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Language maintenance strategies and resources

Our Languages web site gives a very helpful overview of different types of language programs, covering language reclamation, renewal, revitalisation, revival, maintenance and awareness, and bilingual education and second language learning.


Assessing linguistic, cultural and biological diversity

A number of people and organizations are developing tools to assess linguistic, cultural and biological diversity. A number of different tools are described here.


Education and Curriculum Development Resources — Australian Aboriginal languages

This page provides links to Australian state education department curricula and resources for school indigenous language programs.


Language centres

The language centre model was first developed in Australia in 1984, with the foundation of the Kimberley Language Resource Centre in the northwest of Western Australia. Language centres are typically established and managed regionally, and thus are more able to understand and meet the needs of local language communities. Some of the activities of a centre include coordinating local research projects, training staff in formal courses and through apprenticeship, hiring external linguists as necessary on short and longer-term contracts, acting as regional repositories and archives for data, and as resource production centres.

Click here for contact details for the network of Australian language centres.

The language centre model is increasingly being used in other locations internationally, for example:

In the United States, a network of 15 Foreign Language Resource Centers has been created at various universities to promote the learning and teaching of foreign languages in the United States. A list of the centres is available here. The centres produce materials in various languages of the world, and host conferences, workshops, and institutes.


Language reclamation

Language reclamation projects are needed when there has been a complete break in the transmission of a language and it has become silent, however there is sufficient archival material to reconstruct and teach the language. Some examples of reclamation projects are given here.

  • Dharug language of Sydney, Australia
  • Kaurna language of Adelaide Plains, South Australia
  • Miami language reclamation, USA
  • Tsuut’ina language reclamation project, Calgary, Canada
  • Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, eastern Massachusetts, USA


Language nests and immersion models

Language nests offer a total language immersion environment for children. The earliest language nests were founded in New Zealand (Te Kōhanga Reo) in 1982 and Hawai'i ('Aha Pūnana Leo) in 1983. This model has been adopted in other parts of the world. For example, the Piegan Institute in Montana provides immersion learning in the Blackfeet language, and in  Wisconsin, USA, the Hoocąk Waaziija Haci Language Division began a pilot Immersion Daycare program in 2007 for children 3 months to 5 years of age to support the revitalisation of Hoocąk. In Australia, language nests for the Bunuba, Gooniyandi and Kija languages have been created in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. In Canada, the Chief Atahm School in British Columbia has a language nest which provides a setting to totally immerse the learners in Secwepmectsi. This article reports on the Karelian Language Nest, established in Russia's northwest near the border with Finland, to support the retention of Karelian.


Language renewal

Language renewal programs are necessary when a language is no longer spoken through all generations. There may not be many or any contexts in which the language is used, which means that young people don't hear it and can't acquire it naturally. In such situations, language learning programs are needed. Here is a few of the many examples of programs in which languages are being taught to members of the heritage community.

  • Adnyamathanha is the language and culture of the Flinders Ranges region of inland South Australia. There are now only about twenty fluent living speakers. Inhaadi Adnyamathanha Ngawarla is an Adnyamathanh language and culture program based in Port Adelaide. IAN offered weekly classes in term time, and has held language camps and intensive language workshops, and produces language resources.
  • Dena'ina, Alaska, USA, is being taught by a range of different methods, including online through Kahtnuht'ana Qenaga and Dena'ina Lifeways.
  • Navajo Language Academy in Arizona, USA offers Navajo classes, workshops, and online resources.
  • Ojibwe Sault College, Ontario, offers a one-year Anishinaabemowin - Immersion certificate program in the Ojibwe language. Noongwa e-Anishinaabemjig: People Who Speak Anishinaabemowin Today is based in Michigan, USA, and offers Ojibwe classes, cultural and language resources, and runs conferences. Ojibwe can also be learned online through the Anishinaabemowin Online Virtual Ojibwe Classroom.
  • Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay are languages of northern New South Wales, Australia. Yuwaalaraay gaay Gamilaraaygaay provides online classes, electronic resources and links to courses taught at schools and the New England Institute of TAFE.
  • Native Languages: Speakers of the earth (Oklahoma, USA) offers learning materials for 19 tribal approved language programs.


Master-Apprentice program

The Master-Apprentice program was created in California to address the urgent need to repair intergenerational transmission of highly endangered languages. The model pairs a fluent speaker (the Master) with an Apprentice who is committed to learning the language. The team members are trained in language learning and teaching methods, and are paid stipends so that they can devote the 10-20 hours per week necessary to do the work. In the USA, the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival has provided Master-Apprentice training since 1993.

This model has now spread to other American states, such as Chickasaw and Sauk in Oklahoma, and Haida and Tlingit in Juneau, Alaska, The model is supported in Canada through organizations such as the First People's Heritage Language and Culture Center in British Columbia. It is now being trialled in Australia for the Miriwoong language of north Western Australia and the Banjalang language of New South Wales.


Language maintenance

When languages are stablilising or strong, offering language and culture classes helps to raise the status of the language, broaden public awareness of Indigenous languages, and gives speakers an opportunity to use their heritage language in educational settings. In some cases, the language class is open to non-Indigenous people who have an interest in learning it for work or personal reasons.

  • Pitjantjatjara is a language of northern South Australia. A Pitjantjatjara Language Summer School, Unaipon School.
  • Yolŋu languages are spoken in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. A range of classes in Yolŋu languages and culture are now available at Charles Darwin University.


School language programs

In Australia, support for Indigenous languages varies from state to state. Here are some links to language policies and curriculum development in schools.