• Aussies Are Deadly When They Embrace Aboriginal Cultures

  • A couple of years back  I started making mini educational videos under the banner of “Same Word Different Meanings”.  

    I commenced this project because I believe Aboriginal and other Australians can benefit from learning more about each other’s cultures through language.  

    My five goals for the mini video series were to

    1.  Give Australian Aboriginal English (AAE) the recognition and cultural status it deserves

    2.  Educate the broader Australian population about the differences between Standard Australian English (SAE) and Australian Aboriginal English (AAE), with words that are spelt the same

    3.   Invite other Australians into the linguistic and semantic world, of Aboriginal Australians to understand,  appreciate and work out how to increase respectful engagement with the mob

    4.   Increase and strengthen  relationships between Aboriginal and other Aussies to learn from each other and increase respect for each other

    5.   Increase communication and improve better outcomes for Aboriginal mob

    The first word I published on my FB page was “Deadly” 

    For many Aussies, a SAE interpretation of the word word deadly means: causing death; aiming to kill or destroy; excruciatingly boring and to fatally wound. However, in the Aboriginal world, deadly means something quite different. It means awesome, brilliant, fantastic and the very best. So, used in a sentence it would read as follow:   “Australians are deadly when they embrace Aboriginal cultures and all we have to offer.” 

    Overall people’s responses to the first video were positive, receptive and seeking more. Since then, I’ve produced and published more videos on different words such as “blackout”, “country”, “charge”, “deadly”, “gammon”, “mob” and “yarn”. My project schedule has another 40 words to unpack, explain and share with readers over the next few months.

    Many of these can be found posted on my LinkedIn and #Pearls Plan FB page.

    The number of views and engagements resulting from the videos provided me with sufficient feedback to keep on producing them. 

    A number of people have written saying they look forward to the next video just as the current one had been posted.

    After the 8th video was posted, I received a brilliant question from  Amanda.    

    Her query was “would it be inappropriate for a WF to use the BF meaning?”

    I had been hoping and waiting for this question to pop up.  I started working on a response and thought it may be of value to others.

    I decided to develop  a "recipe" for using Aboriginal English or blackfella meanings. The concept is quite simple and known as CPR.    Not to be confused with heart failure, although the cross-linked pun is intended.  

    Context - i.e. what is space or setting you are in? Is it formal or informal? Is it casual or formal? Is it in a workplace or a community setting? Is it in a family setting or a workplace setting? Is it a mainstream space or an Aboriginal space?   Is it a small, medium or a large group? Or perhaps a 1:1 interaction when you bump into each other?

    Purpose – What is the purpose of your meeting or interaction with the Aboriginal mob? Why are you seeking contact with the person or mob? Who initiated the get-together?  Is it a social or working opportunity? Were you invited or did you invite yourself? What is your role? What is their role? What will you achieve by using some words from the AAE vernacular?

    Relationship - Who are the people present in the space you are? What is the ratio of the Aboriginal mob to other mobs?  Are the people in the space known to you or unknown to you? How familiar or unfamiliar are you with  the Aboriginal people in the space? The more familiar you are, with the Aboriginal people you know, the more capacity has had to use some AAE words with those people.  The less familiar you are with the mob, the less able you are to use AAE words, phrases or sayings.

    So why do you want to use Aboriginal English ?  

    Why are you bothering?  

    What is your motivation? 

    What are your desired outcomes?

    How do these outcomes benefit the Aboriginal person or persons you are interacting with?

    If so what is it?

    Are you working on their outcome or your own?

    Most importantly 

    Just because you've used one or two words with one Aboriginal mob, in one space doesn't necessarily mean it will automatically transfer to another person or group in a different context. 

    With each new group you meet  you need to start from scratch, by showing respect, to build rapport, to work towards a relationship. I’d use the “one word at a time rule” – until you work out a pattern and the dynamics of what works and what is culturally safe for both of you.

    I’d like to invite other Aussies living, working and playing in the Aboriginal space to explore how you can or adjusted your vernacular and what you learned, how you fine-tuned it for your next interaction. 

    Seven Tips When Considering Using AAE

    1.  Ask the Aboriginal mob you are with if it is appropriate for you to use the words they are using and under what circumstances. The more you ask the more you’ll learn

    2.  Take your time , if it is a struggle for you to learn AAE words it is also likely to be a struggle for the people you are talking with to understand SAE

    3.   Try and work out how you can translate the meanings between SAE and AAE

    4.  Try and use both words, intermittently to show you are aware but not trying  to speak fluently in AAE

    5.  When using AAE leave behind the jargon, acronyms and SAAE often used between professionals

    6.   As you recognise AAE words when they are used, respectfully clarify them so you can check them and respond appropriately and correctly

    7.   Remember the one word at a time rule and learn as you go

    You don’t need to speak AAE fluently 

    You just need to be aware of some of the words that are likely to pop into day-to-day conversations so you can show you understand and say with the flow. You just need a few key words to bridge the cultural  gap. When you say the words in the right way, with the right intent, you are showing an Aboriginal speaker you are aware and trying to take the first step towards a shared understanding.

    I posted an earlier draft of today’s article, back to Amanda. She responded with the following words “Wonderfully succinct explanation. This advice is invaluable for me and gives me a small measure of confidence as I slowly navigate my way around Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Culture. Thank you, BIG TIME, for sharing”.  

    Thank you, Amanda, for asking.

    I wish you every success with your future communications  with Aboriginal mobs.  I hope your understanding and awareness of AAE will increase peoples access to much-needed services and programs.