Language and language usage

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children do not have Standard Australian English (SAE) as their first language - SAE is their second, third or fourth language.

In some remote areas of Queensland in particular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students may speak traditional language/s as their first (or home) language/s. Many others will speak creoles and related varieties.

New languages

New, ‘non-traditional’ language varieties, such as Torres Strait Creole, Cape York Creole, Kriol and Aboriginal English/es, are spoken throughout Queensland in remote, regional and urban settings. 

These new languages vary significantly from place to place so Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can often recognise where someone grew up, or where their family hails from by the way they speak.

Educators should note that speakers of creoles and related linguistic varieties often do not utilise standardised terms such as Creole to name their local language speech varieties.

Speakers of creoles and related varieties may describe their local vernacular by referring to:

  • a place name where it is spoken, for example, ‘Yarrie Lingo’ (spoken at Yarrabah), ‘I speak Lockhart’ etc.
  • the type of people who speak it, for example, ‘We talk Murri’, ‘Island’ etc. a mixed linguistic heritage, for example, ‘We talk ApenAp’ (half and half), ‘We speak Mornington Island English’
  • the non-standard characteristics, for example, ‘Broken’, ‘Slang’ etc.

 Related information

In view of how many different descriptions could be applied to the same language variety, educators need to pay particular attention to how people around them are talking.
They cannot rely on asking for a single name that is understood and used by everyone.
  • Listen to Billy Thaiday talk( )( )( )( )( )( )( )( )( )( ) (duration 2:45 minutes) about his early school experiences.
  • Read the transcript (DOCX, 15KB)
Last updated
21 July 2014