learning how to translate books.

Translating these texts has also helped a lot of the new teachers and student teachers work on their editing skills, which helps them when they are in the classroom. 

“Even though it has been a long process, it has also been a skill building process.” says Loredana. 

Because it is a bilingual school, having readers in Dhuwaya is extremely important.

Dhuwaya is the First Language spoken by kids in the Yirrkala, it is an integral part of their education.

“When students are young, it is more Dhuwaya, and as they get older English is introduced,” says Yamlay. 

Reflecting on all the benefits of the process, Yalmay says that she thinks these readers will “Help students build their literacy, and to read and write fluently.”

The ILF is honoured to be a part of this process and help support the community in creating these exciting new texts.

  • Posted 12 February, 2022

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