I’ve been learning a new language, but it’s the language of the country I come from. It wasn’t spoken by my ancestors but it’s all around us. I’ve never learnt this language before but I’ve spoken it all my life.
Enough riddles? I’ve been learning Dharug – at least, as much of the language and culture as you can learn in seven and a half hours. It’s the language of the Sydney basin and we use it every day when we go to Parramatta or Cabramatta or Mulgoa, Maroubra, Dural, Bondi, Coogee. We use it when we talk about a wallaby or a wombat or when we call out to each other in the bush. Coo-ee.
I’ve been learning that warami means hello and yanu means goodbye. That dyin means woman and mulla means man. That bada-la means let’s eat and walan means rain.
I’ve been learning that it’s an agglutinative or polysynthetic language – you have a stem, generally a verb, with a series of suffixes that add meaning such as tense, a pronoun, whether it’s an imperative (command), location.
I’ve been learning about the seasons and how to understand the place where I live. Our climate is best understood in six seasons, indicated by the movement of the animals, the flowering of the plants.
I’ve been learning how to wash away the whitewash.
I’ve been learning that it’s a language and culture that doesn’t like to say ‘no’. We paused and thought about the effect that would have had on brash colonisers.
I’ve been learning about the complex kinship system that ensures that there is a place for every person, and the sophisticated culture that developed this inclusive society over tens of thousands of years. An inclusive culture that taught every member how to live within their society, with a generosity that extended even to the people who tried to destroy it.