NAIDOC Week- Aboriginal English

July 6, 2017

On the fifth day of NAIDOC week we celebrate Aboriginal English. For those Aboriginal people whose traditional language no longer survive or are no longer strong, Aboriginal English plays an important role in our Aboriginal identity. Even those of us who still speak their traditional languages as their first language still often speak Aboriginal English as well. It’s not uncommon for people in remote communities to speak two or more languages before they speak English!

Some people think that Aboriginal English is broken down, bad English. They are wrong. It is a valid and strong dialect of its own. Aboriginal English has its own unique rules that govern accent, words, grammar, meanings and language use. Aboriginal English is a powerful way for you to express your Aboriginal identity.

A google search tells me the history of how our dialect came to be… Aboriginal English started when the British invaded and there was contact between the two peoples. Aboriginal people learnt some English that could be used in some limited contact. This ‘pidgin English’ also developed as traditional boundaries were blurred between Aboriginal groups as the British expanded their reach. As the generations went by Aboriginal English began to develop with structure, words, grammar and meaning all of its own- a recognised and respected dialect of its own.

Some Aboriginal English words that lots of people would know:

  • Yarn (talk)
  • Fella (man)
  • Deadly (awesome)
  • Mob (group of people)
  • Camp (home)
  • Big mob (lots of)
  • Lingo (language)
  • Grow ‘em up (raise a child)
  • Growl (tell off)
  • Gammon (joking)
  • Cheeky (dangerous)
  • Solid (fantastic/awesome)

This NAIDOC week is so important to raise awareness about our languages- including Aboriginal English. For example, some teachers don’t realise that when our mob are speaking Aboriginal English at home that we are ESLD students at school. If we can raise awareness about Aboriginal English as a dialect, those teachers will be able to make lessons that teach you better.

Our languages matter… and they are deadly!

Have we missed a common Aboriginal English (or kriole) word? Share it with us!


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