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50 Words Project
Photograph: 50 Words Project

This new website lets you hear 66 First Nations languages spoken aloud

The project documents the diversity and history of traditional languages across the continent

Written by
Divya Venkataraman

Just in time for NAIDOC Week, which runs from November 8 to 15 in 2020, the University of Melbourne is revamping and adding to its 50 Words Project, an online resource which allows you to hear exactly 50 words from a whole range of First Nations languages. 

Run by the Research Unit for Indigenous Language at the University of Melbourne, the project is headed up by professor Rachel Nordlinger and associate professor Nick Thieberger – two academics who wanted to work in partnership with First Nations people to increase awareness of the beauty and diversity of Indigenous languages. Nyangumarta, Yorta Yorta and Torres Strait Islander woman Allyra Murray is the team's project officer. Together, the Research Unit provided the framework of the project, the website, and invited native speakers of First Nations languages around the country to contribute. It began in June 2019, and continues to grow as researchers add new words in order to ultimately create a whole map of the country through language. Information on the map is provided with community permission, with audio provided by a speaker of that language. The Research Unit invites First Nations speakers to contribute words and additional languages.  

Currently, there are four languages in NSW for which 50 words have been collated: Awabakal, Gumbaynggirr, Wiradjuri and Mathi Mathi. Across Australia, there are 66. Select a language on the map and you'll hear words like, 'hello', 'goodbye', 'sun', 'moon', 'star', and sentences like, 'What is your name?' in each. Check out the map for yourself online

This year's theme for NAIDOC Week is 'Always Was, Always Will Be,' highlighting the continued care and commitment to this land by First Nations people for over 65,000 years. 

Find out more ways to commemorate NAIDOC Week here.

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