Using new technology to teach and learn languages

Using new technology to teach and learn languages

Schools and playgroups in remote communities often face many challenges when it comes to language and literacy. 

Our Book Buzz program supports children engaged in playgroups, to help them develop their early literacy and language skills.

Regional Coordinator Josie and Program Coordinator Laura are particularly passionate and proud about their work with languages in remote communities, and sat down to chat about their recent projects.

“A lot of the time, schools are the hub in remote communities for anything and everything,” says Josie, "So often the way to start bringing in language learning is through the school."

With this in mind, our Book Buzz team has been collaborating with playgroups and Families as First Teachers programs in remote communities to be able to assist them in reading and sharing books in first languages

“We’re currently working on QR codes,” says Laura, “We’re aiming to put QR codes at the back of all the books that are translated - we already have six books translated into Kriol with recordings or animations to go along with them, and have a number of others in the pipeline. This means that the teachers, parents and children will be able to both read in language, and listen to the books in language.”

By adding QR codes with recordings to the translated books, our aim is to help community members and children become more confident in reading their language.

“Indigenous languages are oral, so often communities have never seen their language written down,” explains Laura, “So by listening to the recording while they’re reading, helps to match the oral with the written. It can then lead to this great ‘a-ha’ moment - where community members can understand, ‘Ah-a! That’s how that word looks.’”

These recordings also help provide a link between non-Indigenous teachers and their Indigenous students - and improves everyone’s understanding of language.

“More and more, first languages are being encouraged in early learning programs, classrooms and schools,” says Josie, “But it’s often difficult to teach, because some teachers won’t try to read in language unless there’s a native speaker there - and then the speaker often can’t read in language! So the QR codes are a great way to start to help everyone - especially teachers - to learn to speak the language, and in the end, read the language.”

For both Josie and Laura, the work we’re doing is vital. It allows children and families to have access to books in their language, both in print and audio. It’s the language they speak in the home and are most confident in. And importantly this work is being driven by the community. Elders, family members and parents are selecting the books to be translated and are the ones doing the translations and audio narrations. We support the process, supply the books, translation stickers and make them available.

“For the children, we’re really helping to make a difference,” says Laura, ”To pick up a book and see and hear something that’s relatable to them, it’s empowering. Once you relate to something, feel like you’re a part of it - and then you’re inspired to want to learn more.”

“We’re also teaching our people that it’s okay to do these things and okay to learn these languages now,” adds Josie, “These languages were unlearned - often people were told not to speak in language, so the next generation saw language as shame. Even though they understood what was being said, they wouldn’t speak back to Elders in language. For our language, Mangarrayi, only one Aunty speaks it back home now, and once she finishes, that’s the end of it. Because of that, we really have to teach our mob that it’s okay now to learn their language. We have to build up that confidence again, and that’s what makes the work we’re doing so important.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are unique and diverse. They are important to Indigenous people and that’s what our team wants to continue building awareness of.

“What’s really beautiful is that our old people are now seeing that we’re supporting and celebrating languages. They get to see their languages in books for the younger generations,” says Laura, “We’re seeing a new platform for change and growth. It’s truly special.”


  • Posted 11 September, 2020

Sign Up