Pertame or Southern Arrernte is a Central Australian language that belongs to the country around the Finke and Hugh Rivers, 110km South of Alice Springs. Pertame country starts at Running Waters (Irpmangkera) and follows the Finke River (Lhera Pinta) down to the community of Finke. Pertame is a severely endangered language. There are currently less than 10 fluent speakers of Pertame, all over the age of 50. Pertame language has suffered through the process of colonisation, punitive language policies and the stolen generation. As a result, intergenerational language transmission has ceased.
This means Pertame is no longer spoken in the homes of Pertame families. Pertame children are raised speaking the introduced language, English. If nothing is done, Pertame language will be lost within the next generation.
The Pertame language revival program uses the master-apprentice language immersion method to rapidly grow new fluent speakers of our severely endangered language. Almost all Pertame fluent speakers are within the grandparent and great-grandparent generation, and our community recognises the urgent need to invest heavily in the creation of new fluent speakers to carry our language forward into the future. The Master-Apprentice Program (MAP) is a world-leading method of Indigenous language revival that was developed by Indigenous communities in California and has since been taken up by First Nations peoples globally. The methodology is outlined in Hinton, L. (2002) How to keep language alive: a commonsense approach to one-on-one language learning. The MAP model is a best-practice method for rapidly growing fluent new speakers, through intensive oral immersion sessions with elder speakers (the master) and adult learners (apprentices). The MAP model foregrounds self-determination and Indigenous epistemologies, as no western specialised knowledge systems are required because translations and literacy are strongly discouraged. MAPs see a return to old ways of learning and knowing, where Elder knowledge is privileged above all else. MAPs teach not through explicit instruction but through immersion and experience.
“This Pertame Master-Apprentice Program has impacted hugely on our family and language. When we don’t have our language, we don’t know who we are. People gotta realise we have to learn our language, we have to know who we are. We have to think about the old people who tried really hard to keep our language alive. We have to keep their memories strong by keeping our language strong, because they fought very hard to keep our language alive. Back in those days we were told not to speak our language, and people were scared to teach their immediate family Pertame because they said “You mob gotta learn English now because these other mob are telling us our language is rubbish”. That’s how it fell apart back in those days. But for the memory and love of our old people who tried to keep our language strong, for our families, for my father, mother, brothers and sisters.”
Our 4 apprentices are completely fluent in Pertame within 12 months
The program provides intergenerational learning and knowledge transfer between the five generations of the Pertame community
The Pertame community is brought together over a common goal to grow in strength and cohesion
Apprentices became community leaders and role models within their teaching positions, growing the next generation of fluent elders and leaders
Language revival supports Pertame people to build strong identities to increase self-esteem and cultural pride
The Pertame MAP engages in the fabric of the local Alice Springs community to raise awareness of our project’s work
Apprentices gain work experience, skill development and new qualifications within education, language work, linguistics and use of technology.
Access and download language learning resources for the Pertame language here, including resources on Pertame kinship, songs, games, bush foods, medicine, animals, plants, history, and more. Use these resources to share and teach Pertame in your own homes.
Vanessa Farrelly, Pertame Project Manager
Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics (CALL)
Desert Peoples Centre Campus, Desert Knowledge Precinct, Alice Springs
mob. 0421 478 262